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County Westmeath

Contae na hIarmhí
Coat of arms of County Westmeath
Coat of arms
The Lake County
Irish: [Triath ós Triathaibh] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help)  
"Noble above nobility"
Location of County Westmeath
Country Ireland
Province  Leinster
Region Eastern and Midland
Established 1542
County town Mullingar
Largest settlement Athlone
 • Total 1,840 km2 (710 sq mi)
Area rank 21st
Highest elevation 258 m (846 ft)
 • Total 88,770
 • Rank 22nd
 • Density 48.24/km2 (125.0/sq mi)
Time zone UTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing keys
N37, N91 (primarily)
Telephone area codes 044, 090 (primarily)
Vehicle index
mark code

County Westmeath ( Irish: [Contae na hIarmhí] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help) or simply An Iarmhí) is a county in Ireland. It is in the province of Leinster and is part of the Eastern and Midland Region. It formed part of the historic Kingdom of Meath, which was named Mide because the kingdom was located in the geographical centre of Ireland (the word Mide meaning 'middle'). Westmeath County Council is the administrative body for the county, and the county town is Mullingar. At the 2016 census, the population of the county was 88,770.


Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the territory of the Kingdom of Meath was subsumed into the Lordship of Meath and granted by King Henry II of England, in his capacity as Lord of Ireland, to Hugh de Lacy in 1172. Following the failure of male heirs, the Lordship was split between de Lacy's great-granddaughters. The western part was awarded to Margery and her husband, John de Verdun, son of Walter de Lacy while the eastern part, centred on Trim, was awarded to Maud.

The official establishment of County Westmeath dates to 1543, and it was named after the kingdom of Mide.

Geography and political subdivisions

Westmeath is the 20th largest of Ireland's 32 counties by area and the 22nd largest in terms of population. It is the sixth largest of Leinster’s 12 counties in size and eighth largest in terms of population. It was named after the historic kingdom and province of Meath, of which the county was the most western part. Westmeath was shired under The Counties of Meath and Westmeath Act of 1543. The Hill of Uisneach in the barony of Moycashel is sometimes regarded as the notional geographical centre of Ireland although the actual geographic centre of Ireland lies in neighbouring County Roscommon. The summit of Mullaghmeen is the highest point in County Westmeath. At just 258 metres this makes it the lowest county top in Ireland.


Westmeath's population growth has been stronger than the national average. After the Great Famine, the population of Westmeath declined dramatically. It stabilised in the middle of the 20th century, and has continued to grow. Westmeath's proximity to Dublin, with good motorway facilities and frequent rail service, has made commuting popular.

County Westmeath's population fell in the century following the Great Famine, with many leaving for better opportunities in America. The largest town in the county is Athlone, followed by the County town Mullingar. Westmeath is the largest county by population in the Irish Midlands. Important commercial and marketing centres include Moate, Kilbeggan, Kinnegad, Ballinahown, Delvin, Rochfortbridge, Killucan and Castlepollard. According to the 2011 census, 51.9% of Westmeath households have at least one Irish speaker.

Westmeath is one of the few counties in Ireland where some census records from 1841 are still available. Some of the records of that census have been digitised and maintained by the National Archives of Ireland.

As of the 2016 census, Westmeath had a population of 88,770, consisting of 44,082 males and 44,668 females. The Central Statistics Office also said that despite the overall increase in population, the rural population had still fallen (2016 census).


Christ le Roi Mullingar
Christ the King Cathedral, Mullingar

Notable Westmeath natives include:


Canal Mullingar 01
Canal at Mullingar
Chevaux de Westmeath
Barbavilla Stud Horses

Initially, development occurred around the major market centres of Mullingar, Moate, and Kinnegad. Athlone developed due to its military significance, and its strategic location on the main Dublin–Galway route across the River Shannon. Mullingar gained considerable advantage from the development of the Royal Canal. The canal facilitated cheap transport of produce to Dublin, Britain and Europe. Athlone and Mullingar expanded further with the coming of the Midland Great Western Railway network in the nineteenth century.

Tourism in Westmeath is generally based on its many water amenities. The county lakes include Lough Derravaragh, Lough Ennell, Lough Owel, Lough Lene, Lough Sheelin and Lough Ree. Both the Grand Canal, and the Royal Canal flow through Westmeath, and the River Shannon (Ireland's key tourism waterway) has a modern inland harbour in Athlone.

In 2017 the largest employment sectors within Westmeath were:

Sector Percentage of
total employment
Wholesale & retail trade 15%
Health & social work 13%
Education 11%
Manufacturing industries 9%
Agriculture 8%
Real estate, renting & business activities 7%
Hotels & restaurants 7%

Two major "Greenway" projects are intended to improve cycling facilities. The Athone - Mullingar section of the Dublin – Galway Greenway, along the old railway corridor between Athlone and Mullingar, was constructed in 2015. The Royal Canal Greenway takes tourists from the county boundary to Mullingar, and then on towards Longford. Those wishing to use the Dublin-Galway Greenway can transfer from the Royal Canal route to the old rail corridor onwards towards Athlone.

The development of industry in Westmeath has been mainly based on food processing and consumer products. Whiskey is distilled in Kilbeggan and tobacco is processed in Mullingar. The county has an extensive beef and dairy trade. In recent times, the manufacturer Alkermes has located in Athlone. The eastern part of the county is home to commuters, many of whom work at the technology parks on the western side of Dublin.

Mullingar is renowned for the high quality of its beef and veal. Weaned cattle from the west of the Shannon are fattened for market on the lush grasslands of Meath and Westmeath. The cattle are also used to maintain grassland to help sustain wildlife in the areas fringing the Bog of Allen.

Westmeath is home to many stud farms. The plains of Westmeath, covered in calcium-rich marl, contribute significantly to calcification of foal bones during their formative years. Westmeath mares are usually put into foal in spring to facilitate summer growth. Pregnancy lasts for approximately 335–340 days and usually results in one foal. Horses mature when they are around four years old.


Athlone IT
The Athlone IT International Arena in Athlone

Westmeath is an active sporting county. The Westmeath GAA senior football team won the Leinster Senior Football Championship, the Delaney Cup, in 2004. They also won the National Football League Division 2 in 2001, 2003 and 2008. The Westmeath senior hurling team has enjoyed much recent success winning the Christy Ring Cup in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Athlone Town F.C. have won the League of Ireland Championship on two occasions, in 1980 and 1982, and the FAI Cup in 1924.

Westmeath Ladies won the 2011 All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship.

Athlone Institute of Technology boasts a €10 million international athletics arena, which opened in early 2013. The International Arena has a footprint of 6,818m2 and an overall building floor area of 9,715m2. Some 850 tonnes of structural steel and fifty thousand concrete blocks went into the construction of the facility, which can house two thousand spectators.

Westmeath Snooker Ranking Tournaments officially recognised by The Republic of Ireland Billiards & Snooker Association are organised and run by St Mary's Snooker Club Bishopgate Street Mullingar. The Ranking events in Junior, Intermediate and Senior events are:

  1. Mullingar Open Snooker Championship
  2. Westmeath Open Snooker Championship
  3. St.Mary's Open Classic Snooker Championship
  4. The Midland Open Snooker Championship

Road transport

Roads are of good quality in the county. As part of the Transport 21 infrastructure programme undertaken by the government, both the N4 and N6 roads have been upgraded to motorway or dual carriageway standard. All towns that these roads passed through are now bypassed, such as Mullingar, Athlone, Moate and Kinnegad. Both Dublin and Galway are within commuting distance from Westmeath following the completion of the M6 motorway in December 2009.

  • Midlands (ATM) Gateway
  • National Development Plan
  • Transport 21

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Westmeath para niños

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