A boat trip reveals the importance of Athlone's strategic location on the River Shannon as well as the beauty of the region.

Viking Tours. For a unique way to cruise the Shannon, take a ride on the Viking. A replica of a Viking longboat, it travels upriver to nearby Lough Ree. Originally built in 1923, it's the longest-serving timber passenger boat in Ireland or the United Kingdom. The cost is €16 for a 75-minute round-trip sailing; they take place March through October. You can also sail southbound from Athlone to the ecclesiastical site of Clonmacnoise for €20; it takes 90 minutes one-way, with return by bus. Check the website for schedules. The Quay at Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. 086/262–1136;

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