The Counties of Meath and Westmeath Act ( Henry VIII 34 ) of 1542, proclaimed Westmeath (which then included Longford which separated in 1586) a county, separating it from Meath. Mullingar became the administrative centre for County Westmeath. The town was originally named Maelblatha, and takes its modern name from a mill noted in the legend of Colman of Mullingar.
The town had a tradition of cattle-trading up until 2003, when its cattle market was closed for development of a mixed commercial and residential scheme called the Market Point.
Mullingar is famous for the neighbouring lakes, Lough Owel, Lough Ennelland Lough Derravaragh which attract many anglers. Lough Derravaragh is best known for its connection with the Irish legend of the Children of Lir. The town of Mullingar is linked to Lough Ennell via Lacy's Canal and the River Brosna.
One of Mullingar's major exports are items of pewterware produced by the firm of Mullingar Pewter located near the town. Genesis fine art is also produced locally and sold worldwide – one of its sculptures of the "Pilgrims" dominates the dispensary house at Austin Friars St where once there was an Augustinian Friary. The town is the largest town in the Irish Midlands. The town, as of 2006, is officially the most populated town in the midlands due in part to its increasing popularity as a commuter town.
Two newspapers serve the community: The Westmeath Examiner Westmeath Examiner and The Westmeath Topic. Mullingar forms part of the Midlands Gateway, in association with Athlone and Tullamore.
A statue at the town's Market Square honours the late singer, Joe Dolan (16 October 1939 – 26 December 2007), who was a native of Mullingar.
Mullingar is also the home town of One Direction band member Niall Horan.
Mullingar lies near the national primary route N4, the main Dublin – Sligo road, 79 km (49 miles) from the capital. The N52 also connects Mullingar to the Galway-Dublin M6 motorway. The town is served by Bus Éireann services to Dublin, Athlone (where passengers can catch connecting buses), Sligo, Cavan, Tullamore and Ballina. The town currently suffers from heavy afternoon traffic partially caused by a lack of off-street parking problem. The town is bypassed and a ring road has been completed in a bid to further alleviate traffic.
In the 19th century the town was served for a time by the Royal Canal – however displaced first by the railway and then the car, it is no longer commercially used for the transport of goods or people. The town of Mullingar as also linked to Lough Ennell via Lacy's Canal and the river Brosna.
The Midland Great Western Railway line to Mullingar from Dublin opened in stages from 1846 to 1848, arriving in Mullingar on 2 October 1848. This was to a temporary station, adjacent to the greyhound stadium. The original mainline ran from Dublin (Broadstone Station) to Galway via Mullingar and Athlone, the Mullingar to Galway section opening in August 1851. The present station opened with the branch line to Longford on 14 December 1855. There were two secondary stations in Mullingar, Canal Crossing cattle bank was on the Sligo Line and on the Athlone Line, Newbrook racecourse had its own station. This was unique in that it was a two platformed station with both platforms on the Down Line. Nowadays, the line northwest to Longford and Sligo is the mainline, Galway is accessed from Heuston Station via Portarlington and the line between Mullingar and Athlone is currently disused. Mullingar station is served by national rail company Iarnród Éireann's Arrow commuter services to Dublin and InterCity trains to/from Sligo. The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland have a secondary base in the town. There is a photo survey of the disused Athlone.
By car, walking or cycling.