The weather forecast gave warnings of heavy rainfall just before we were about to leave Dublin. One of my friends even said ‘I feel sorry for you’ heading down to Athlone tonight. Others asked “what the hell are you going to do there?” Turns out there is plenty of things to do in Athlone even when it’s raining.
We spent one Friday night in Athlone en route to Kinvarra, Co. Galway with low expectations. It was too late to drive all the way to the west and thought it would be best if we stopped off. So we did.
1) Enjoy your cozy hotel
At the last minute we booked a hotel in Athlone. Our requirements were very minimal. We wanted something walking distance to town with a decent bed and comfortable to have a good nights sleep. There were no Airbnb options available so I found a discounted double room at the Prince of Wales Hotel. When I found out it had the Karma night club attached and it attracted a lot of hen groups I was slightly concerned.
However, I needed have worried. As we pulled into the carpark the rain got heavier, I braved the worst of it, grabbed the bags. Minutes later, completely drenched I presented myself at reception for check-in. The well trained receptionist gave me a warm welcome asked my name and recognised the booking straight away. “Oh you asked for the quiet room, the room I’m giving you is really lovely but not much of a view I’m afraid” Watching the raindrops roll-down relentlessly it really didn’t matter.
Ok the view really wasn’t good but the room was one of most spacious I have ever stayed in. It was more like a living room and bedroom combined. We had one of those luxury showers that spurts at you from all sides and a decent bath. There were also some nice extra touches like biscuits, toiletries and best of all the WIFI was really fast.
We could have eaten at the hotel but the rain had reduced to a consistent drizzle so we ventured out.
2) Enjoy a tasty Thai Dinner
A few minutes stroll across the bridge, near the castle we passed (according to the Guinness Book of World records) the oldest pub in Europe Sean’s Bar dating back to 900AD. Hungry we kept walking towards the Lebanese restaurant that had received good reviews. We arrived at 9.20 with no booking. The gentleman without apology sternly said they we’re closed and recommended the Thai place around the corner. What the hell, it wasn’t even 9.30 and they had empty tables??? I am no so glad they couldn’t accommodate us.
Kin Khao Thai is my kind of place. Welcoming, cozy, has great food with fresh ingredients and no fuss. The owner/manager was from Pattaya in Southern Thailand and he is the perfect host. Making you feel like a valued customer without being intrusive. We had vegetable spring rolls for starters washed down with a craft beer and followed by Panang curry. Which probably is the most authentic you will get in Ireland. I will return to Athlone for the curry alone rain or shine.
3) Visit the Louis Le Broquy exhibition at the Luan Gallery
The Luan Gallery is artistically and architecturally stunning. The floor to ceiling windows hovering over the Shannon frame the view and let in amazing natural light to the space. Even with grey skies and with raindrops splashed across the windows panes it was impressive. Le Broquy is one of my favourite Irish artists. I love the way he frames shapes and plays with form.
There were two other exhibitions displayed which didn’t grab me as much but they were enjoyable to view. The downstairs space is a little hidden. It is a corridor that looks as if it leads straight onto the river. And makes a great spot for some photos.
4) Go Shopping in Athlone Town Centre
As we walked in an older gentleman approached us and with a strong accent asked with a cheeky smile “could I interest you in a car for five euro?” . The ugliest car I have ever seen was place beside him. He was holding a draw for it. We both tried to hold back the laughter and politely declined the opportunity of the vehicle.
I am not big into shopping and shopping centres normally irritate me. I can never find where I need to be and they are claustrophobic. However, the rain was pouring and its the perfect place to have a potter about in. We picked up a few bits and based on a friendly cashiers advice we headed over to The Corner House Bistro for brunch.
5) Have a lazy brunch at the Corner House Bistro
We got a great table by the window. Perfect for people watching. The place was busy with couples curing hangovers and families meeting up. The menu was excellent, a nice mix of hearty nosh. Open sambos, soups, salads and oh those cheeky chunky chips. I finally went for a falafel not the most authentic but damn tasty and Alex went for a locally sourced ham and cheese with apple chutney. The portions were massive and we certainly didn’t need that side of chips. But they were so damn tasty.
Armed with a brolly, a full belly and refuelled with coffee it was time to drive West to Galway.