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County Town: Mullingar
Population: 79,403
Area: 1,764 sq km
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Westmeath - 6 places to stay

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Westmeath, a beautiful county in the Irish midlands, has been dubbed a "land of lake and legend". Here, an abundance of lakes, rivers, streams and canals creates a magical spectacle across the rich, agricultural countryside of Westmeath, a place steeped in folklore. The age-old story of the Children of Lir centres on Lough Derravaragh, where four fictional youngsters, turned into swans by an evil spell, were fated to spend 300 years. Nowadays, the lake - along with loughs such as Ennel, Owel and Ree, the River Shannon and the Royal Canal - is famous for trout fishing and coarse angling. Watersports are pursued throughout the county, and cruising is extremely popular, the major centre being Athlone, which offers boat trips along the Shannon, around Lough Ree and beyond. Walking, cycling, golf and horse-riding are especially enjoyable in Westmeath's enchanting scenery. Mullaghmeen Country, comprising a magnificent, 1000-acre beech forest in the north west, is a deserving visitor favourite, and Goldsmith Country, in the south west, is another wonderful attraction. Beloved of the great Irish writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith, the area is home to such delightfully quaint spots as Glasson - the Village of the Roses. Spectator sports include greyhound racing in the county capital, Mullingar (also famous for its heifers), and horse-racing in Kilbeggan. Westmeath is dotted with ancient churches and cathedrals, notably Fore Abbey, the country's largest group of Benedictine ruins. Sightseers will not want to miss the imposing Norman castle overlooking the Shannon in Athlone, or the Gothic grandeur of Tullynally Castle with its exceptional gardens. Tyrrellspass Castle, dating back to the early 1400s, is now a restaurant hosting colourful medieval banquets. The towns and villages of Westmeath have plenty of contemporary pleasures to offer, too, from fine dining and theatre, arts and crafts to fairs, festivals and a lively nightlife.

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On this day:
Stirling Castle Falls to Edward I - 1304, Euston opens as 1st London Station - 1837, FA Cup is formed - 1871, Bothamís Greatest Ashes Day - 1981
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