Inside this low, hulking 13th-century castle by the River Shannon there are engaging and modern displays that bring to life the tumultuous history of the town and detail life here through the ages. The highlight is the cacophonous Siege Experience, which takes place in a circular panoramic gallery. The ancient river ford at Athlone was an important crossroads on the Shannon and the cause of many squabbles over the centuries. By 1210 the Normans had asserted their power and built a castle here.
In 1690 the Jacobite town survived a siege by Protestant forces, but it fell a year later – under a devastating bombardment of 12,000 cannonballs – to William of Orange's troops. The castle was soon remodelled and further major alterations took place over the following centuries. A lightning strike in 1697, however, ignited the castle's magazine, causing 260 barrels of gunpowder to explode, destroying much of the town in the process.
Among activities for adults and kids, you can test a longbow, try out the stocks or dress up in medieval garb.