Top Five Sights in Westmeath

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Tullynally Castle and Gardens:

Twelve miles north of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, is the village of Castlepollard. Just outside the village is the majestic castle and grounds of Tullynally. Home to three generations of the Earls of Longford, the seventeenth century castle and gardens were redesigned in the early 1800s to create thirty acres of lush parkland to for visitors to explore, and including several exotic varieties of tree, a walled flower garden, lakes and swans, stone carvings, and llamas. Back at the castle there is a first class tea room in the courtyard, which also displays the family's nineteenth century coach.

Fore Valley:

Just south of Castlepollard is Lough Lene, nestling happily in the beautiful greenery of the Fore Valley. A popular spot for walkers and cyclists, a monastery was founded in the village of Fore in 630 AD. While the monastery and village have disappeared over time, structures still remain that tell of the seven wonders to befall the valley: A three-ton stone cross in Saint Fechin's Church was lifted into place by the Saint's prayers alone; an anchorite cell that was graced by many hermits; water from Saint Fechin's well that cannot boil, a nearby tree with branches that won't burn, a mill with no outside force turning it; and a spring of water that flows uphill.

Cathedral of Christ the King:

In the county capital of Mullingar, next to the Royal Canal. Completed just before the Second World War to replace the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, this vast structure boasts twin bronze towers that rise 180 feet up in the air, and has seating for 5000 worshippers. Amongst the decorations inside the Cathedral are mosaics by Boris Anrep, one of Saint Patrick lighting the Paschal fire on Slane Hill and one of Saint Anne that is said to be based on the artist's former lover, poet Anna Akhmatova.

Belvedere House and Gardens:

Five miles outside of Mullingar is the magnificent eighteenth century hunting lodge of Belvedere House, set in more than 160 acres of grounds and gardens. The grounds feature extensive walled gardens and forests, as well as the largest folly in Ireland. Called 'The Jealous Wall', it was built to obscure the view to the owner's, Robert Rochfort's, brother's house. Rochfort used Belvedere as his main home and had some of the loveliest Rococo ceilings in Ireland commissioned inside. He decided to stay in Belvedere as he had imprisoned his wife in his usual residence for adultery. She remained locked up for thirty years.

St Munna's Church:

A mile east of Crookedwood, itself seven miles north of Mullingar is the heavily fortified Saint Munna's Church. Built on the site of a late sixth century monastery that was founded by St Munna, the fifteenth century structure pays homage to the turbulent times of its construction with impressive battlements on its enormous tower, and tiny, arrow-slit windows. Also dotted around the building are various heads protruding from the stone walls, and a Sheela n gigs grotesque above the first window in the north wall.

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