Athlone, Co. Westmeath
Athlone (from the Irish: Baile Átha Luain meaning "town of the Ford of the Moon") lies on the River Shannon close to the geographic centre of Ireland in County Westmeath.
This bustling, youthful centre town of Ireland has much of historical interest - and, although other towns along the mighty Shannon will no doubt be keen to mount a challenge, Athlone is presently the culinary capital of the inland waterways, with a cluster of good eating places in the town itself and surrounding area.
At the heart of Athlone, both geographically and historically, is the castle. The ford of Athlone was strategically important, as south of Athlone the Shannon is impassable until Clonmacnoise (where the Esker Riada meets the Shannon), and north is Lough Ree.
The town is a popular retail area with quite a selection of shops and a shopping centre. The area is also popular with people stopping by on river cruise boats, swimmers, anglers, bird watchers and sailors. Other popular attractions for visitors are the award winning Glendeer Open Farm and the Viking Cruise of the Shannon. The town's tourist office is located at Athlone Castle, in the town centre.