Athlone Castle Now Open
Athlone Castle re-opened today Tuesday 6th November 2012 following a multi-million euro renovation to transform the castle into a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory visitor experience. The first visitors to the region’s flagship visitor attraction were the students of Cornamaddy School who were the last visitors to Athlone Castle before it closed for renovation work in November 2011.
First built in the 13th century as a timber fort, Athlone Castle evolved into a bold, defensive building. Its most significant architectural features, such as the keep, have now been harnessed to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.
The eight newly designed exhibition spaces pursue both a chronological and thematic sequence combining hands-on and fun experiences that will appeal to both children and adults. Bold sculptural forms help to convey human figures and historical milestones. 3D maps, audio-visual installations and illustrations by renowned illustrator Victor Ambrus (best known for his work on Channel 4’s Time Team), bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life.
Highlights of the Athlone Castle experience include:
Gallery One, ‘Early Settlement in Athlone’: covers Athlone’s early history and settlements in an audio-visual-led space. A 3D map is a major feature; a sculptural representation of Ireland onto which are projected the significant historic periods such as the Vikings and the Normans.
Gallery Two, ‘Athlone Castle’s first 400 years’: This gallery explores the political upheaval in Athlone in Medieval times. The gallery includes three touch-screens for multi-user engagement, also interactive ‘Build a Castle’ and hands on opportunity to try out the weapons of the day that will appeal to all age groups.
Gallery Three, ‘Athlone Besieged’: Reveals the events leading up to the Siege of Athlone in 1690 and 1691. The gallery is a 360o drum wrapped with sketches by Victor Ambrus of armies in battle. An audio narrative featuring three characters gives visitors the human perspective of what it was like to live in Athlone at that time.
Gallery Four, ‘The Siege Experience’: Located in the Upper Keep of the castle, a naturally circular space, the gallery uses a 360o projection to depict the heat and intensity of the bloody battle. A large soundscape using 4D layering surrounds visitors, putting them right in the midst of the fight.
Gallery Five, ‘People of the Siege’: Life-size sculptural representations of eight key characters involved including army generals who led the attack and defense. The sculptures are abstract in form and use modern materials to create body shapes supported by audio for each figure to aid the storytelling.
Gallery Six, ‘The Fabric of Athlone’: Here visitors come to understand the town over the last 200 years in terms of trade, commerce, politics and religion. There are modern reflections of life in Athlone told through specific objects displayed in woven units that contain small apertures through which visitors can peek. This gallery is strongly visual, featuring bold and surprising uses of colour and layered images so that they interweave at different levels along a 3D timeline.
Gallery Seven, ‘A Self Sufficient People’: Set in the lower keep of the Castle, in one continuous display case, the space presents objects from the Old Athlone Society collection that are related to the life of the town, grouped around a number of subjects such as gentry, carpentry, the role of the publican in the community and domestic life.
Gallery Eight, ‘Death and Destruction’: Visitors are led through a dark corridor into a dimly-lit room in which contemporary sculptures tell of how immediately following the Siege of Athlone, survivors were put to the sword, those who tried to escape but were caught, were slaughtered. In the background visitors hear the recitation of a moving poem written about the tragic events.
Athlone Castle is open:
High Season (March 17th – October 31st)
Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm
Low Season (November 1st – March 16th)
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Adult Single €8.00
Family (2 adults up to 4 children) €20.00
Group bookings on request