A Toast to History: The 20 Oldest Pubs in Ireland

A Toast to History: The 20 Oldest Pubs in Ireland

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When traveling, there’s so much to see and explore. It’s no secret that Ireland is known for its pubs, and some of these have stood for generations. So go on in, have a pint and marvel at the beautiful architecture and the stories these walls would speak if they could.

Sean’s Bar in County Westmeath

Many pubs in Ireland will call themselves the oldest, but the Guinness Book of Records gives the nod to Sean’s Bar, which was established in 900 CE. In 1970, the pub was renovated for a more contemporary look. These days, if you’re in County Westmeath, there’s no way you could miss its cheery red walls.

The Brazen Head in Dublin

The Brazen Head first opened its doors in 1198. The staff here are dedicated to maintaining the rich heritage of this bar and restaurant, which still has some walls from the 12th Century. The pub’s list of former customers reads like a who’s who of Irish history: James Joyce, Daniel O’Connell, Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. Here are some of the best restaurants in Dublin for your reference.

The Kings Head & The Chop House in Galway

Proudly proclaiming 800 years of service, The Kings Head & The Chop House in Galway’s Latin Quarter easily blends comedy and music with good food and alcohol for a truly great experience. This is one of the largest pubs by far on our list: There are three spacious floors in this building first erected in the 13th Century. The Malt House Restaurant, another popular Galway stop, is connected to it.

red bar ireland

Kyteler’s Inn in Kilkenny

Kyteler’s Inn first started serving libations in 1324. Its name comes from an influential Irish woman named Dame Alice de Kyteler, who lived in the 13th Century. Nicky Flynn bought the pub in 1986, and she redecorated the place to reflect its Medieval background. These days, you can find The Top Bar upstairs; this 2008 addition is always busy with live performances, meetings, receptions, weddings and more. In 2013 and 2014, Kyteler’s Inn was honored by the National Bar Awards as Tourist Bar of the Year.

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The Abbey Tavern in Howth, County Dublin

Resurrected from the Howth Abbey is The Abbey Tavern, which was founded sometime in the 15th Century. This restaurant and bar is proud of its Traditional Irish Night, where you’ll feel jovial amongst all the dancing, singing and playing. If you arrive before 19:30, you can have a delightful four-course Irish dinner.

Morahan’s Bar in Bellanagare, County Roscommon

The folks at Morahan’s Bar will gladly show you the documents proving that the Morahan family opened this restaurant and bar in 1641. If you go, make sure to check out the Cruachan Ai in nearby Tulsk, which includes old Celtic monuments, burial grounds and ring forts.

Hole in the Wall in Dublin

Back when Hole in the Wall opened in 1651, it wasn’t the expansive wine shop, restaurant and bar it is now. Grab a seat and enjoy delicious roasts, burgers, meatballs, chicken dishes or seafood. There are even homemade desserts such as pudding and a fruit crumble. Browse the booze menu, too, which is full of gins, cocktails and craft beer.

The Gateway Bar in Cork

The Gateway Bar is a brilliant piece of Cork’s history. The city’s oldest pub was originally known as An Realt Dearg. Despite the red brick exterior’s seemingly modern(ish) appearance, presumably legendary pub nights at this spot go as far back as 1698.

cottage pub ireland

Reddy’s of Carlow in Carlow

Reddy’s of Carlow was originally an inn when it opened back in the 18th Century. You can host parties and live events here or settle in to watch some sports on big-screen TVs; check out live music; and sample the breakfast, lunch or dinner menu. Bar food is aplenty, as are the drinks, including beers and non-alcoholic beverages such as teas and coffees.

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Johnnie Fox’s in Dublin

The highest pub in Ireland and one of the longest-standing traditional bars in the country (it opened in 1798), Johnnie Fox’s pays homage to its origins by hosting traditional Irish musicians weeknights and weekend afternoons. The pub is also home to the beloved Hooley Show, where you nosh on a four-course dinner while enjoying live music. Johnnie Fox’s is especially known for its seafood, which you can savor when you book tickets to the Hooley Show.

The Merry Ploughboy in Rockbrook, County Dublin

The colorful building that is The Merry Ploughboy opened as a pub in 1800. The bar is so beloved for its live music that its staff created The Merry Ploughboys Live in Concert series, which starts at 20:00 and blends dancing with singing and live music. Of course, you won’t be hungry during these proceedings, as dinner will be served. The talented musicians who are a part of the series have been involved with the pub for more than 25 years.

Kehoes in Dublin

Heritage pub Kehoes opened back in 1803 and calls itself “one of Dublin’s best kept secrets on the City Centre pub scene.” During the late 19th Century, the owners decided to renovate the place with a Victorian flair. It still has those same touches today. Dark wood adorns throughout, and there is a wall dedicated to many of the pub’s patrons over the years.

Toner’s Pub in Dublin

Renowned for its Guinness, Toner’s Pub has been a Dublin mainstay since 1818. Andrew Rogers was the first owner, and he got the bar’s first license that same year; Michael and Frank Quinn have owned the establishment since 1987. Irish writers W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh have passed through these famed doors. Toner’s Pub was honored at the Sky Bar of the Year Awards as the Best Dublin Bar of the Year for 2015, and it was also crowned National Hospitality Awards’ Best Traditional Pub for 2014.

the duke

The Duke in Dublin

If you’re all set to partake in Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl, one of the stops on the way will be The Duke. Opening its doors to patrons in 1822, this pub is named after the street it calls home, Duke Street. The bar was updated in the 1890s to reflect Victorian architectural touches, which you can still see when you visit.

The Temple Bar in Dublin

Named after Sir William Temple, Dublin’s iconic The Temple Bar opened in 1840. For years, you could hear traditional Irish music, and you can still check out live artists and bands during the evenings. Do visit the beer garden outside and don’t miss the Irish coffees, which this bar is especially known for.

Ashes Bar & Restaurant in Dingle, County Kerry

Once a general store, Ashes Bar & Restaurant grew from humble beginnings in 1849 to a full-fledged bar in 1926, when James Gregory and Hannah Ashe inherited the building. Guinness was first served in 1932 and of course is a mainstay on the menu today. The pub counts celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise among its patrons. You may be interested in these hotels in Kenmare if you are going to stay put.

Cassidy’s Bar in Dublin

One of Cassidy’s Bar’s biggest recent claims to fame is a 1995 visit from then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, but this pub’s history goes back about 140 years even before that. Ireland’s nationalist newspaper, The Freeman’s Journal, used to do business on the same grounds that Cassidy’s currently occupies. These days, you can relax with live traditional music and catch the latest sports game while sipping a pint.

The Old Thatch in Cork

You’ll know where The Old Thatch got its name when you take a look at its roof. The pub opened in 1867, and today you can stop in for some of the most luscious, flavorful steak, seafood and poultry you’ve ever tried. Outdoor dining is also available.

The Blue Light Pub in Barnacullia, County Dublin

Tucked away on the outskirts of Dublin is The Blue Light Pub, which first opened in 1870. Although small in stature, it offers some truly impressive views from its perch 700 feet above sea level. “The warm fireplace and rustic interior make this spot a lovely place to enjoy an evening,” the pub’s owners write. Visit when you’re in town to hear some truly fantastic live music.

The Squealin’ Pig in Muff, County Donegal

Muff Village a little part of Donegal way up in the northwest corner of the Island. It’s here you’ll find The Squealin’ Pig, the newest and best-named pub on our list. Established in 1880, the pub fully embraces its name — there’s even a big cartoon pig painted on the side of the building. You can listen to live music or watch sports here on TV Thursdays through Sundays.

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images by:
Nico Kaiser, William Murphy

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