Where to drink in Ireland
People who have traveled or lived in Ireland will often say that there are more pubs than people in Ireland. Well, there are certainly enough to take a look at. Most towns in Ireland have pubs that exhibit the uniqueness of that particular area of the enchanted island of Ireland. I cannot possibly list every one of them, but will try to highlight some pubs with specific charms, character and Irish originality you may want to visit on your next trip
First Stop: Dublin
Most people think of Dublin first when they think of Ireland because it is one of the most famous cities and most visited in Ireland. You can walk down the street and see a pub, a store, a pub, a store, a museum, a pub, a store and keep on going. I had the pleasure of visiting Dublin for a few days and had the opportunity to experience these pubs first hand.
Most of Dublin’s pubs will feature traditional Irish music in an authentic setting. The oldest bar in Dublin, The Brazen Head, was my absolute favorite. Dating back to 1198, it is listed as Ireland’s oldest pub. Even though licensing laws came into effect in 1635, this pub was serving alcohol long before official laws were enacted. In his book, Ulysses, James Joyce references the Brazen Head. He is only one of the literary geniuses associated with this pub. Brendan Behan, Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet were also writers who spent much of their time creating here. If you go upstairs you can see many historic prints and scrolls across the walls. You can almost feel as if they are still there because the room transcends time and brings you to the days of their writing. When we visited we enjoyed the ambiance, the food and the old Irish charm. We were referred there by some friends and were told we would have the best burger ever and they were completely right. Traditional dishes are also served daily including stews, shepherd’s pie and seafood dishes. You can enjoy live music as well in the pubs quaint rooms or on the outside cobblestone courtyard if you happen to get a sunny day during your trip.
While in Dublin you can visit many bars along the main roads especially in the Temple Bar district. This is one of Ireland’s most visited pub, the ambiance is electrifying.
If you stroll around the streets of Dublin after visiting the Guinness or Jameson Factories, you can run into some very traditional Irish pubs. While staying in the Temple Bar district, we visited the bar next to our hotel called Darkey Kelly’s. It was the type of bar you would see in an old film. Dark mahogany tables, a jukebox playing and a detailed mahogany bar with ambiance and character. You could see that this bar was frequented by locals as well as tourists.
So let’s go outside of Dublin and take a peek at some of the well-known bars in Ireland.
One of the most popular pubs in Tipperary is McCarthy’s Fethard. Opened since the 1850s, it is a pub, restaurant and undertaker service all rolled into one. They use the catchphrase “We wine you, we dine you and bury you.” It has been everything from a grocery store to a drapery store. On their counters are cabinets and shelves featuring throwbacks of its wacky history.
A few notable bars to visit in County Tipperary:
The Cahair House Hotel Bar, Cahir – an elegant bar which is part of one of the finest hotels in the county (Cahir House Hotel)
O’Ceallachain’s Bar, Carrick on Suir - Carrick on Suir is close to Waterford and Kilkenny counties. It is a small town whose claim to fame are the Clancy Brothers and the home of the former International cyclist Swan Kelly.
Ging’s Bar and Beer Garden, Carrick on Shannon – a bar off a main road with a lovely beer garden in the back (used to belong to a member of the family). Parking is a challenge but worth it.
TJ Ryan, Cashel – a traditional Irish pub on the main street where the Queen would have stopped in for a pint. Go back in time and feel the music and ambiance of days gone by.
Located in the peninsular southwest region of Ireland, it is known for its vast amount of native Irish-language speakers and beautiful, stunning terrain. To get to the Ring of Kerry, you will drive through rugged coastlines and mountains. The Shire in County Kerry is one of the most famous bars in Kerry where you can see the Ring of Power as you look through the lobby with dropped ceilings and arched doorways. There you can enjoy pints of Gandalf’s ale and Bilbo’s beer or just a relaxing cocktail.
In Kerry you can also stop by for a pint of Guinness or a shot of whiskey at:
Dick Mack’s in Dingle is a pub that has an old fashioned feel with cluttered walls of oddities like bottles, boots and other collections. There you will find different rooms with a maze of fireplaces and snug corners to sip your whiskey.
Kate Kearney’s Cottage in Gap of Dunlow is where you can absorb the beauty of Killarney National Park through its window. This Cottage is also the home of Kerry Irish Dance and you can feel its presence all around you as you enjoy a pint.
The Shire Bar in Killarney is a tribute to The Lord of the Rings and when you walk in you find it occupied by characters from Middle Earth and other Tolkeim themed replicas.
The South Pole Inn in County Kerry is where local legend Tom Crean was involved in three of history’s most punishing Antarctic expeditions. After earning his medal of bravery he returned home and opened the South Pole Inn which is packed with mementos of his heroism.
Galway is a special city with air of the ocean and an embracing walk of culture and ambiance. Walking along many of its cobblestone streets you can hop into some of the best pubs in Ireland. While strolling you will be mesmerized by artists creating sand art and little kiosks of Irish flare. The bars range from typical taverns to newly opened gastropubs. Not to miss on your trip to Galway:
Tig Coili offers traditional Irish music which attracts some of the country’s biggest names. The crowds are continuously flowing into the streets and this pub offers local authentic culture.
O’Connell’s in Eyre Square, a public park where you will find the annual Galway Continental Christmas Market. It is a historic local landmark with original features.
Bierhaus is located in the West End and has the largest beer selection. This pub opened to satisfy the residents cravings for craft beers. It is a fun, hopping place to stop.
You will experience Irish culture by the locals in the City of Cork. It has Irish traditions and history. Some of the best pubs to have a pint of Guinness or an Irish Stew while enjoying music are in Cork:
The Bulman Bar is a nautical pub right on the sea which is a favorite drinking spot for sailors, merchants and coastguards. The walls are decorated with maritime art and the harbor view is exquisite.
Welcome Inn is a small pub that is over 150 years old. It is in the center of the city and is loved by its locals. Most nights are filled with great beer, live music, horse racing broadcasts and a happy crowd.
Jim Cashman’s Pub is in the heart of the city, near the Crawford Art gallery. It is a local pub that welcomes tourists to experience their mouth-watering stew, live broadcasts and music on most evenings.
The Courtyard on Sober Lane is situated on the bank of the River Lee. It is famous for its pizza, potato fries and chicken goujons. It offers an extensive drink menu and serves well into the night.
Gallagher’s Pub in County Cork was a mixture of a crowded bar scene, Irish music and traditional Irish dishes. Of course, we had to stop in for the name only but it swooped us into the culture our third night in Ireland.
This is only a mere speckle into the list of all the famous, fabulous pubs you can experience on your trip to Ireland. You will see the uniqueness of each county you travel and will experience Ireland through the eyes of its people enjoying life to the fullest.
My trip to Ireland introduced me to one of my now favorite drinks, Jamie and Ginger (Jameson, Ginger Ale and lime juice) and the best Irish coffee I have ever had (Secret ingredient is brown sugar on the bottom with the whiskey before you pour the coffee in) and I make it at home for a treat. Enjoy your trip and know that you will never visit all the pubs in Ireland even if you spent your entire life trying so instead experience a few in each area to get the authentic feel of the Irish culture which is so alive and welcoming.
Written by: Elaine Gallagher
Elaine is an elementary teacher who also enjoys writing and sharing her journey. Her blog, Just Me, reflects on her journey to a healthier lifestyle which includes mindfulness and meditation, diet tips and exercise to decrease stress and live a better life. She also enjoys sharing her love of healthy cooking and travel.
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