Whether you’re in the heart of Dublin or the beautiful village of Kilsheelan, the pub is the center of life in Ireland. Not just for the Guinness or Jameson, or (the author’s personal favorite) Magners—you go for the stories, the laughs, the football or hurling game, or simply the beautiful Irish smiles.
With thousands of pubs throughout Ireland, they're not only a gathering place for drinks, but for social events ranging from weddings and wakes to baptisms and birthdays.
And the Irish pub has produced many great writers. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Brendan Behan to name a few, used the pub as the centerpiece in their writings or by merely going to “the local” for inspiration.
Many a pub is also known for their “trad” (traditional) Irish music. Almost always free, the musicians are sometimes treated with free drink by the owner. As a visitor to Ireland, listen with your soul and the hypnotic tunes will stay with you forever.
Age is a state of mind.
The title of the "oldest pub in Ireland" is held by Sean's Bar in Athlone, County Westmeath. Authenticated and endorsed by the Guinness Book of Records, Sean’s Bar has an official dating of 900 AD. Located on the banks of the River Shannon, it’s truly an institution. People have been coming to Sean’s for over a thousand years for a drink, a chat with the locals, or maybe just a bit of traditional music.
Size doesn’t matter!
In the heart of Dublin, we find the ‘smallest’ pub in Ireland—The Dawson Lounge. A gem to find! It can be easy to pass by due to its unassuming presence, but it’s not the size of the pub that matters; it’s the size of the heart. And Dublin has heart! According to some, The Dawson Lounge sells the cheapest pint of Guinness in Dublin—that, in itself, is worth checking out.
The first love, the first time you had… well, you know where this is going.
My very first pub in Ireland will be in my heart and memory forever. The quaint, homey pub in Kilsheelan, County Tipperary called Nagles Bar and Guest Accommodation.
My first EVER Guinness was drank at the end of this bar with my beautiful travel companion and daughter, Heather, and our beloved guide & friend, Joe Ormonde.
It was also at Nagles that I became addicted to the ever-popular, Bulmers hard cider. There are limited sources in the states for its internationally-named counterpart, Magners. Luckily, one such source is in my city.
A Few to Remember!
It is impossible to pick the “best of the best” when it comes to memorable Irish pubs, so here are just two more to put on the must-see list:
Brennan’s Criterion, Bundoran, Co. Donegal
It was opened in 1900 and run by two elderly sisters, Patricia and the late Nan Brennan. They took it over from their father, James Brennan, in 1981. The building is a charming old home, housing the owners upstairs.
More distinctly, there’s a ban on television, music, and swearing—all to encourage conversation among the patrons.
Hargadon Bros, Sligo Town
Unique—is the best way to describe this establishment that began life as a ‘spirit grocer’ in 1868. Now it is known as a grocer, wine & spirit merchant. Everything from crooked shelves, antique whiskey jars, exquisite food, and trad music.
Just off the main Sligo shopping district, located at 4 & 5 O’Connell Street in Sligo, Hargadon Bros was carefully restored to its original beauty in 2006 with sensitivity to its original architecture and fixtures. A must-go-to establishment…
Take it all in!
Whatever you choose to drink, wherever you choose to go—take time to enjoy it all:
…the smile on the bartender’s face when you walk in the door,
…old, worn wood where many an elbow has rested,
…sweet sounds of laughter filling the air,
…hearing the Irish brogue that can make you swoon,
and the perfect Guinness poured by years of practice.
The variety of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Ireland will excite you, fascinate you, and absolutely compel you to return. Come home to Ireland.
We touched on some of the most obvious and completely forgot some others! What about:
- The FOOD!
- The Trad(itional) Music!
- The lovely wool & lace!
- …and MORE!
Well, there’s always the next blog!