Westmeath is a historical inland county with delightful scenery. Situated as it is near the centre of the country, on Ireland's central plain, it is mostly flat, but it has rich grasslands, and therefore, a thriving agricultural industry - dairy, farming etc. Its highest point rises to a little more than 850 feet. The main rivers are the Shannon and the Brosna, but the county has many lakes, with wooded shores, that provide excellent views as well as a great variety of activities. The county stretches from Lough Ree, an extension of the Shannon, in the West, to Lough Sheelin in the North-east, and Kinnegad and the Royal Canal in the South. There is a number of other lakes on the northern border.
Athlone and Mullingar are the county towns, both large and busy market towns. Athlone can be considered the commercial capital of the midlands, as it is a sort of gateway between north and south as well as between east and west. The 13th century Anglo-Norman Castle at the core of the modern town proves its previous importance. The Castle was almost destroyed by the forces of William of Orange during the 1691 Siege of Athlone. The 19th century history of the town is perhaps best evidenced in the edifices of Belvedere House and Tullynally Castle. Athlone is the birthplace of one of the greatest tenors of all times, John McCormack, who was given the title of Count by the Pope Pius XI for his services to the Catholic church. A section of the Castle Museum is now dedicated to him.
Mullingar has a thriving arts scene to offer, and the tourist can engage in a variety of activities, among which a stroll along the Royal Canal and a visit to the ecclesiastical museum are highly recommended. The latter exhibits a matchstick model of the Cathedral made of 68,750 matches!
The natural beauties of this county could not be described without mentioning the Fore Valley, a dreamland for hikers and cyclists. Uisneach, at the other end of the county, is the place where a kind of Irish Olimpics were held, long before the coming of Christianity. The Feast of Bealtaine was an occasion for the clans to gather on the hilltop not only for sporting competitions, but also for trade and storytelling. This is said to be the historical heart of Ireland, as it was the meeting point for the borders of the five old Irish provinces. On a really fine day, up to twenty of the thirty-two present-day counties can be seen, so this is not an occasion to be missed.
"Goldsmith country" is known by locals and tourists alike, as the area including Athlone, Lough Ree and the Longford border on which Oliver Goldsmith left his mark during his lifetime, where he lived and created, enjoying the peace and quietness that inspired him. There is a traditional tour available, though solitary exploration may prove to be a more valuable experience.
With its surroundings, Westmeath could not possibly lack a wide variety of outdoor activities, that include trout and coarse angling on a number of lakes - Ennel, Owel, Derravaragh, Lene, Ree - as well as cruising and various watersports, golf (Athlone, Esker Hills, Mount Temple), hiking and cycling.
Last but not least, the accommodation facilities should be mentioned, since the tourist has a great number of choices, to suit all tastes and pockets, from hotels and guesthouses to country homes and farmhouses, camping parks or holiday hostels.