In Co. Westmeath's largest city, Athlone, is the formidable Athlone Castle. A fort constructed from wood in the thirteenth century, the Castle has grown into a mighty stone bastion which now houses eight exhibits that chart the history of the town and its battlements: Gallery one documents early settlement in Athlone; two shows the Castles first 400 years; three and four cover different aspects of the siege of Athlone in 1690; five examines eight key figures from the siege; six looks at the town's last 200 years of trade; seven exhibits medieval life in the town; eight is a display of the bloody execution of those siege survivors.
Glendeer Pet Farm:
Glendeer Farm which, in winter, includes Ireland's Lapland with Santa Claus and real live reindeer, is by the village of Curryroe, about five miles from Athlone. Besides reindeer, there is the opportunity to meet, feed and maybe pet pigs, sheep, llama, guinea pigs, turkeys and monkeys. In springtime the farm is crowded with playful lambs and fluffy baby bunnies for kids to see, and there is always some form of seasonal event, be it Christmas, Easter, Summer or Halloween. There is also a playground, timber maze and obstacle course, plus a soft play barn for younger children.
Kilbeggan Distillery Experience:
Possibly the oldest licensed distillery in the world, the Kilbeggan boutique distillery is, unsurprisingly, in the town of Kilbeggan, around fifteen miles south of Mullingar. The Distillery began working back in 1757, and has been owned by several different families over the years. These days a fascinating tour is on offer to showcase the fine art of whiskey making, taking in the old mash tuns and fermenters, the great water wheel that powered the whole distillery, and a look at the actual whiskey being produced today, still in the traditional way and using pot stills that are nearly two hundred years old.
Lilliput Adventure Centre:
A mere five miles out of Mullingar, on the shores of Lough Ennell, is the Lilliput Adventure Centre. Based at Lilliput House, amongst some stunning and unspoiled forest, the Adventure Centre offers abseiling, archery, canoeing, laser tag, orienteering, rock climbing, and much more for individuals and parties of all ages. There is hostel accommodation and camping on site, and several nearby hotels, while the Lilliput staff pride themselves on giving a warm welcome and making every visit an unforgettable experience.
Viking Ship Cruises:
Sailing out of Athlone, Co Westmeath, as Vikings have done since 795 on the mighty River Shannon, is the seventy-foot replica of the Viking Knarr longship. The longest serving wooden passenger ship in the UK and Ireland was built in Southend-on-sea in 1923, and now cruises the waterways of Co. Westmeath and Co. Longford to allow visitors a taste of what those early raiders must have felt, more than a thousand years ago. Ploughing up and down the Shannon, visiting Athlone Castle, Hodson Bay, Clonmacnois and Lough Ree, an exciting Viking cruise allows visitors to see Ireland from a new perspective.