Athlone Castle | Athlone Arts and Tourism

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Athlone Castle

Experience an immersive journey through 5,000 years of history at Athlone Castle Visitor Centre located on the banks of the River Shannon in the heart of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Athlone Castle was first built to defend the crossing point on the River Shannon and evolved into a bold defensive structure over the centuries. Elements of the original castle can still be seen today.

We tell the story of settlement in this part of Ireland’s Ancient East, from the Neolithic period through Viking, and Medieval ages to modern life in Athlone.

The eight exhibition spaces pursue both a chronological and thematic sequence combining hands-on and fun experiences that will appeal to both children and adults. Bold sculptural forms help to convey human figures and historical milestones. 3D maps, audio-visual installations and illustrations by renowned illustrator Victor Ambrus (best known for his work on Channel 4’s Time Team), bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life. 

Highlights of the Athlone Castle experience include:

Early Settlement in Athlone: This exhibition highlights settlement in Athlone and along the River Shannon from pre-history to the 12th century. A 3D interactive map of Ireland illustrates how Athlone was impacted by the stages of settlement happening around the country.

Athlone Castle’s first 400 years: Dating from the earliest defensive structures in the town of Athlone, this space takes you through the various stages of the castle’s development. Inventive displays, hands on activities, interactive games with participative elements combine with locally found artefacts see the story unfold.

Athlone Besieged: This gallery space will introduce you to the characters and events of the build-up to the siege of Athlone. Striking illustrations, dramatic soundscapes and objects set the stage for the bloody siege that is to come.
 
Pre–Siege: Here we are introduced to the characters and events that preceded the siege of Athlone. Striking illustrations by Victor Ambrus, dramatic soundscapes and weaponry objects set the stage for the bloody siege to come.

People of the Siege: Get up close and personal with the key figures from the siege of Athlone learning the roles they each played and the battles they won and lost. Made from recycled materials, these amazing sculptures tell their stories in a unique and colourful way.

Fabric of Athlone: Here you will find an extensive display representing Athlone’s indigenous industries, military history, religion, communication, education and much more. A comprehensive timeline from 800AD to the present day encapsulates the events that shaped the town of Athlone.

Learn all about Athlone’s most popular son, the world famous tenor John Count McCormack. Discover his celebrated international musical career and his glittering social life through the beautiful array of artefacts and personal effects on display.

Self Sufficient People: Benefiting from a collection of objects donated by The Old Athlone Society, the Lower Keep houses a rich array of items relating to the various trades and lifestyles that were prominent in Athlone right up to the twentieth century. Through their own words, Athlonians recount memories and stories of these times.

Death and Destruction: This space provides an opportunity for thoughtful reflection as the post-siege horror unfolds. Survival was tough for people living outside the castle walls in the Connaught town. Be immersed in the harrowing sights and sounds of the aftermath of the Siege of Athlone.

Athlone Castle at a glance

  • Admission includes a self-guided tour — our friendly staff and local volunteers are passionate about the history of Athlone and are delighted to assist and guide visitors
  • Guided tours are available from groups on demand or are scheduled throughout the summer months
  • 8 modern audio visual exhibitions
  • Complimentary multi-lingual audio guides are available in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English &  Chinese
  • Extensive collection of historical artefacts
  • Stunning views of Athlone from the upper castle battlements with illustrated information panels identifying historical points of interest
  • Various Dress up areas throughout the visitor centre
  • Handling Collection
  • The Castle Keep museum with its array of artefacts from
    19th century Athlone
  • Outdoor courtyard with picnic tables
  • Giant Outdoor Chess – play Medieval style (seasonal)
  • Outdoor Medieval Tent  (seasonal)
  • Café serving light refreshments - Tea/Coffee/Juice/Snacks - seats 16
  • Gift Shop
  • Visitor Centre is wheelchair accessible with a lift

Other Information:

  • Guided tours are available for groups on request
  • Complimentary audio guides are available in 7 languages
  • A seasonal Fáilte Ireland Tourist Information Office is located in Athlone Castle courtyard.

Athlone Castle ‘Enhancing the Visitor Experience Project' was supported by Fáilte Ireland under the 2015 Ireland's Ancient East Capital Grants Scheme. The project delivered; multi-lingual audio guide in five European languages, Chinese and English. Period costumes for castle guides, a smartphone app and an outdoor information panel.
Fáilte Ireland and Irelands Ancient East logo

The Athlone Castle team participated in tour guide training in 2016 with assistance from the Heritage Council of Ireland under the IWTN Interpretation fund. This funding was gratefully received.

 

Athlone Castle’s replica period costumes available in designated dress up areas and a medieval heritage tent were procured in 2015 with assistance from the Heritage Council of Ireland under the IWTN Interpretation fund. This funding was gratefully received.

 

The IMA Museum Basics course was held in Athlone in September 2015, in partnership with Athlone Arts and Tourism and with funding allocated by Westmeath County Council and The Heritage Council's Community-based Heritage Grant Scheme.

The Heritage Council     Irish Walled Town Network     Westmeath County Council     Irish Museum Association