For better or worse Ireland is a culture of drink, and at the epicentre; “the pub.” For many, the pub is their ‘Third Place’ serving many communities as the only alternative to home, church or work. Below I focus on a few untold pub titles across the island whists highlighting some forgotten or even unknown trivia and lingo associated with Irelands most popular social venue.
For millennia, Pubs have offered spirts, food, places of shelter, warmth and for ‘Celi and the Craic’.
Ireland’s Oldest Pub
Sean’s pub in Athlone co. Westmeath holds the title as Ireland’s oldest bar. Opened in 900AD; it was originally known also “Luain’s Inn” where the town Athlone derives from (“Fort of Luain”)
The bar boasts the title as Europe’s oldest bar according to the Guinness World Records 2004 and Boy George briefly owned the pub in the 1980s. A log remains of every owner since inception.
Dublin’s Oldest Pub
The Brazen Head is Dublin’s oldest bar; having opened its doors in 1198.
The current building has been here since the 1700s and opened as the “Coaching Inn”
It’s located on Bridge Street, near Christ Church and on the site of the original city of Dublin.
The bar is steeped in Irish history; having been the place where Robert Emmett planned his unsuccessful rising again British forces in 1798 and Michael Collins (with the united Irish men) gathered here before The 1916 rising. The Bar was almost destroyed in that very rising.
Most haunted and oldest “Licensed” pub in Ireland
Grace Neill’s pub located in Co. Down was opened in 1611. Originally the King’s Inn, the bar was purchased and gifted to Grace by her Father for her wedding. Many a character have passed threw these doors from sailors to pirates.
It is believed to be extremely haunted with paranormal enthusiasts flocking here regularly.
The bar is Ireland’s old licensed pub. Emphasis on the ‘licensed’ part, because remember the oldest pub is in Athlone, however, in 1635 the government required all publicans to hold a licence to serve alcohol and Grace Neill was first in line.
In the video above I explore the bar and share my experience.
The Snug- An area for women to socialise while the men drank in the bar. During the 19th and early 20th century, it was unacceptable for women to be in Pubs.
Although there was no law, there was a social stigma, and in some pubs, women were refused entry. What developed were these little closed-off rooms usually between the bar and the grocery shop where women would gather and socialise while their men drank in the bar. Alcohol was served in these snugs too and priests or pioneer Garda would also enjoy the atmosphere here.
By the late 1970s, the stigma faded and women were socialised equally in the bars and therefore the snug either disappeared or evolved into a place of intimacy for small groups. Most modern designs don’t include snugs however some bars like P.Macs pub near Steven’s Green have constructed numerous snugs throughout its bar offering small groups a more private experience.
Highest Pub(s) in Ireland
The Top of Coom is the Official Highest pub in Ireland. Locate in Kilgarvan Co. Kerry it stands at 1045ft above sea level. The pub opened in 1846 but burnt down in 2012. It took three firetrucks six hours to put out the flames. In 2014 the pub finally reopened and became an international legend after a video of its local patrons went viral online. See video above
Today the pub offers Traditional Irish music, annual sheep shearing competitions and of course a decent pint.
The title of wannabe “highest pub of Ireland” goes to Johnnie Fox’s of Glencullen. It is one of Dublin’s most
famous and popular bars, not only for ‘the craic’ but also for amazing food. Since its opening in 1798 its served many famous characters including Daniel O Connell and Michael Collins.
It offers a true and unique culture. Controversially it claims to be Ireland’s highest pub, which contradicts the OSI verified claim from the Top of Coom in Kerry.
“The Local” – A frequently visited pub, within close proximity to home.
1735 the Drink on Credit to Servants Act was introduced where a publican who served alcohol to a servant, labourer or low wage patron could not seek assistance from the law in the recovery of any debts owed by that patron. An act that is still valid.
In the 19th Century, to adapt to a changing culture, many pubs (particularly in rural areas) expanded to include grocery and hardware to offset the decline in alcohol sales. These quickly disappeared in the late 20th century as supermarkets popped up across the country.
In 2004 Ireland passed the smoking ban, making it illegal to smoke indoors at places of work. This created a whole new culture where smokers would head to designated smoking areas, usually at the back of the pub. This created a whole new environment with smoking areas become primarily laughing areas in bars and many ways more elaborate and comfortable than the bars themselves.
Finally, as drink driving laws became stricter, the food offering in pubs exploded, as evenings out become more meal focused the dining out is surpassing the demand for drink creating a whole new business model for many pubs who are even branching into overnight experiences with luxury accommodation.
Ireland’s Furthest Bar
O’Shea’s Pub located on Valentino Island in Co. Kerry has been dubbed Ireland’s furthest and most isolated pub in Ireland. A faux pub it became famous from the Guinness TV ad “San Jose”
Today it appears closed up and unused, possibly a holiday home.
The Dawson Lounge has been dubbed Ireland’s smaller bar. Although questionable it is quite a snug spot having a capacity for 26 patrons. The pub opened in 1850
Ireland’s Longest Pub
The Hole in the Wall boasts the longest bar in Ireland and Europe been 100 meters long.
Located next to Phoenix Park, it opened in 1651 as a tavern and coaching house.
Serving great food, a wide selection of drinks and a traditional atmosphere, it offers a unique balance between a cosmopolitan bar and a country retreat.
My name is Lance, and I am a student of Journalism at Griffith College Dublin. What got me into journalism was a long road of trail and error and finally realising a passion for telling stories. I like to be in the know swell as sharing this knowledge with the world while also adding my 'balanced' opinion on the matter. My Interests include writing, photography and videography. Haven spent the last 7 years in Digital Media I believe journalism is the next step.