Friday, 21 August 2015

My Trip to Athlone

Ireland is full of pretty little towns and although I've lived in Ireland since I was 2, I actually haven't had the opportunity to explore many of them. So to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday last week, my family and I spent two days in Athlone, County Westmeath.

It took us the guts of 4 hours to get there so we didn't get to the hotel until about 4pm. After unpacking and getting settled we went swimming in the pool in the hotel. For dinner we went to a Thai restaurant called Kin Khao. In all honesty it was possibly the best meal out I've ever had! By the time we got organised we were starving when we got there but the service was so fast and the food was amazing. I had a prawn stir fry and I just never wanted to finish it! It was so good! If you ever find yourself in Athlone you have to try out Kin Khao!

The next day was my dad's birthday. We got up nice and early and after getting breakfast we made our way down to the docks on the River Shannon, the river that flows through Athlone. The boat travelled down the River Shannon to Lough Ree and then back again. It was really interesting to hear all about the history of Athlone and the scenery along the banks was beautiful.

After a pit-stop for hot chocolates in a place called My Melody Restaurant (which does really good hot chocolates by the way!), we went to Athlone Castle. In 2012, the castle was renovated and now it is a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory visitor exhibition. It contains 8 rooms with each explaining a different part of Athlone's history in different ways. It was really interesting - I didn't realise before how culture-rich Athlone is!

View over Athlone from the castle
Then we got back in the car and drove to a nearby eco craft village called Ballinahown and walked around a few of the cute little shops. It's such a pretty village!

After that we drove to an old famous monastry called Clonmacnoise. We walked around the visitor centre, reading all about the history of the place, and then watched a movie telling the story of how the monastry was founded. Then we went outside to see the ruins of the place. I found it incredibly moving to walk around them and see the graves of the monks who had died there.

We then went back to the hotel for a quick swim. After getting ready we went to Hatter's Lane Bistro for my dad's birthday meal. They had a really wide menu from pasta to burgers to fajitas. I had the New York Style Burger which had cheese and bacon inside it. It was so delicious and it came with homemade chips which were probably the best chips I've ever had! We then ordered two sticky toffee puddings for dessert - one for me and my sister to share and the other for my brother and other sister to share. They were sooo good!

The next day after having breakfast and then watching the amazing Pretty Little Liars finale, we checked out of our hotel. We then drove to a walking trail called the Warren Point looped walk of Rindoon. Unfortunately, it's undergoing a bit of work so we had to take a different route from the normal one through many fields, a lot of mud and a few herds of sheep and cows and there was a moment when I saw my life flash before my eyes on the walk: we were walking through a herd of cows that were sitting down and they all started standing up and I thought they were going to start kicking and attacking us. It was so flipping scary so as soon as we were past them my sister Clare and I ran for our lives! My heart was pounding so fast!!! My mum said it was so funny and thinking back now I guess it was pretty funny!

Nonetheless, we were still able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and make the most of the lovely weather we had that day.

So after our traumatic cow experience, we hit the shops for a bit of retail therapy! There's a really good shopping centre in Athlone which has Topshop, River Island, H&M, Zara, Warehouse, Eason, M&S and so much more. After spending about an hour and a half there, we hit the road and made our way home again.

I had such a good few days in Athlone and I'd really recommend visiting it if you are ever near it or passing through it. It has so much more in it than I had been expecting and it has a really rich culture. It was so interesting to learn all about it. Plus, It's a great town for food - the two restaurants and all of the caf├ęs we were in were so good!

- Caoimhe x

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