Hiking and Walking
The Old Rail Trail. Westmeath's Old Rail Trail is a newly established off-road route through the heart of the Midlands, ideal for cyclists and walkers. In the days of the Midland Great Western Railway, the line linked Dublin to both Galway and Sligo. Now the 40-km (25-mile) journey running between Athlone and Mullingar has been converted into a popular flat rural trail–-with just a few gentle slopes–-forming part of a proposed Galway-to-Dublin cycleway. Starting at Garrycastle on the eastern edge of Athlone, the trail leads through Moate and Castletown Station, as well as arched bridges, a tunnel, and farmland to Mullingar, where you can continue your journey by joining the Royal Canal. Starting point: Garrycastle, Athlone, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. 044/932–2000; www.greenway.westmeathcoco.ie.
Shannon Banks Nature Trail. Along the newly established Shannon Banks color-coded nature trail, wildflowers such as herb Robert, stitchwort, speedwell, and silverweed are all prominent. The looped, bidirectional trail starts at the main bridge of the Shannon at the back of Athlone castle. To the west, follow the promenade that runs parallel with Grace Road and you will come across a park filled with multilimbed trees such as silver birch, horse chestnut, red oak, common limes, and Norway maple, all of which attract rich birdlife. The other direction leads along the quay to Athlone docks. Along the way, signposts detail flora, fauna, wildlife, and fish to look for. The route takes about 45 minutes in either direction. Athlone, Co. Westmeath. www.athlone.ie/visit/shannon-banks-nature-trail.