County Westmeath (from the Irish, Contae na hIarmhí), as with the county of Meath, is named after the Kingdom of Mide, which means “the middle,” signifying the middle of Ireland. But the geographical centre isn’t located here. Not at the Hill of Uisneach, where it has been falsely claimed for some time, celebrating every year with the Festival of the Fires. The centre is, in fact, tucked away quite modestly a pinch from the western shore of Lough Ree, in County Roscommon. But never mind. The county town of Mullingar is, however, definitely in Westmeath.
Mullingar has featured as the heartland of government in Westmeath since it was made its own county in 1543. The town is famous for its music and theatre, but also for its lakes, each of which has a history of its own;Lough Owel, feeding into the Royal Canal, is used primarily for trout fishing (the Viking chief, Turgesius, was drowned in the lake in 845 by Máel Sechnaill, High King of Ireland); the view of Lilliput from Lough Ennell is reported to have delivered an inspiring vision to the eyes and mind ofJonathan Swift, who would then author Gulliver’s Travels; hidden along the embankment of Lough Lene survive a number of prehistoric burial sites, ruins and ring forts.
Belvedere House Gardens and Park in Mullingar, in addition to a vast acreage of forests features The Jealous Wall, an imitation ruin erected to jealously – and senselessly – keep the first Earl of Belvedere’s wife from the prying eyes of his brother, who lived in an adjacent house.
Unmissable Attractions County Westmeath
1. Dun na Si Heritage Centre and Folk Park (Opening Times: Monday to Thursday from 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. and Friday from 9.30 a.m – 4.00 p.m.) Prices: Adults: €3.50 / Children €1.50
2. Kilbeggan Distillery Experience (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. in summer) Prices: €7.50 per person
3. Rockfield Ecological Estate (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 2.00 p.m. – 6.00 p.m. in May, September and October) Prices: Adults €10.00/ Children, senior citizens and students €5.00
4. Multyfarmham Franciscan Friary (Opening Times: Tuesday – Saturday from 9.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. – 5.30 p.m. and Sunday from 3.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.)
5. Belvedere House Gardens and Park in Mullingar, in addition to a vast acreage of forests features The Jealous Wall, an imitation ruin erected to jealously – and senselessly – keep the first Earl of Belvedere’s wife from the prying eyes of his brother, who lived in an adjacent house. (Opening times vary from season to season, but generally the gardens and park are open Monday to Sunday from 9.30 a.m. – 8.00 p.m. in summer)