On the Way to Athlone, Athlone
If you're traveling towards Athlone from the Boyne Valley, you might want to make a stop in Tullamore at the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Center for a tour. It is on the Ireland Whiskey Trail and an interesting place to visit.
The tour gives you a good understanding of how whiskey is made. It covers three floors of the Visitor's Center and begins with a short film. You learn how mash is made and how the distilling process progresses from ingredient selection to mashing, fermenting, distilling, maturing and blending.
The tour, of course, culminates in a tasting where you have the opportunity to taste three different Tullamore Whiskey blends. It's a lot of whiskey so plan to eat before or after your tour, especially if you're driving on. We had lunch at the Visitor's Center and it was really good. Lots of locals eat there as well.
After taking the tour we decided to visit the Clare Bog Center in Clare. It's not far from Tulamore and on the way to Athlone. www.clarabognatrereserve.ie
We had seen the bog bodies at the Archaeology Museum in Dublin and were curious to learn about an actual bog. The visitor center is in the town of Clare and we were shown a video about the makings of a bog. After, the docent was willing to answer any questions we might have. They also have some interesting exhibits on bog life at the Center. The bog is a short drive away and has a boardwalk that allows you to wander through the bog and see it up close. We were there in September and there was not a lot blooming but it was still worth a visit. It's low land, flat, and you can see for quite a distance across the bog. There are a number of markers and information points as you travel the walkway. Worth a visit.
It was late afternoon by this time so we drove the rest of the way to Athlone and after checking into our hotel made our way to Sean's Bar, the oldest bar in Ireland (Guiness Book of Records). We got there about 7:00 p.m. and it was standing room only. Music was due to start about 10:00. We started chatting to a couple of gentlemen standing next to us and learned that they were in Athlone working on a Public Works Project laying pipe. It was Friday so they had been in the bar since about 2:00 p.m. as they have a half day on Friday. Some serious drinking takes place in Irish pubs especially on the weekends. They were quite charming and interesting to talk to giving us a working man's perspective of Irish life. They insisted on buying us drinks and wouldn't let us reciprocate as we were guests. Before we knew it, the music started and we were enjoying another great Irish musical evening.