There is more to traditional Irish bars than their vernacular design or their location on nearly every street corner and village green in Ireland. Behind their distinctive facades is an elusive character that has barely changed over the centuries: the rustle of a Sunday afternoon paper, the bartender’s quips, or the gentle thud of a perfectly tapped pint on solid wood and smoothed by time.
However, they have never been at greater risk. Despite tackling the McPub epidemic on Irish shores, or even the arrival of global chains with localized shamrock branding, the traditional pub has been in steady decline with over 21% of establishments closed since 2005. However, their future it has recently started to look a little brighter. In 2022, Dublin’s Cobblestone Bar has scored a small victory against the big ones by successfully battling developers’ plans to turn it into a hotel.
This year the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has stepped up its bid to protect these bastions of tradition (and tourist magnets) even further by seeking international support. He has asked Unesco to help conserve them, in much the same way Vienna has protected its coffee houses, classifying them as part of Ireland’s intangible cultural heritage.
We’ve rounded up six of the best venues that showcase all the qualities of the great Irish pub.
by O’Sullivan cafe, Crookhaven,Co corkestablished 1933
Offering Ireland’s most southerly pint, this whitewashed pub wakes each morning to the cry of seagulls and the lapping water of Crookhaven Pier. It is located midway up the Mizen Head cliff ridge, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Peninsula’s popular Southwest Weather Station and ocean boardwalk are just six miles away, putting it on the map for summer road trips and a thriving seasonal commerce that spills outdoors when the sun shines. Sun.
As a fourth generation family business, it has evolved over the decades. While retaining a grocery store, the post office has closed, which has happened recently in many villages. The interior has light slate floors, lots of high stools, and a rustic currency-lined brick counter. Expect friendly service from owners Dermot and Linda, with good quality sandwiches and a large choice of beers, including, of course, County Cork’s famous stout, Murphy’s.
Tynan Bridge House, KilkennyEast 1703
This quaint cobalt and cornflower colored building overlooks the River Nore in a dense row that dips and dips with the outline of the road, close to Kilkenny Castle. Its history is almost tattooed on the finishes and furnishings, with the names of the previous owners and the purpose of the business engraved on the mosaic tiles and on the solid oak. This is further confirmed by the spice and grain drawers at the entrance to the old shop.
In the early 19th century, as was typical of its time, Tynan’s operated with an on-site drug store and grocer. Those days are remembered in the granite countertop, tongue and groove paneled ceiling, and leaded stained glass panels. Yes, musicians and modern conveniences break the time warp spell, but in the dim light Tynan’s Bridge House is an example of the early 1900’s Irish bar. Of course, if that weren’t enough, the selection of whiskeys and craft beers along with the friendly service is just as impressive.
by Leonardo bar and grocery shop, LahardaneCo Mayo, est 1897
Located in the Windy Gap, a narrow winding stretch of road between Wild Nephin Park and Lough Conn in the lush countryside of County Mayo, Leonard’s Grocery Store and Cafe has been run by the same family for 80 years. Current owner JP has recently overhauled the premises without compromising its integrity. Flagstone floors, an open fireplace and warm wood furnishings provide a welcoming retreat from the exposed landscape.
Where not original, the fixtures come from historic buildings. The sash windows, suspended ceilings, fireplace surrounds and doors are all reclaimed, allowing the property to retain its character without falling into disrepair or appearing shabby. The grocery and hardware store isn’t a gimmick like some of the pretend shops attached to tourist-oriented locales in locations like Killarney or Galway. Its honeycombed shelves stock everything from livestock supplies to fresh food for an outback picnic.
JO’ConnelSkryne, Co Meath, east 1840
J O’Connell’s is located in the heart of Tara, the realm of Irish high royalty, in the shadow of a ruined medieval steeple atop Skryne Hill. Yet it took a Guinness Christmas TV commercial to bring this 183-year-old family business to the fore in 2004. Despite all that notoriety, J O’Connell’s has kept ties to its roots, which have been lovingly cherished by every generation. of owner, until the current owner Rachael O’Connell.
Hallmarks of the past are everywhere: vintage beer taps, the warm glow of a cast iron fireplace, an old-fashioned payphone, pale Victorian paneling, and the ticking of an old oak wall clock that measures the passing of each moment well. spent, just like a century ago. Of course all of this would be nothing if the beer weren’t top-notch, but, as the Guinness commercial says, it’s the house of the black stuff, so of course it’s full of silky smooth perfection.
Nancy’s Bar, Ardara, County Donegal
Founded in 1900
Seven generations of the McHugh family have run this historic pub in the village of Ardara, where almost every public building seems to be dedicated to the tweed industry or hospitality. The hilly coastal backdrop to the north of the Glengesh mountain pass offers visitors the opportunity to explore spectacular landscapes and sights such as the nearby Assaranca waterfall.
Nancy’s position at a sandstone bridge in the center of the village is a natural meeting point. It’s a charming two-story white building that’s almost 200 years old and today is a gathering place for musicians. Its low paneled ceiling, rustic décor, chalky plasterwork and crammed bar counter give it that unique country pub essence. Seafood direct from Atlantic trawlers at nearby Killybegs is a speciality – try the oysters, seafood linguine or fish chowder.
Tom Collins Bar, 34 Cecil Street, Limerick City
The red and white candy cane facade of Tom Collins bar is a minute’s walk from Limeric’s busy O’Connell Street, but belongs to another, quieter era. It’s the quintessential veteran’s bar, no television or wifi, just the civilized conversational stamp of a gathering of old hipsters and a trendy cross-generational set that has discovered its charms in a world of generic designer pubs.
While the building dates back to 1780, the facade, with its intricate fanlight, came in the 1890s and the interior, designed over the next several years, has an understated Edwardian elegance. The decor has shades of burgundy, ruby and walnut, with moody paintings and a heavy bar counter that patrons once had to pass under to reach the bathrooms. There’s a narrow teak staircase, mirrors, wood paneling, a low beamed ceiling, and an alleyway with outdoor tables. There’s a fine selection of gins from Plymouth to Dingle and plenty of fresh draft beer. The property recently changed hands, but the new owners run other old bars in the city, so its fate is assured, for now.