Video of Athlone, County Westmeath, Republic of Ireland
Much recent growth has occurred outside the official town boundaries. Monksland
for example, a suburb on the west side of the town, is not within the official town
boundaries, yet it is the most populous area of County Roscommon.
The Census of Ireland 2011 recorded the population of the town at 20,138
The town was described by IDA Ireland as "the commercial capital of the Irish Midlands"
and it is governed by an elected town council, which appoints a Mayor.
Athlone is near the geographical centre of Ireland which is 8.85 kilometres north-northwest
of the town, in the townland of Carnagh East in County Roscommon.
At the heart of Athlone, both geographically and historically, is the castle. The
ford of Athlone was strategically important, as south of Athlone the Shannon is impassable
until Clonmacnoise (where the Esker Riada meets the Shannon), and north is Lough
Ree. In 1001 Brian Bóru led his army from Kincora into the town, his fleet sailing
up the river via Lough Derg to attend a gathering.
A bridge was built across the river in the 12th century, approximately 100 metres
south of the current bridge. To protect this a fort was constructed on the west bank
in the town by Turloch Mór Ó Conor. On a number of occasions both the fort and bridge
were subject to attacks, and towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans
constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superseded by a stone
structure built in 1210 by Justiciar John de Gray. The 12-sided donjon dates from
this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone
and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged.
During the wars that racked Ireland in the seventeenth century, Athlone held a vital
position, holding the main bridge over the River Shannon into Connacht. In the Irish
Confederate Wars (1641–1653), the town was held by Irish Confederate troops until
it was taken late in 1650 by Charles Coote, who attacked the town from the west,
having crossed into Connacht at Sligo.
Athlone (Irish: Baile Átha Luain, meaning "town of Luan's ford") is a town on the
River Shannon near the southern shore of Lough Ree in Ireland.
It is on the border of counties Roscommon (province of Connacht) and Westmeath (province
of Leinster). Although the River Shannon forms the historic border between Roscommon
and Westmeath, the Local Government Act of 1898 designated all of Athlone (Urban)
as belonging to Westmeath, including areas west of the river.