This is our third Easter holidays here in Irelands lovely Midlands. We have a few go-to places now for days out around Athlone so I’ve compiled this round up post/excuse to look through old photos to hopefully give some ideas of places to visit on one of the remaining Easter holiday days. Its 3 years since we moved here this week and I still feel really lucky to live in such a beautiful place so I’m sharing the Athlone love a little with my top picks below;
1) Athlone Castle. Great for any day really but especially if you are looking for something to do in the rain as its mostly inside. The Clev children love it there, its so kid friendly with really good exhibitions and a video too. We learn something new every time we visit, mainly about what complete a-holes the english were to the people of Athlone in days gone by, but none the less my older children especially really enjoy it here. The viewing platform and general views of Athlone from the castle are stunning AND they have multiple dressing up areas (not just for kids!!).
Athlone Castle/Tourism + arts also run lots of events and quite a lot of them are completely FREE! We went to see the solar eclipse here last year and I know at the moment they are doing lots of sky at night stuff so its well worth following their Facebook page as they update it with events and also discount codes/competitions quite regularly.
2) Birr Castle. On our list of ‘days out around Athlone’ this would most likely be the most loved, most fun and most repeated. Such good walks but the winner here is the children’s playground. Its incredible!! They also just opened a tea hut in the playground so not only is there a constant supply of fun for kids, but theres a constant supply of coffee for parents, what is not to love?. There’s sand pits, swings and the crowning glory of the worlds biggest most awesomest tree-house. Horse and Carriage rides just started up again too, we did one last year and it was an excellent excuse to quote many a horse + carriage related film/book (“Home James, and don’t spare the horses” – name that book!) plus the kiddos had a fab time. There’s something for everyone from babies to grandparents, especially grandparents who fully embrace yolo by going on the bouncy pillow – looking at you Nanny Barry! There’s so many walks and trails here and an exhibition about the telescope/family who actually still live in the castle as well as the gigantic telescope itself. We’ve already been twice this Easter and its beautiful with banks of daffodils everywhere and the whole place looking really green and lush. Here’s Daddy and the children on the self named ‘waterfall adventure trek’. You’ll have to visit it to experience it yourself!
3) Lough Boora. This is a park built on a reclaimed bog or maybe its just a bog thats turned into a park – im not sure on the specific geology of it BUT its a great day out with loads of walks and trails and a sculpture installation walk too. You can hire bikes there and theres a nice cafe and visitors centre. Given a half decent day, or a rainy day where you wrap up warm, this is such a good family day out. This is our visit last year which you can read about here. I feel like we have a lot more exploring of Lough Boora to do, so its top of my list of places to go when the sun shines this year.
4) Dun Na Si. This place went through a huge revamp last year, we were there already this week and went into the heritage park area, its got all new exhibits and they have worked really hard on making the houses outside more educational and relatable for kids. If you dont fancy paying for the heritage park bit then the free children’s playground is awesome with lots of stuff to play on, a nice tea room (starting to think I should rename this post ‘places in and around athlone with playgrounds and tea rooms’ as its a recurring theme isn’t it!) and lots of wide open space for a game of footie or tag. Theres also a sculpture area which is a nice toddler friendly walk, as well as a slightly longer trail over a troll bridge (its a footbridge over a turlough but don’t tell Vivi that) and a wildlife lookout area. A good one for all ages but especially younger ones. Follow them on Facebook if you are nearby as they too do lots of events, including outdoor yoga in the summer which I must haul myself to this year.
5) Kilbeggan Whiskey distillery and chocolate cafe. I know its like the last place you would think to visit with kids but they really like it! The old whiskey distillery part is full of little nooks and crannies and also the water wheel which is great for little people to look at, as is all the old farming stuff from ‘the olden days’. The modern distillery maybe less so for kids but if you adults are interested its pretty good plus free samples which are always a winner right?. You can read a very early ‘the clevs’ post here, we visited just after we moved here on my Mums first visit over and I was preggo with Cora!. Over the road from the distillery is the Kilbeggan Chocolate Cafe where they grind their own chocolate beans into delicious truffles, bars and hot chocolate (a favourite of my kids). You can see them actually making it all and every time i’ve been in theres been lots of tasters available. Again, on a grey rainy day this is a lovely little trip out.
6) Belvedere House and Gardens. We only just visited this place last half term but are already planning on going back again this Easter. You can look at our post all about it here.
7) Clonmacnoise + Ballinahown. I just love these two places. We have spent many a day starting off at Clonmacnoise before heading to the Ballinahown tea rooms for lunch, then a play in the park there. My kids love a run about in the old monastery (a respectful run around of course) plus in the summer months its fun to tourist spot (shout out to all Texan tourists with Irish Heritage – you are the best). The first year we lived here we got a heritage Ireland membership so could visit for free, as well as many other heritage sites in Ireland. The Tea Rooms in Ballinahown are run by the nicest people ever who make everyone so very welcome (even my massive brood!) the food is delicious and you can get a coffee to go and take over to the park with you. The Ballinahown park is one of my favourite local Athlone parks, its so natural, surrounded by trees and a river and a nature walk. Theres a picnic hut and the play equipment is the sort of stuff I remember from my own childhood and not the huge lumps of brightly coloured plastic tat that fills lots of the modern parks.
8) Hodson Bay. This is our favourite place for a roast dinner in Athlone. Its such good value and a heaping plate of food, the only annoying thing is you can’t book a table so its always a little hit and miss for us rocking up needing a table for 7!! In the summer months there’s a huge outdoor water park here at Baysports, plus you can rent canoes and dragon boats and all sorts. Just generally strolling along the bay here is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, or you can make a day of it and hop on the Viking boat in and out of town. We were just there on St Patricks day this year and it’s certainly one of the most scenic spots in Athlone.
So thats our round up of the best days out around Athlone. There’s plenty more to do I’m sure of it but those are my top cheap and cheerful ideas for families with children of different ages. If you have any other Midlands or nearby suggestions of days out I’d love for you to share them on my Facebook page and you can see lots of adventures around athlone and further afield on my Instagram.
Happy Easter bank holiday all 🙂