You might be yearning for something a less less green on St. Patrick’s Day – and by “less green”, I mean not filled with over-boozed tourists sporting loud accents and green feather boas that no doubt came from Pound World.
So, here it is: IrishJaunt’s list of the best pubs in Ireland to spend St. Patrick’s Day (or any day). Believe me, it was not an easy task narrowing it down to the following. There are so many great pubs around the country that it was all but impossible to come to some of these conclusions about “the best”. Suffice it to say that this is a selection of the best pubs in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, and far be it from me to tell you otherwise. Besides, almost any pub will do (and there is no shortage)!
Best Dublin Pub – The Cobblestone
For being a wonderful music venue with a very rustic (really), Old World charm, The Cobblestone manages to draw a pretty even crowd of locals and visitors, and it most certainly hasn’t sold out to the tourist masses, especially thanks to its remote location out in the corner of Smithfield Square.
It is a place where the pints are always fresh and delicious, the music (which is played by a rabble crew of various trad musicians who arrive and leave in waves) is really authentic. Sure, the floorboards are sticky and smell of one too many nights of revelry and the people at the back might toss you dirty looks for having anything but a North Side accent. Still, The Cobblestone is an institution in Dublin.
Best Cork Pub – Dennehys Pub
Priding itself as having been the standard local pub to Corkonian character (and restaurateur) Katty Barry, Dennehy’s is one of those great historic Cork pubs that never changes. A stronghold of Munster sport, tall pints of Murphys and that strange back room filled with covers of The Phoenix, Dennehy’s has been in business for something like five decades and is still a family-run operation, thanks to the current proprietors, Mary and Con Dennehy.
Best Galway Pub – Tigh Neachtain
If you’ve been to Galway, then you’ve no doubt passed by this iconic blue pub with its hard-to-ignore scrawl of yellow writing painting the name Tigh Neachtain (Naughton’s) across the side. Standing at the busy corner of High Street and Cross Street, this is quite probably the most-photographed pub in Galway City. But many people leave it at that, not venturing inside, where the real treasures await amid the aging wood-panelled walls and scores of Galway festival posters from bygone years.
Best Temple Bar Pub – The Auld Dubliner
This perhaps seems a strange choice to Dubs, but then it’s hard to find a Temple Bar pub that real Dubliners ever go into. I am not going to lie, there are a lot of more famous, friendly pubs in Temple Bar than the Auld Dubliner, but few that will probably be as and down-to-earth on St. Patrick’s Day. Sitting unassumingly between two of Temple Bar’s most monstrously touristy pubs – a green eyesore on one side and a red tourist trap on the other – the Auld Dubliner is kind of a surprising breath of fresh air, with its modest sign, aging interior and slightly unsavoury clientele. But that’s the fun, right?
Best Village Pub – Hayes’ Bar
In a sweet village, there is an even sweeter pub: Hayes’ Bar in Glandore, West Cork, has become known near and far for its quaint atmosphere and delicious gourmet menu, most of which is sourced by the proprietress herself, Ada Hayes, from France, Italy and beyond. The traditional staples, though, such as a perfectly poured pint, aren’t to be passed over here, either. Overlooking the soft waters of Glandore Harbour, the tiny pub bustles mostly during the summer when Irish families arrive in droves to West Cork for domestic holidays. With that in mind, this is a surefire place to find a little bit of that renowned friendly Irish village atmosphere on St. Patrick’s Day.
Best Gastropub – The Exchequer
St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be all about the beer. Well, okay, yes it does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some stunning food along with it, right? The Exchequer is probably the biggest success story from the economic downturn – it opened in October 2009 and hasn’t looked back, serving up an amazing menu of re-imagined Irish pub grub made from hearty, seasonal ingredients that has already earned it accolades from the Irish Restaurant Awards and In Dublin magazine. If you aren’t sure where to begin, start with a selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses and move onto the braised neck of lamb pie (served with minted mash, no less) and wash it all down with a proper pint of well-poured Guinness.
Best Seaside Pub – Smugglers Creek
It would be difficult (though I challenge you to try!) to find a pub in Ireland with a better view than the Smugglers Creek Inn, which sits on a bluff overlooking the Rossnowlagh Beach and the crashing waves of Donegal Bay. Like most things in Donegal, Smugglers Creek bar has a sense of timeless elegance in its mishmash of wooden tables, chairs, barrels and hanging vines set amid low stone walls. The connected hotel is a good place to make a weekend out of it without having to go anywhere for what are probably perfect Irish sea views.
Best Tourist Pub: The Brazen Head
I am an unabashed fan of the Brazen Head, tourists and all, so I will never hesitate to recommend this Dublin pub, which claims to be Ireland’s oldest, having been founded in 1198 as a carriage house and bar. The Brazen Head has a great sense of humour, with its nightly rousting sing-alongs that attract both locals and visitors, and on any given night you are bound to see Norwegians dancing alongside Corkonian ladies near the fireplace in the bar’s quaint, stone front room.
Best Music Pub – Tig Cóilí
Everyone has their own opinions on what the best music pub in Ireland is, but I’ve been to far too many great trad sessions in Galway’s Tig Cóilí to give the honour to anyone else. Frequented by some of the most renowned traditional Irish musicians in Co. Galway and perhaps the whole of Ireland, Tig Cóilí’s regular music sessions are not to be messed with. The pub is quite small and narrow, so you really have to pack in around the musicians, who sit in the front bay window and churn out some of the best music you’ve ever heard in your life.