Mullingar Town Park is a large pleasantly landscaped green space with an attractive pond and a popular indoor swimming pool. (Photo – www.tripadvisor.ie)
Lacy’s Canal, named after Hugh de Lacy, was constructed in the late C18th to link Mullingar and Lough Ennell. Crossed by both the quaint Butlers Bridge and the boring modern Joe Dolan Bridge, it has recently been dredged. See video.
The Royal Canal reached Mullingar in 1806, terminating at the Piper’s Boreen harbour, but this soon proved inadequate, so a larger one was built closer to the town centre c.1808.
By 1826 the ‘new’ harbour was complete with additional infrastructure such as store houses (now almost all long gone), walled and gates (partially surviving), and two large dry docks for barge repairs complete with lock gates (one dry docks has been restored but the other was filled in years ago).
The western section of the harbour has been prepared for the reception of touring boats & barges by building new toilets and a water point within the adjacent park as well as placing iron railings around the harbour edge.
Scanlan’s bridge is still taking the full brunt of road traffic after more than 200 years. (Photo by JP)
The Lough Owel Feeder historically provided the Royal Canal with water from the lake north of Mullingar. There is now a proposal that a supply be taken from Lough Ennell, to the south of the town.
The River Brosna also connects the town to Lough Ennell.
Mullingar’s shopping facilities range from traditional and modern shops to large retail centres on the in and around the town. Sadly, one of the most interesting of these, the Brosna Market, was forced to close early in 2012, but hopes are high for its reopening in a new location.
Mullingar Farmers’ Market is held every Sunday. Fresh produce is sold on a seasonal basis and includes fish, meat, free range eggs, homemade bread and cakes, organic cheese, yoghurt, fruit & veg. herbs, flowers, honey etc.
Three newspapers are published locally: The Mullingar Advertiser, The Westmeath Topic, and The Westmeath Examiner.
The Greville Arms Hotel
The Greville Arms Hotel***, opened in 1884, was named (like its Granard counterpart) in honour of a family of landlord politicians descended from the C18th Longford poetess Frances Greville (née MacCartney), wife of a minor English aristocrat, and allied by marriage to the powerful Nugent Marquesses of Westmeath.
Notable guests have included James Joyce, who as a boy accompanied his civil servant father, John, as he compiled an electoral register of Mullingar and the surrounding townlands in the summers of 1900 and 1901. The author later recorded his impressions in his novels Stephen Hero and Ulysses.
Centrally located, the rather bland hotel features hideous furniture, but provides reasonably priced accommodation and has friendly staff serving good food and drink in the James Joyce Restaurant and the Ulysses Pub (dominated by a life size wax statue of the writer). Nowadays it advertises itself as Mullingar’s “entertainment hotspot“.
The Newbury Hotel***, a friendly family-run facility centrally situated near the Railway Station, is particularly well-reviewed on the Internet for its cosy bar and basement Chinese restaurant.
The Austin Friar Hotel***, named after the street commemorating Mullingar’s lost medieval Augustinian Friary, is a modern boutique hotel with a good restaurant and a Spanish Tapas Bar.
Annebrook House Hotel**** comprises an elegant Georgian house almost dwarfed by two ugly modern wings overlooking the Town Park. The house, built c.1810 as a residence for the County Surgeon, was still a family home until recently; the author Maria Edgeworth is said to have stayed here in the early C19th. Impressive public rooms include the atmospheric Brook Restaurant, Berty’s Bar, and very pleasant reading room. The River Brosna runs through the grounds, featuring attractive formal gardens that make this a popular wedding venue.
The Mullingar Park Hotel **** is a well-equipped modern complex on the outskirts of the town.
Mullingar offers a choice of over 30 eateries, from hotel dining facilities to takeaways. Georgina Campbell recommends Oscar’s , evidently a local favourite, and also praises Gallery 29 Café and Ilia A Coffee Experience.
The Stables has been Mullingar’s main original live music venue since 1989.
Danny Byrne’s is a popular place to hear cover bands and DJs.
The Mullingar Town Band was founded in 1879 as a Holy Family Confraternity Band. The local Military Barracks supplied many of the early members who themselves were serving members of the British Regimental bands stationed in Mullingar. Renamed in the 1940s and again in 1957, the band has won numerous awards in Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands. It now has a dual role of marching band – The Celtic Crusaders – and a concert band.
The Mullingar Choral Society, founded as a concert choir in 1968, has become one of the town’s longest established cultural institutions, and has performed around Ireland and abroad.
Mullingar Student Players is a dramatic society made up entirely of secondary school students from the area. Recent productions have included Les Miserables, West Side Story, Return to the Forbidden Planet and Godspell.
Mullingar also has a popular Pantomime group that performs every Christmas.
Lynn Greyhound Track hosts regular races, usually on Thursday and Saturday evenings. (Photo – Gavigan)
Mullingar’s sporting activities include GAA, soccer, rugby, Australian Rules football, basketball, hockey, tennis, badminton, cricket, athletics, boxing, martial arts, snooker, cycling, equestrian, adventure and water sports clubs. The town has produced several fine international athletes.
John Joe Nevin, two-time Olympian boxer, is from Mullingar. He won a silver medal in the bantamweight competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Joseph Murphy from Mullingar postponed his wedding to compete for Ireland in the Individual equestrian eventing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Niall Horan, born and raised in Mullingar, is the only Irish member of the popular British boy band One Direction and was the first Irish citizen to sing at the Olympics games when they performed in London 2012.
Michael O’Leary, the pugnacious CEO of Ryanair, was born in Mullingar in 1961 and lives nearby.
Pat of Mullingar is an traditional “Irish rebel” song.
Mullingar’s tourism industry is largely based on its neighbouring lakes and C18th ‘Big Houses’, especially Belvedere House & Gardens and Bloomfield House, now a hotel.