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Irish pubs can be found in the four corners of the world. There is something comforting about finding an Irish pub whilst abroad. However, none of them come close to the real thing. Authentic traditional Irish pubs are a part of our culture, and they are an experience to remember (if you can remember after the fill of pints!).
This list provides a small sample of the traditional Irish pubs this island has to offer. Many of you reading this will be thinking of a pub that should be making this list. Unfortunately, I can’t fit them all in or I would be writing for eternity! The following pubs give you an example of our rich traditions of music, dancing, storytelling and, of course, drinking. Warning – You may desire a pint after reading.
- Seans Bar (Athlone)
Sourced from: Seans Bar
Seans bar is situated in Athlone, commonly referred to as the heart of Ireland due to its geographical location. To say this pub is steeped in history would be an understatement. The bar officially dates back to 900 AD, making it the oldest pub in Ireland, and research is ongoing to discover whether it is the oldest pub in the world! So far, there has been nothing older found. Over a thousand years of looking after passers-by! I would say it is definitely worth a trip.
Its unique age has earned it a place on both “25 of the Most Incredible Bars in the World”, and “50 Bars to Blow your Mind” lists by Lonely Planet. Visitors come from around the world, not only because of the pub’s history, but for its traditional Irish music played seven nights a week, and for the perfect pint.
- Crosskeys Inn (Antrim)
Sourced from: Crosskeys Inn
From the oldest pub in Ireland (and possibly the world), we move onto the oldest thatched pub in Ireland. The Crosskeys Inn dates all the way back to 1654. You can find this pub 30 minutes outside of Belfast, in the North of Ireland. Similar to Sean’s Bar, the Crosskeys Inn has been recommended by Lonely Planet Ireland, and won the prestigious award of “Country Pub of the Year” in 2017.
Singing sessions, where all are welcome, take place on a monthly basis. If you are in the mood for traditional Irish music, you can find some of the best local musicians adding character to the pub most Saturdays. If you are lucky, you’ll hear locals telling tales by the roaring fire, which is an Irish custom. The walls of the Crosskeys Inn are lined with majestic framed pictures of past patrons, as well as newspaper clippings detailing the pub’s impressive history. For any of you looking to ‘take care of’ a few pints of Guinness whilst in the North, look no further than the Crosskeys Inn.
- An Teach Beag (Clonakilty)
An Teach Beag (meaning “the little house” in Irish) can be found right in the centre of Clonakilty, a town widely regarded as the epicentre of traditional Irish music. Needless to say, if you are looking to tap your foot to some of the best musicians in Ireland, you should venture to An Teach Beag. Throughout the months of July and August you can catch live music from 9:30pm on a nightly basis.
This pub encapsulates the stereotypical Irish cottage you would find on a postcard. If music isn’t in full flow, you may catch a Scríocht, which is a traditional Irish storytelling and poetry session.
- Tigh Ned (Inis Oirr)
Sourced from: Tigh Ned
Now it’s time to go slightly off the beaten track, by which I mean off the mainland completely. Tigh Ned is snuggly nestled in Inis Oirr, the smallest of Ireland’s majestic Aran Islands, off the west coast. This little establishment has been family-run since 1897. You will have to brave the powerful Atlantic conditions to rest your elbows on this bar, but the Aran Islands are always worth the trip.
Tigh Ned is renowned for its mouth-watering seafood, plucked fresh from the surrounding waters. A great place for a fish and chip dish. The summer months would be the best time to go to catch a bit of traditional music. If the weather is nice (which is not too often in this part of the country) you can enjoy a drink in the pub’s beer garden, where you can take in the stunning scenery overlooking Galway Bay.
- Durty Nelly’s (Bunratty)
Sourced from: Durty Nelly’s
Durty Nelly’s is yet another Irish ‘watering hole’ which is steeped in history. It is a quintessential Irish pub established way back in 1620. Located just 10 miles from Limerick City, and right beside the famous Bunratty Castle, Nelly’s has been quenching the locals’ thirst for 400 years. It is known for its unique clientele, consisting of local patrons as well as a diverse range of tourists
The ceilings are low, held up by massive timber beams. The wooden beams are covered with hundreds of police and fire badges from around the world, highlighting the pub’s diverse range of customers. The pub truly emits a sense of character. The namesake, Nelly, was known to be a character herself. She lived in the establishment, collecting a toll from passers-by to cross the adjacent bridge. For an interesting read on the history of Nelly, click here.
- JJ Hough’s Singing Bar (Banagher)
This pub can be found in Ireland’s Midlands, nestled in the county of Offaly. You can reach JJ Hough’s by car or by boat, travelling up the River Shannon. A true Irish family business, Hough’s is a legend among Irish pubs. The grandfather of the current publican spotted the opportunity to attract tourists by having his children play music and sing songs. This tradition has been passed down through the generations, with each generation using their entrepreneurial skills to improve the venue.
The inner walls are decorated with posters and you could find a spare bodhrán or set of spoons lying around, inviting you to try your hand. JJ Hough’s officially hosts trad sessions three nights a week, however, if you have a song worth singing you won’t be stopped.
- Roadside Tavern (Lisdoonvarna)
Sourced from: Roadside Tavern
You may have heard Christy Moore singing about Lisdoonvarna. Well, it is home to one of the oldest pubs in the famed Burren area of West Clare. The Roadside Tavern has been run by the Curtin family since 1893, and promotes a laid back atmosphere, and guarantees craic.
During the summer, musicians flock to the pub as it holds traditional Irish music sessions seven nights a week. It isn’t exclusively local musicians that grace the stage, with bands from around the world known to have put on memorable gigs. Additionally, the Roadside Tavern has won awards for food, and is widely known as a place that serves a decent pint.
- O’Neill’s Bar (Dublin)
Sourced from: O’Neill’s Bar
O’Neill’s is the first (and only) pub on the list based in the Capital. It is only a stone’s throw from the famous Templebar Street and around the corner from Trinity College. Let’s say you have been taking in the sites around the bustling streets of Dublin for the day, your feet are tired and you want to chill. You can take a load off in O’Neill’s and enjoy a quiet pint, and avail of their world famous food.
O’Neill’s is one of those pubs filled with little nooks and crannies where you can find a quiet little snug to yourself. If you are in more of a lively mood, it also has a vibrant pub atmosphere with live music to satisfy you. The venue officially became O’Neill’s in 1927, however, the building and the surrounding area have a rich history that goes much further back in time.
- The Reel Inn (Donegal)
The Reel Inn is the definition of a traditional Irish pub. No TV, no food served, just drink, and of course music. This family-run business is one of the most popular traditional Irish pubs along the Wild Atlantic Way. Up at the top of the country, in Donegal Town, The Reel Inn is renowned internationally for its Irish music and dancing. It is one of the only venues on the island that boasts live music seven nights a week, 365 days a year.
- The Beach Bar (Sligo)
Sourced from: The Beach Bar
In the beautiful countryside in County Sligo, we have yet another picturesque thatched pub. The Beach Bar dates back 300 years. Little trinkets, such as fishing paraphernalia, from times past line the walls inside the scenic cottage.
As you may have guessed from its name, this pub is beside the sea. You can enjoy craic by the open fire during the winter, or embrace the Atlantic breeze in the beer garden throughout the summer. The Beach Bar doubles as a bed and breakfast, making it ideal for a weekend trip. The family run pub also allows for onsite camping where you can park your campervan, or pitch your tent.
Sure, you’ll go for one…
I don’t know about you, but I am gasping for a pint. If you haven’t been to a traditional Irish pub, it is an experience I would highly recommend. There is a warmth, vibrancy, and unmistakable character that accompanies their wooden interiors. You get a feel for Irish culture and the comforting notion that we have been doing this for a long, long time!