Athlone on the River Shannon
I’ve often said that the best thing about Dublin is the road out of it. I have my reasons for this, and I’ll pursue those reasons at a later time. Needless to say, I look forward to any chance I get to make like Moses and get the flock out of there.
A couple of weeks ago I asked Herself where she thought we should go for our next weekend away. Athlone was mentioned and thought it was as good a place as any. So I booked us into The Bastion B&B on the Left Bank of Athlone and away we went last Friday evening.
Wikipedia describes Athlone (from the Irish Baile Átha Luain meaning “town of Luan’s ford”) as located close to the geographical centre of Ireland, on the border of two counties, Roscommon and Westmeath, which are located in the provinces of Connacht and Leinster respectively. Although the River Shannon, which runs through the town, forms the historic border between County Roscommon and County Westmeath, the Local Government Act of 1898 designated most of the town as belonging to Westmeath, including areas west of the river. Much recent growth has occurred outside the official town boundaries. Monksland for example, a suburb on the west side of the town, is not within the official town boundaries, yet is the most populous area of County Roscommon.
Okay, enough history and geography. What did she and I think about the town? It’s beautiful for starters. The Left Bank, where we stayed, is the historical section of Athlone; the Right Bank is where the high street shops are (as well as fast food restaurants and nightclubs). To walk from the back end of the Left Bank to the top end of the Right would take about an hour. Enough time for a tour of the city (amid rain showers), some shopping and a chance to catch the West Ham vs. Chelsea game in the pub.
Sean's Bar: the oldest pub in Ireland (circa 900AD)
Speaking of pubs: there’s only one pub you should go to when in Athlone. Sean’s Pub is the oldest pub in Ireland (check the Guinness Book of Records if you think I’m having a laugh) and has an excellent heated beer garden. The locals are friendly, the stag and hen parties come out in force, and the music rocks the house.
On Friday night a duo played a mixture of country, traditional, soul and rock ballads. Three hours passed away in a flash. We finished off the evening dancing to Lady Gaga in Coppers Nightclub.
As usual we skipped breakfast on Saturday morning; but we made up for it with a good lunch at the Town Centre. Did I mention that it rained for most of the day? It did – twice; once for three hours, and again for four. Lucky we brought our brollies. But by the end of the day we had already decided that we’d return before Christmas.
The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
It was back to Sean’s that night (after I went out to get chips while Herself watched The X Factor) where a guy on a microphone belted out Oasis, Steve Earle and Saw Doctor tunes. A group of lads were down from Belfast on a Stag night. They were a bit worse for wear and one of them lost his glassed while giving it loads on the dance floor. Poor guy! I remember when I used to do that…
So it was a whistlestop trip if truth be told. There’s only so much you can do over a weekend, especially when the weather is inclement. But we’ll do it again for sure.