As its name suggests, in the distant past Westmeath tended to be ruled by whoever held Meath, or perhaps it was the other way around But today, Westmeath is a county so cheerfully and successfully developing its own identity that they should find a completely new name for the place. For this is somewhere that makes the very best of what it has to hand.
Its highest "peak" is only the modest Mullaghmeen of 258 m, 10 kilometres north of Castlepollard. But this is in an area where hills of ordinary height have impressive shapes which make them appear like miniature mountains around the spectacularly beautiful Lough Derravaragh, famed for its association with the legend of the Children of Lir, who were turned into swans by their wicked step-mother Aoife, and remained as swans for 900 years until saved by the coming of Christianity.
Westmeath abounds in lakes to complement Derravaragh, such as the handsome expanses of Lough Owel and Lough Ennell on either side of the fine county town of Mullingar, where life has been made even more watery in recent years with the continuing work to restore the Royal Canal, which loops through town on its way from Dublin to the north Shannon.
Meanwhile, Athlone to the west is confidently developing as one of Ireland's liveliest river towns, its Shannonside prosperity based on its riverside location, and a useful manufacturing mixture of electronics, pharmaceuticals and the healthcare industry. Following a period of riverside development, Athlone’s waterfront has become a mixture of old and new, with the traditional quayside area below the bridge on the west providing a haven from modern buildings.
Despite modernity, this remains a very rural place - immediately south of the town, you can hear the haunting call of the corncrake coming across the callows (water meadows). Athlone itself has a real buzz, and north of it there's the wide lake expanse of Lough Ree in all its glory, wonderful for boating in an area where, near the delightful village of Glasson, the Goldsmith country verges towards County Longford, and they have a monument to mark what some enthusiasts reckon to be the true geographical centre of all Ireland. You really can't get more utterly rural than that.
Local Attractions and Information
Athlone All Ireland Amateur Drama Festival
(May) +353 (0)90 6473358
Athlone Athlone Castle Visitor Centre
+353 (0)90 6492912
Athlone River Festivals +353 (0)90 6494981
Athlone Tourism Information +353 (0)90 6494630
Ballykeeran MV Goldsmith Lake & River Cruises +353 (0)90 6485163.
The MV Goldsmith is the largest ship to ever sail on Irelands inland waterways. It can carry up to 200 people with full on board bar facilities. Small buffets to large banquets are also catered for on board.
Castlepollard Tullynally Castle & Gardens
+353 (0)44 49060
Clonmellon Ballinlough Castle Gardens
+353 (0)46 9433135
Glasson Glasson Rose Festival (August) +353 (0)90 6485677.
The Rose of Glasson festival came from the writings of Oliver Goldsmith when he described Glasson as the “village of the roses” some two hundred years ago. It has been run for seven years by a small local committee on the 15th of August week each year when a new rose is selected from among twenty ladies and crowned "The Rose of Glasson".
Kilbegggan Locke's Distillery Museum
+353 (0)506 32134
Kilbeggan Race Course
+353 (0)506 32176
Moate Dun na Si Folk Park +353 (0)90 6481183
In the heart of Ireland Dun na Sli is a microcosm of Irish culture. Explore the folk park: a picture of by-gone days with preserved farm machinery. Trace your family roots with the assistance of qualified researchers. Enjoy music, song, dance and story-telling at a folklore show, seisiun or ceili (Evening and weekends). Attractions include: Genealogical research centre for Westmeath, Folk Park, and Cultural centre for Moate C.C.E.
Mullingar Belvedere House, Gardens & Park
+353 (0)44 49060
Mullingar Tourism Information +353 (0)44 48761
Mullingar Westmeath Tourism Council +353 (0)44 48571