Six of Ireland’s Best Traditional Pubs | Ireland vacation

TThere is more to traditional Irish bars than their distinctive design or their location on almost every street corner and village green in Ireland. Behind their distinctive facades lies an elusive character that has changed little over the centuries: the rustle of the newspaper on a Sunday afternoon, the bartender’s banter or the gentle slapping of a perfectly poured pint of stout on massive, by the time smoothed wood.

They have never been at greater risk. Despite thwarting 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 more than 21% of venues having closed since 2005. However, her future has recently started to look a little brighter. In 2022, Dublin’s Cobblestone Bar scored a small victory over the big ones by successfully fighting off developers’ plans to convert it into a hotel.

This year the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has stepped up its efforts to protect these bastions of tradition (and tourist magnets) by seeking international support. She has applied to Unesco for help in preserving it, much like Vienna has protected its coffee houses by categorizing them as part of Ireland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

We’ve rounded up six of the best places that show all the qualities of a great Irish pub.

O’Sullivans Bar, Crookhaven,co corkfounded 1933

O'Sullivan's bar in Crookhaven

Serving Ireland’s most southerly pint, this plastered pub is awakened each morning by the cry of seagulls and the sound of water lapping against Crookhaven Pier. It lies midway along the rocky ridge of Mizen Head in an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty. The peninsula’s famous southwestern weather station and sea bridge are only 10 km away, putting it on the map for summer road trips and a thriving seasonal trade that spills outdoors in the sunshine.

As a family business in the fourth generation, it has developed over the decades. While it keeps a grocery store, the post office has closed, which has happened in many villages lately. The interior has a see-through slate floor, lots of tall stools, and a rustic brick bar paneled in money. Expect friendly service from proprietors Dermot and Linda, with quality sandwiches and an extensive selection of beers – which of course includes County Cork’s famous stout – Murphy’s.

Tynan’s Bridge House, KilkennyEuropean daylight saving time 1703

This distinctive cobalt and cornflower blue building overlooks the River Nore in a crowded row that dips with the contour of the road, near Kilkenny Castle. Its history is almost tattooed onto the furnishings and fittings, with the names of previous owners and business purpose etched onto the mosaic tiles and solid oak. This is further confirmed by the spice and grain drawers at the old shop entrance.

In the early 19th century, Tynan’s, typical of the time, operated an on-site pharmacy and grocery store. The granite countertops, tongue and groove ceiling and stained glass panels are reminiscent of those days. Yes, musicians and modern conveniences break the time warp spell, but in the dimmed light, Tynan’s Bridge House is a paragon of early 20th-century Irish bar. Of course, as if that weren’t enough, the whiskey and craft beer selection and friendly service are also impressive.

Leonhard’s bars and Grocery store, LahardaneCo. Mayo, founded 1897

Leonard's Grocery & Bar Mayo

Located in Windy Gap, a narrow, winding stretch of road between Wild Nephin Park and Lough Conn in the lush County Mayo countryside, Leonard’s Grocery Store and Bar has been run by the same family for 80 years. The current owner, JP, has recently renovated the premises without compromising their integrity. Flagstone floors, an open fireplace and warm wooden furniture offer a homely retreat from the exposed landscape.

Where not original, the fixtures come from historical buildings. The sash windows, countertops, 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 faux shops attached to tourist-oriented premises in places like Killarney or Galway. Its honeycomb shelves hold everything from livestock supplies to fresh groceries for a backcountry picnic.

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yeaConnelSkryne, Co Meath, est. 1840

J O'Connell's, Skryne, County Meath, established 1840
Photo: Barry Cronin

J O’Connell’s is situated in the heartland of Tara, the kingdom of Ireland’s high royalty, in the shadow of a ruined medieval church tower on Skryne Hill. But it took a Christmas TV commercial for Guinness to publicize this 183-year-old family business in 2004. Despite all this notoriety, J O’Connell’s has retained the ties to its roots, which have been lovingly nurtured by each generation of owners, right down to the present owner, Rachael O’Connell.

Hallmarks of the past are everywhere: the old beer taps, the warm glow of a cast-iron fireplace, an antique public telephone, bright Victorian paneling and the ticking of an old oak wall clock, measuring every moment well spent, just as it was a century ago. Of course, none of this would matter if the beer weren’t top-notch – but as the Guinness ad says, it is the home of the black stuff, so of course full of silky perfection.

Nancy’s Bar, Ardara, Co Donegal
Founded in 1900

Nancy's Bar in Donegal image

Seven generations of the McHugh family run this distinctive pub in the village of Ardara, where almost every public building seems to be dedicated to the tweed industry or hospitality. The rolling coastal backdrop north of the Glengesh Pass offers visitors the chance to explore spectacular scenery and attractions such as nearby Assaranca Waterfall.

Nancy’s location on a sandstone bridge in the center of the village is a natural meeting place. It’s a charming, whitewashed, two-storey building that’s almost 200 years old and is now a meeting place for musicians. The low paneled ceiling, rustic furniture, lime plaster and overstuffed bar counter give this unique country pub character. Seafood direct from the Atlantic fishing trawlers in nearby Killybegs is a specialty – try oysters, seafood linguine or chowder.

Tom Collins Bar, 34 Cecil Street, Limerick City
estimated 1932

Tom Collins bar 0
Photo: Donal Mulcahy

The red and white candy cane facade of Tom Collins Bar is just a minute’s walk from busy O’Connell Street in Limeric, but belongs to a different, quieter time. It’s the quintessential vintage bar, with no TVs or WiFi, just the timbre of civilized conversation from a gathering of aging hipsters and a generational trendy set that’s found its appeal in a world of generic-design pubs.

While the building dates from 1780, the façade, with its intricate skylight, did not arrive until the 1890s and the interior, designed over the following years, has an understated Edwardian elegance. Decor is hues of burgundy, ruby, and walnut, with moody paintings and a hefty bar counter that guests once had to pass under to reach the restrooms. There is a narrow teak staircase, mirrors, wooden panels, a low beamed ceiling and an alley with outdoor tables. There’s a fine selection of gin from Plymouth to Dingle and plenty of cold beers on tap. The property has recently changed hands but the new owners are running other old bars in town so its fate is secured – for now.

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