Hi everyone. So this week’s leg of our Virtual Tour of Ireland takes to the very center of the country to County Westmeath. This is a landscape studded with tranquil lakes, historical sites of note and the banks of the mighty River Shannon are never far away.
County Westmeath Highlights
1. Fore Abbey
So first up we’re going back in time to the magnificent 7th century ruins of Fore Abbey just north of Lough Lene. A former Benedictine monastery, it dates back to 630 AD although the ruins you see today mostly survive from the 15th century.
2. Athlone Castle
A visit to County Westmeath would not be complete without a stop off at the county’s main town, Athlone. Standing handsomely on the banks of the River Shannon, the centerpiece of the town is the imposing and impressive Athlone Castle. The castle dates back to the 12th century. It was built for King John, providing a strategic defense point at the crossing of the river. Today the castle houses a fascinating visitor’s center charting the rich and eventful history of the town.
We venture about 10 km north of Athlone now to the picturesque County Westmeath village of Glasson. It is also locally known as “Village of the Roses”. This also where you will find one of the most scenic golf courses in Ireland (pictured), with stunning views of Lough Ree from every part of the course.
4. Christ The King Cathedral
So next up we’re off to the town of Mullingar and the impressive Christ The King Cathedral in the town center. Its imposing towers dominate the skyline and stand at 55 meters. The foundation stone was laid in 1933 and the cathedral opened in 1936, the first cathedral in the world to be dedicated to Christ the King by order of Pope Pius XI. Most notable are the stunning mosaics of St. Anne and St. Patrick by the renowned Russian mosaic artist, Boris Anrep.
5. Belvedere House & Gardens
Our final stop takes us to the beautiful Belvedere House & Gardens. This stunning estate covers 160 acres of beautiful parkland as well as a show stopping Victorian walled garden. The ruins of the Gothic “Jealous Wall” (pictured) come with a story attached! Apparently it was built by Robert Rochfort aka The Wicked Earl who erected it partly as ornament and partly to block the view of his neighboring brother George!
And so ends our trip to County Westmeath. Thanks so much for joining me on the virtual road! It’s always a pleasure to have your company!
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!