Athlone town originated from a vital intersection point on the Shannon river. The chain of eskers which goes through Ireland from east to west made a characteristic ford when it achieved the Shannon. Athlone takes its name from that passage: Athluain (the ford of Luan).
This ford has been critical since the Bronze Age. We believe this through bronze age artifacts founds in the river bed.
Early Christian graves are evidence Athlone was a site of Early Christian religious settlement. He constructed a castle here in 1129.
When the Normans reached the Shannon before 1200 they recognized the strategic importance of the ford.
In 1210 Bishop John de Gray, King John’s Irish justiciar, constructed a new bridge and began the building of Athlone Castle on the western side of the river. This medieval bridge seems to have disintegrate by the early years of the 14th century.
The Franciscans founded a friary in Athlone c1240. After the breaking up of the monasteries the friars returned to the locality to lead the counter-reformation. There is still a Franciscan presence in Athlone today.
After the decline of the Norman colony the town detiorated and the control of the castle alternated between the O’Kellys of Hy-many and the Dillons of Kilkenny-West.
The town began to recover once the government forces took control of the castle again in 1537. In 1566 the great nine-arched Elizabethan bridge of Athlone was built and the presidency of Connacht established in 1569 with Athlone Castle as its headquarters.
The town was besieged twice during the time of the Williamite and Jacobite Wars. In 1690 Athlone was attacked by 10,000 Williamite troops but the Jacobites under Col Richard Grace countered the attack. The following year 25,000 Williamite troops, under the command of General de Ginkle, besieged the town. The siege lasted ten days and despite the bravery of Sgt Custume and his men, who bravely defended the bridge, the Williamites managed to find the ford that gave Athlone its name. The Castle was the last post to surrender and King William’s army then marched to Aughrim and on to Limerick where the Treaty was signed.
The three keys to the growth of Athlone in the nineteenth century were the founding of Athlone Woollen Mills, the Shannon Navigation works of the 1840s, and the arrival of the railway in 1850.
Athlone has an excellent location between Galway and Dublin. It is very popular with tourists.
Cruising on the Shannon is very popular and highly recommended. You can dock your boat beside Sean's Bar ( Ireland's oldest pub ) or dock up at Wineport's fantastic resteraunt and hotel on the fantastic Lough Rea.
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