A short journey from home, that’s a world away all the same, it’s time to slow right down to the flowing water’s soothing pace of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Stretching across nine counties, including Westmeath, the rich, rural landscapes of this captivating part of Ireland are equal parts rugged and beautiful – and are absolutely flourishing with wildlife.
Dún na Sí is located in the midlands town of Moate Co. Westmeath, right in the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands region. This region showcases the green heartlands of Ireland’s natural beauty, where activity and relaxation are centred around rural communities. The Hidden Heartlands lifestyle can be discovered across a lattice work of land and water trails, showcased by the iconic River Shannon and the Beara Breifne Way. At Dún na Sí, our beautiful Heritage and Amenity Park combines nature and biodiversity, arts, education and play; where you can enjoy a walk through planted parklands and a wetland reserve which is home to native wildlife species. Or take a journey through the past with our reconstructed surroundings showing life and activity in ancient and historical Ireland.
In Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, there’s an infinite variety of things to do for all ages along the length of the Shannon, by the many beautiful lakes in the area or along the many quiet rural byways that criss-cross this picturesque part of Ireland.
The water offers leisurely boat trips, water sports and great fishing, while numerous walks, cycle trails and pony trekking trails allow you to take in the views, or explore the rural heartlands and small villages in this quiet, relaxing part of the country.
Ireland Hidden Heartland’s Athlone
Find Experiences to Suit You
The number of heritage and cultural sites dotted around Westmeath as well as the beauty of its waterways and countryside keep visitors coming back to this place.
The Old Rail Trail
The Old Rail Trail Greenway begins in the town of Athlone and runs for 43kms before ending in Mullingar County Westmeath. The Old Rail Trail is a converted stretch of the Midlands Great Western Railway carved through rich fertile farmland and leads visitors through the very heart of Ireland.
The route traces the historic Railway track, past restored station houses and under pretty stone arched bridges. Linking the mighty River Shannon in Athlone with the Royal Canal in Mullingar, it passes through areas of unique biodiversity and heritage along the way.
With lots of entry and exit points, you can hop on and off to explore the villages and attractions along the way. The track passes through the beautiful villages of Moate, Streamstown, and Castletown Geoghegan on its way to Mullingar, where it links up with the Royal Canal Greenway, an off-road trail running the whole way to Dublin.
No trip to Athlone is complete without a visit to the 13th century Athlone Castle. The castle’s keep is a national monument, and the visitor centre brings to life the stories of the town and its people from ancient through to modern times.
Combine history with fresh air by taking a trip downriver with Viking Mike on a replica Viking longship. As you soak up the untouched beauty of the waters, hear tales of Viking hoards and epic battles from 795AD when these Norse seafarers sailed out coasts and rivers.
Celtic Roots Studio
In the quaint village of Ballinahown, take a tour of the Celtic Roots Studio. Hear the fascinating history of bogs when Ireland was covered with trees and try your hand at carving or fashioning your own personal wish stone out of bogwood that is over 5000 years old.
Baysports, just outside Athlone, is a great spot for families with its inflatable water park, kayak tours and pedalos. It also holds the Guinness World Record for the largest floating slide in the country.
The Guinness Book of Records has Sean’s Bar, Athlone down as Ireland’s oldest pub, it’s documented history dates back to 900AD. The bar itself is a joy to behold, with its mix of antiquity and craic. There is an historical tour of the pub daily at 11am.
Dead Centre Brewing
Dead Centre Brewing Company’s atmosphere is laid-back and easy-going, with Dead Centre beers on tap alongside other local craft beers, spirits, wines and much more. Enjoy a fun and interactive tour and learn about the process of brewing, ingredients, fermentation, packaging and cleaning before enjoying a tasting session of three Dead Centre beers all the while taking in the views of the River Shannon and Athlone Castle in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Luan Gallery is Ireland’s most spectacularly located gallery, jutting out right over the Shannon with barges and cruisers motoring by beneath your feet. The riverine light glinting in through the glass walls hypnotised you back into the former lives of this building as a Temperance hall and a theatre where The famous tenor, Count John McCormack gave some of his earliest performances. The Luan and has strong links with IMMA so the art is a mix of the best international and local works.
Our Local Area
Looking to stay longer?
With so much to see and do in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands why not extend your trip, and stay in one of the many hotels, guesthouses, or B&Bs in the area.
Where to eat and drink?
You’ll find plenty of foodie delights in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. Check out our list of recommended places for your visit!
Exploring Further Afield
Hidden landscapes, a “subtropical paradise”, captivating stories and vibrant towns, the central area of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is ready to uncover.
Uncover Carrick on Shannon
Intriguing castles, lakeside trails and endless blue ways – the delights around Lough Allen are yours to uncover.
Uncover Lough Derg
The legendary lake kisses the sides of Clare, Galway and Tipperary before it spills into the Shannon, so it’s easy to find a solitary spot to lap up the quiet, cast out a line, or unbuckle your picnic basket for a lazy lunch.