Athlone is roughly located at the geographical centre of Ireland. This makes it an ideal base for exploring the Shannon River valley, which runs through the town centre, and Lough Ree, directly to the north. Many people actually arrive in Athlone on a pleasure craft. Local marinas cater to this traffic, and incoming visitors are usually bound for Lough Ree.
Regardless of how you arrive in Athlone, hiring a car is hands-down the most practical means of getting around. Parking is easily arranged and highly affordable, and that makes it easy to explore the city centre on foot. However, when it comes to setting out in to the countryside, there is no replacement for having your own vehicle.
Due to its central location, many people end up driving from Athlone to other Irish cities. With that in mind, the following are among the cities and attractions that can be reached from Athlone by hire car:
Galway (87 km west of Athlone)For those who began a tour of Ireland in Dublin and then drove to Athlone, Galway is the logical next stop. It takes roughly an hour to drive there via the M6.
Dublin (123 km east of Athlone)Ireland’s capital city is a straight shot east of Athlone along the M6, which changes to the M4 at roughly the halfway point. It takes less than 1 hour, 30 minutes to drive to Dublin outside of peak traffic periods. The option to hire a car in one Irish city and then drop it off at a depot in another makes it possible to drive to Dublin and enjoy the countryside before boarding your departing flight.
Roscommon (30 km north of Athlone)Roscommon is only 30 minutes’ drive from Athlone. This area is riddled with prehistoric sites, including ring forts, burial mounds and megalithic tombs. Monastic ruins and a pair of well-run museums are also on offer.
Limerick (150 km south of Athlone)
Limerick is relatively close to Athlone, and there are two ways to approach. Route 438 departs south of Athlone and connects directly to Limerick in about 1 hour, 45 minutes. You can also head west on the M6 first and then catch the M18 north of Loughrea. From here, the road passes through Ennis before arriving at Limerick.