Bold and imposing, Athlone Castle stands beside the River Shannon. A raft of dazzling new exhibitions is housed inside this 13th-century Norman stronghold. After their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, the Irish retreated to Athlone and made the river their first line of defense. The castle, which celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2010, has played a strategic role in Irish history. Eight exhibition spaces—in the main building as well as the keep and the armory—detail this enthralling chronological story and that of the town from the earliest settlement up to modern trading times. Sculptural forms convey human figures that bring the characters of Athlone to life in an engaging way. They sit cheek by jowl with 3-D maps, audiovisuals, and weapons such as a bow and arrow that allow hands-on experiences for both children and adults. You will feel right at the center of things with the 360-degree view of events of the Siege of Athlone in 1690. It's not your typical Irish fairy-tale castle, but it is fun, and kids especially love the interactive game "How to Capture a Castle." It's hard to beat on a wet day in the Midlands. The castle gatehouse serves as the town's tourist office.
Castle St, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland