Visitors come face-to-face with ancient armies as castle gets €4.3m makeover
DOWN the centuries, it has been a stronghold for rival families, endured sieges and eventually was taken over by Free State troops from the British in 1922.
Now, visitors to the 13th-Century Athlone Castle will get to "try out" ancient weapons, hear the sound of battle and come face-to-face with life-size characters including army generals as part of a new multi-million-euro tourist attraction.
Failte Ireland and Athlone Town Council invested €4.3m in refurbishing the castle and its new visitor centre, which has now been officially opened.
Featuring state-of-the-art displays, the visitor centre includes eight individual galleries depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone down through the ages.
It boasts hands-on experiences and educational narratives to immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone's diverse and fascinating story.
Visitors will also get to savour the "Siege Experience" in an audio gallery revealing the events leading to the siege of Athlone in 1690.
Failte Ireland's Colm Breheny emphasised the importance of cultural tourism and said he believed that a fresh focus on "the culturally curious tourist" would attract visitors and benefit the region.
Officially opening the centre, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring said: "This will bring cultural visitors into this town, people that have an interest particularly in the history of Athlone, the history of this barracks."
Event Communications, the company behind the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre and Belfast's Titanic Museum, helped develop the centre.