The ancient abbey at Clonmacnoise is one of the most famous sites of its kind in Europe. Built by St. Kieran in about 545AD, the abbey grew in stature to become one of the great monastic cities of early Europe. There are many crosses and towers still standing at the site, and the interpretive centre draws about 100,000 visitors every year. There are exhibitions and an audio-visual show, and a tea room.
Lough Ree is one of the largest lakes in Ireland and contains a wealth of historical sites on the shore and on the many Islands on the lake, as well as some interesting flora and fauna. The Islands on the lake include Hare Island, where St. Ciaran is said to have lived at a monastic settlement before founding Clonmacnoise Abbey. The largest hoard of Viking gold ever discovered in Western Europe was found here. The island remained in the hands of the religious and then passed through some of the most influential families in the area. Inchmore is the largest island on the lake, and the remains of a ring fort can clearly be seen here. The island was also home to an early Christian monastery and a lodge built by the Marquis of Westmeath. The island was abandoned in the early twentieth century, although some people have built holiday homes here in recent years. Saints Island was the site of a priory built by the Dillons around the year 1200. Other islands of interest on the lake include Inchbofin and Quaker Island.
Athlone Castle was originally built in the year 1210 by the Normans on the site of an old wooden fort. Since then, the castle has been attacked and damaged many times, leading to rebuilding and remodelling. The castle now housed an interpretive centre, tourist office, gallery, museum and tea rooms.
The peatlands between Shannonbridge and Athlone display an abundance of flora and fauna. The callow in this area is considered by some to be the richest in Europe.