Athlone is located in the centre of Ireland on the banks of the River Shannon with a population of approx. 20,000.
Athlone is one of the Midlands Gateway towns, the two others being Tullamore and Mullingar. The core objectives of the Midlands Gateway is to reinforce and further develop strong links between the Gateway Towns and the neighbouring urban centres, by means of infrastructure and services in order to maximise internal and external accessibility as a location for investment business development and tourism.
The combined County council strategy aspires to provide the basis for the development of a world class, knowledge-based and competitive gateway. The strategy is designed to create an integrated linked Gateway comprising Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar together with the other surrounding towns in the region with the objective of developing internationally competitive Gateway. The designation and development of the Midlands gateway is aimed at providing the basis to develop a range of high quality employment and educational opportunities centred on first-rate accessibility and mobility.
The town has excellent facilities for Visitors with quality hotels, B&B’s, a variety of restaurants and an excellent range of shopping facilities including two large shopping centres. Athlone’s position on the River Shannon at the foot of Lough Ree provides the ideal location for water and leisure enthusiasts.
The modern name Athlone comes from the Irish Ath-Luain the ford of Luain. According to tradition a man called Luan, kept a hostelry close to the ford. He acted as a guide to travellers who needed to venture across the rapid torrent. In time the place came to be known as Athlone or Ath Luain: the ford of Luain. Athlone is one of the few Irish walled towns and is steeped in history. It has always been an important crossing point of the Shannon. Athlone Castle dates back to 1210. It dominates the town centre and commands the traditional gateway to the West of Ireland. Athlone Town Council developed the Castle as a Visitor Centre in the early 1990’s and it features exhibitions and audio visual presentations on the siege of Athlone, John Count McCormack, River Shannon wildlife and history with folk and military museums and a Tourist Information Office.
Guided boat-trips of Lough Ree and the River Shannon, cruising, angling, sailing, wind surfing and other water sports are popular during the summer season. Athlone and surrounding areas boasts a wide variety of visitor attractions and historical sites of note including the instantly recognisable Athlone Castle and Clonmacnoise Monastic Site.
Many walking, cycling and driving trails have been developed in recent years for both locals and visitors to enjoy. The town offers many popular cultural and social events and festivals such as seasonal performances by Athlone Little Theatre, Athlone Musical Society, Athlone Chorale group and the Athlone Barbershop Group. The All Ireland Drama Festival, local and travelling productions, concerts and exhibitions are hosted in the Dean Crowe Theatre Arts Centre. Leisure facilities in the area include the Regional Sports Centre with a 25 metre pool, a children’s pool, aerobics, karate, yoga, gym and an all weather pitch. Other activities enjoyed locally are golf, horse-riding and racing, hunting, tennis, scuba-diving, rowing, sailing, cruising, hockey, camogie, rugby, soccer and gaelic football.
Athlone has a long manufacturing tradition and today is regarded as one of the main centres of all commercial and industrial activity in the Midlands. It is the regional centre for a large number of state and semi-state organisations. These account for some 3000 odd jobs and contribute substantially to the business life of the town.
Athlone Town Council provides an extensive range of infra-structural services, and plays an active role in the development of the town’s industry, business, social, arts, heritage and cultural affairs. http://www.athloneudc.ie
The educational infrastructure is very attractive in Athlone with the Athlone Institute of Technology catering for over 5,000 students. The Institute offers part-time and full-time programmes at certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate levels. The National Polymer Development Centre based in Athlone is Ireland’s leading Polymer Technology and Development Organisation, providing the polymer industry with a rapid turnaround, confidential and industrially focused technical service. Several private and public establishments providing full-time, evening and part-time training and tuition. A large number of Primary and Second Level Schools exist within a 10-15 mile catchment area. Over 3,000 pupils attend second level schools in the town with approx. 2,000 students graduating annually from second-level schools.
Athlone town is located in the centre of Ireland and is well served by local and national infrastructure. There is a good existing road network connecting Athlone to Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Limerick, Cork and all the major population centres i.e. east-west (N6 National Primary Road connecting Dublin to Galway) and north-south (National Secondary Routes; Cavan/Belfast N55, Limerick N62 and Sligo M61 routes. The planned dual carriageway from Dublin to Athlone and Athlone to Galway will minimise journey times in the not too distant future.
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A BALLAD OF ATHLONE
By Aubrey De Vere
Does any man dream that a Gael can fear? __ Of a thousand deeds let him learn but one! The Shannon swept onwards broad and clear, Between the leaguers and broad Athlone.
“Break down the bridge!” __Six warriors rushed Through the storm of shot and the storm of shell; With late but certain victory flushed. The grim Dutch gunners eyed them well.
They wrenched at the planks ‘mid a hail of fire: They fell in death, their work half done; The bridge stood fast; and nigh and nigher The foe swarmed darkly, densely on.
“Oh, who for Erin will strike a stroke? Who hurl yon planks where the waters roar?” Six warriors forth from their comrades broke, And flung them upon that bridge once more.
Again at the rocking planks they dashed; And four dropped dead, and two remained; The huge beams groaned, and the arch down-crashed Two stalwart swimmers the margin gained.
St. Ruth in his stirrups stood up, and cried, “I have seen no deed like that in France!” With a toss of his head, Sarsfield replied, “They had luck, the dogs! Twas a merry chance!”
O many a year, upon Shannon’s side, They sang upon moor and they sang upon heath, Of the twain that breasted that raging tide, And the ten that shook bloody hands with Death!