Upon travelling the length and breath of our fair Isle, you can visit Dublin and stroll past over 751 bars before you choose the right one to begin your experience of the Capital’s vast array of bars. Then you’ll set journeying your path through the Wild Atlantic Way in search of the most scenic route to your next watering hole. After that of course you’ll have to take to the roads surrounded by lush green fields of the Midlands and Irelands Ancient East before setting the course for the North.
So where should you add to the map of pubs to pit stop in along the way?
If you are travelling around Ireland this summer, you’ll have to know where the best places are to stop on by and settle yourselves before the next scenic adventure. From stunning coastal and lakeside drives to walks, hikes and pit stops along the way, I have compiled a list of pubs that have stolen a piece of my heart over the years travelling throughout this beautiful charming country and listed 10 of them that left an etch in my soul that beckoned a return visit. And just what makes the best quintessential Irish bar? Let’s take a look…
Top 10 Pubs in Ireland You Simply Must Try:
No.10 THE BRAZEN HEAD
Address: 20 Lower Bridge St, The Liberties, Dublin
Let’s start at the very beginning… known as one of Dublin’s most oldest bars,The Brazen Head goes all the way back to the year 1198. When you step into this pub you become truly engulfed in history and are transported back in time.
When you walk through its doors, you take in the waft of smells and sounds that have echoed throughout the former meeting place for historic rebels. The experience…it is something special. With its brass-filled lantern-lit rooms, the pub becomes alive each night with a host of live music that has bellowed to its punters for over eight centuries, which is an experience unmatched by any other pub in Ireland, let alone Dublin.
You can sit on a bar stool and have the banter with locals or just walk through the different parts of the pub and think about the millions of people who have raised a glass or left a shilling on the rising of the hatch over the last 800 or so years! A truly historic ambience like no other place.
No.9 GROGANS CASTLE LOUNGE
Address: 15 William St S, Dublin 2,
Anyone who has lived in the city even for a short period of time will know this pub. A well known meeting spot for ‘just the one’ and a catch up with mates. Despite it being in a tourist hub area, it is very much geared towards the locals than the latter. Grogan’s is a great place to spend a little while enjoying one of the best pints in town along with a sandwich or two – the ham and cheese – they are known for.
There is outside seating available, typically hoards of people line the side streets even if the seats are all full but the banter is both in and outside the pub so don’t panic if you don’t get a seat at the bar. However, if you manage to, check out the great art hanging on the walls from Local artists while you wait for your pour to settle.
No.8 THE COBBLESTONE
Address: 77 King Street North, Smithfield, Dublin
Known as a ‘Drinking Pub with a Music Problem’, The Cobblestone, Tom Mulligan’s traditional Irish music bar and venue has been showcasing the very best in Irish music for five generations, no one can remember back any further than that. Tom’s laid back and friendly pub is built on family tradition – respect for music and culture.
As well as hosting Na Piobairí Uilleann (Pipers Seisiún) on the first Tuesday night of every month The Cobblestone Backroom Venue also presents gigs, sessions, classes and talks. Bluegrass, country, folk, singer songwriter nights, Sean-nós singing and dancing, set dancing, céilidh, history talks and more. It is absolutely a must visit bar when in Dublin.
No.7 THE QUAYS BAR
Address: Quay Ln, Galway
Located in the city centre of Galway’s vibrant ‘Latin Quarter’ The Quays Bar is one of the most famous and historic drinking haunts for close on 400 years now. A massive pub: on the ground floor there is an array of sections in split-level design featuring the Horsebox, the Mezzanine, the Restaurant and the Library. Upon wandering through the bars, you will notice the abundance of church artefacts: arches and a stunning stained glass window.
The most popular bar for regular local customers is ‘The Old Bar’ where there is traditional music most evenings. The upstairs Music Hall is set in the traditional vein on a split-level design. A huge church organ forms a spectacular backdrop to the stage. There is also an authentic railway footbridge that has been restored and now overlooks the stage in a most resplendent manner. Visually the whole building is impressive and the pint isn’t too bad either. A great selection of Whiskeys on offer too.
If you are doing the Wild Atlantic Way this is not to be missed en route!
No.6 DOLAN’S BAR – LIMERICK
Address: 3-4 Dock Rd, Limerick,
The Dolan’s story didn’t happen overnight. It took over 20 years to turn a small quayside pub on the outskirts of Limerick city into a key music venue recognised Nationally and Internationally. In December 1994, Dubliners Mick and Valerie Dolan moved to Limerick with their two children Neil and Sarah.
Their vision: to create a pub that celebrated traditional Irish music every night and created a platform for Local and International musicians to showcase their talent. Originally the plan was for a pub in Clare but that fell through, thankfully for the locals in Limerick. As It has become a musical institution in the city. The staff are known to be full of the banter and the infamous hospitality we Irish are known for.
No.5 THE SINGING PUB/ The Síbín Ceoil
Address: Unnamed Road, Mevagh, Co. Donegal
Situated on the Atlantic Drive, described as one of Ireland’s most scenic and beautiful coast drives with miles of natural beauty this pub is one everyone needs to experience while travelling around this beautiful country.
The ‘Atlantic Drive’ starts and ends with breath-taking scenery and picturesque beaches. There is absolutely something for everyone from hill-walking, surfing, diving, and golfing or just relaxing and no better place to do so than the Síbín Ceoil.
Its Idyllic stone building and traditional thatched roof and red door is as enthralling as it’s stunning location. The Singing Pub looks like a traditional Irish cottage bursting with character and charm, offering visitors an old world experience with glowing open turf fires. With a wide open floor for groups or families, it also quiet corners for a more romantic and cosy experience. The Síbín Ceoil experience is always one to remember – whether it be to come for a quiet drink and a chat or a sing-along with the local traditional bands and a bite to eat.
No.4 THE GLYDE INN
Address: Main Street, Annagassan, Dunleer, Co. Louth
A family run traditional Irish pub, first established during the 1770’s, is as the owners proudly acknowledge “Authentic, untouched and unhurried”. It literally has not changed since the 1700’s. Owners Paul and Ann create a place of respite from the modern world in a venue for old and young with music and the pure craic.
Be sure to have a bite to eat in the restaurant as it has stunning views of Dundalk Bay and the Mountains of Mourne. The friendly efficient staff are sure to make your visit a treat to remember. The Glyde Inn sits at the heart of natural beauty. A place of sandy beach, deep blue sea and distant granite mountains; all culminating in a quiet, friendly atmosphere that surpasses expectations. A must see pit stop when you are in the Ancient East.
No.3 J O’Connell’s pub (aka Mrs O’s)
Adress: Skryne Hill, Skryne, Co Meath
You’ll already know this quaint pub, that stands at the slope of Skryne Hill, Co Meath, from its lead role in the Guinness Christmas TV ad. Take my word for it, as soon as you walk through its doors you’ll quickly feel at home. This isn’t just a pub, it’s a local institution that has been shaped by generations of women. ‘Old Mrs O’Connell’ otherwise known as Mrs O, a woman who ran the pub well into her 90s died in 2012 and ‘Young Mrs O’, was in her 70s when she passed away in 2015. At the present it is ran by her niece Rachel O Connell – the newest Mrs O! Keeping in line the stronghold that has kept its walls up and its fine porter pouring.
They say you can tell a woman’s touch, and indeed that is true here. It has a homely feel, from the back rooms to the retro style of the beer pumps to the wood-panelled ceiling and walls. It is like taking a step back into old Ireland. You can continue this trip down memory lane as you recall old beverage favourites from the last century as they are lined up on the walls across the racks over the bar.
During the Summer evenings- actually, whenever the sun is out – masses of people gather here inside and outside the pub taking in the scenic spot and enjoying the local history around its sturdy walls. You will even see hoards of cattle and horses being lead by nearby farmers and stable hands being lead up the road. Time doesn’t matter when you are here as it stands still.
Lastly, this pub has no links online, it’s toilets are not found in the pub itself but out in the outhouses and to get there you simply follow the road up towards Skyrne Hill near the old Abbey and you shall find it. Mind you, you may just find a note pinned to the door if its near 3pm as it’s still Holy Hour and the doors of this 170-year-old pub will remain closed until 4pm!
No.2 Crown Liquor Saloon Bar
Address: 46 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7BA, UK
Known as the most famous pub in Belfast. Step in to discover a traditional pub of unique character, revered for its eclectic range of real ales and its heartily classic pub food, which are served, as they should be, with a generous measure of famous Irish hospitality. The Crown is both ageless and priceless, formerly known as The Liquor Saloon in Great Victoria Street, it was one of the mightiest Victorian gin palaces dating back to 1826. It is now owned by the National Trust and has been sympathetically restored over the years. It remains a unique visual gem, a veritable masterpiece in bar architecture, which has the distinction of being known to millions the world over.
What I found to be a great delight in this magical place is the ten differently-shaped cosy and elaborately carved wooden boxes, lettered from A to J. In these snugs you’ll find gunmetal plates for striking matches, and an antique bell system, very common in Victorian houses, where servants were employed, which alerted bar staff to your liquid needs. Drinking snugs, according to old records, were not originally built for comfort but to accommodate those people who preferred to drink quietly and unseen.
The exterior facade of the bar is a riot of polychromatic tiles which clearly hint at the box of delights to be found within. At first sight the outside is so exotically overwhelming that one has difficulty in registering the fine detail work. Rich in colour and design, each time you go in you’ll find something new to catch your eye that you may have missed before. Where else would you find a burnished primrose yellow, red and gold ceiling, a floor laid in a myriad of mosaic tiles, brocaded walls, ubiquitous highly patterned times, vigorous wood carving throughout, ornate mirrors, wooden columns with Corinthian capitals and feather motifs in gold with painted and etched glass everywhere you look? Put this on your go to list when you are travelling in Northern Ireland.
No.1 Durty Nellies, Bunratty, Clare
Address: Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare
This was a hard one to pick but in the end, the mesmerising views of Bunratty Castle, the food provenance on the bar menu and welcoming staff leaves little wonder the 400 year old ‘watering hole’ Durty Nellies is so popular with tourists from around the globe.
If you wanted to define a quintessential Irish landmark pub, you’ll find it hard to find a better example of it than Durty Nelly’s. Positioned right next to the incredibly detailed – brought back to life – Bunratty Irish Folk Village & Park. When you visit Bunratty’s 19th Century Folk Park you experience a reconstruction of the homes & environment of Ireland over a century ago set on 26 acres, the impressive park features over 30 buildings in a ‘living’ village and rural setting. It is a wonderful, informative and fun experience before you head on in for a drink in Durty nellys.
With low beams and quirky memorabilia, this traditional Irish pub is the perfect spot to warm up after stepping back in time in the Medieval Folk Village next door.
They are famous for their food, drink, but most of all, for the warmth of welcome and the sense of fun and conviviality that’s such a part of their makeup. A true experience to remember, this heart-warming spot will stay with you long after you leave!