In the centre of the town of Athlone just off the R446 old Galway-Dublin Road in Castle Street on the western bank of the river Shannon and the western side of the mid-nineteenth century Shannon Road Bridge is Athlone Castle.
View of the walls, towers and central keep of Athlone Castle from the Athlone Bridge.
It was at the end of the twelfth century that the first castle was built at Ahtlone, a motte and bailey with a stone tower. This was a Royal Castle built to control the important Shannon River crossing. The Motte and Bailey castle was attacked and burnt by Cathal Crovderg O’Connor in 1199 and the stone tower on the motte later collapsed. It was about 1212 that the masonry castle as well as a bridge over the Shannon was was built by the King John’s Justiciar in Ireland, John de Grey, on the site of the earlier Motte. The central mound of the motte was revetted with stone and a polygonal castle keep was built on this. The thick rubble curtain wall of the castle with its angle towers, pentangular plan and base batter was probably built between 1268 and 1279.
View of the central keep of Athlone Castle. This was originally built about 1212 but the machicolations on the top of walls are all nineteenth century.
The castle did not always protect the town which was burnt on a number of occasions in the thirteenth century and on a number of occasions the castle went out of Royal control. In 1381 Edmund Mortimer earl of March had to retake the castle and the castle was taken again by Lord Dillon in 1490. In 1547 the castle was repaired by William Brabazon, the King's Treasurer in Ireland.
View of the north-west corner tower of Athlone Castle
The castle was heavily damaged by bombardment during the siege of Athlone in June 1691 and by an accidental explosion in 1697. The castle was rebuilt by the British Army between 1800-1827 at about the same time as the Artillery Fort at Shannonbridge was built. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.
There is a visitor’s centre in the castle that features exhibitions and audio visual presentations on the siege of Athlone, John Count McCormack, River Shannon wildlife and history with folk and military museums.
Google Maps image of the location of Athlone Castle
GPS coordinates 53.423344,-7.943072