Compiling any list of “Best Pubs” is tricky and dangerous! But here’s a collection of some of my favorite spots to enjoy a pint of goodness, classic establishments and great craic!
While scouting locations for the “A Proper Pint” film series, I’ve visited and drank in at least 300 pubs over the past five years. I’ve created a list of twenty five really great ones and most of the pubs on this list are in rural locations or smaller towns, because that’s where we focus the films on. So there’s only a few from Dublin, Galway and Belfast… and this list is by no means exhaustive, there are MANY great pubs I just haven’t visited yet! But you can not go wrong in any of these pubs:
25. Causeway Hotel Bar – Giant’s Causeway
It’s a hotel bar, but on this list because the experience of sipping a good whiskey in a big wingback chair in front of a fire after a day of exploring this dramatic seascape is sublime!
24. Kehoe’s – Dublin
There are MANY great pubs in Dublin, but I’m happier in the rural areas, so I’m only including one Dublin pub: Kehoe’s. It’s just far enough off Grafton street to be away from the bustle of tourists, it still feels like an authentic pub and they have excellent pints here.
22. Tom Maher’s – Waterford
Maher’s doesn’t open until at least 8pm, and up until just five years ago, they didn’t serve women… but it’s the most beautiful bar I’ve ever been in. The back of the bar is a shrine to booze, beautifully arranged and lit, and the regulars are a lot of fun!
21. Barrick Heights – Dingle
This is a dark horse choice. Barrick Heights sits up the hill away from the main drag in Dingle. The signage and exterior are dilapidated, and based on exterior looks alone, there’s really no reason a person would want to go in this place. But once inside, it’s dark, warm, welcoming and brimming with colorful locals. You get the feeling that you’ve stumbled into a private clubhouse here.
20. Flannery’s Bar – Limerick
Just a good old fashioned Irish pub where everyone chats with each other and the bartenders are quick with a joke or story. It’s well worn and comfortable, like hanging out in your grandparent’s living room.
19. Toby’s Bar – Westport
There are soooo many great pubs in westport and it’s hard to pick out just one, but this one stands out for me because of the classic exterior, the cozy interior, and their passion for rugby. If there’s a big game on in pretty much any sport, Toby’s is a great place to go watch it!
18. John Hewitt – Belfast
Classic Irish pub with excellent pints, great music and no extra frills.
17. Downe’s Pub – Waterford
If you want a pub with character, come here! I believe the current owner is seventh generation. They have Squash courts in the pub… Squash courts! They date back to the late nineteenth century when squash was more popular and there are people playing on the courts to this day. They also have a snooker room, three magnificent fireplaces, Victorian red velvet couches, and a medieval well that was discovered during one of the renovations. They also blend their own brand of whiskey here!
16. JJ Bowle’s – Limerick
Situated right on the river, an old-school, well preserved pub with fantastic views from the beer garden, a cozy sitting room and a classic front room for enjoying the best pints in Limmerick. Owner Reena will make you feel at home in any one of these areas and she makes a comforting hot whiskey!
15. Dick Mack’s – Dingle
A classic. This pub is on every list of pubs and for good reason: it’s quirky, fun and comfortable but has never lost sight of the fact that people are here to enjoy each others company and have a nice drink. There’s no televisions and they have a couple well-preserved snugs and back rooms to hide out in. For many years, the legendary character Oliver ran this place and made it what it is today, and now his nephew Finn has taken over and moved the focus more toward whiskeys. The leatherman is still at work here during busier seasons, so you can even have a belt made whilst enjoying a pint!
13. O’Connell’s – Galway
Located in the heart of Galway city just off Eyre Square and away from the bustling pedestrian traffic. It was once a grocery and a small bar, with the upstairs used for housing those in need. This pub is beautiful, with original tiled floors, antique lighting, stained glass windows, pressed tin ornate ceiling in the main bar. In the back, there’s a huge beer garden with cool memorabilia displayed around the edges.
12. Tigh T.P. (Baile na nGall) – Beldavid
Go as far as you can on very bottom on Ireland, and you can find TP’s bar. It’s surprisingly large for the area and is set on top of a beautiful sandy beach, on the scenic Dingle Peninsula. Irish is the spoken language of the area, but owner Sean is eager to debate, bullshit and have a laugh with you in English as well! The views of the ocean from atop your bar stool are fantastic.
11. E.J. Morrisey’s – Abbeyleix
Morrisey’s has gone through some changes in ownership recently, for better or worse, but it remains a wonderful place to stop for a pint. It’s a large cavernous room with a warren of snugs created from antiques, odds and ends. The wall behind the bar features many vintage grocery items like tins of biscuits and sweets.
10. Patsy Dan’s / Mollys – Dunfanaghy
These two pubs are located in the heart of Dunfanaghy and compliment each other wonderfully. Stop by Mollys for a couple pints, a bite to eat, a visit with the locals and you can even bet a few bob on the ponies here. Then wander across the street to the comfy confines of Patsy Dans. Most nights, there’s a nice fire going, really friendly bartenders and local musicians playing in the corner.
9. AE O’Donahue’s – Fanore
One of the most scenic locations for a pub, O’Donahue’s sits perched on the edge of the sea, in the heart of the Burren. The pints are creamy and good, the main bar is tiny but cozy. The food here is terrific, especially the crab claws and seafood chowder. And if you’re lucky, you might find local man John Joe sitting in the corner, softly-sweetly singing “A Mother’s Loves a Blessing”. Heaven.
8. Sharkey’s Bar – Anagry
My idea of a classic rural Irish pub is right here at Sharkey’s. It’s located in a tiny rural community and run by brothers Michael and Joe Sharkey, proud third generation owners. You won’t find tourists here, just the locals who hang out here morning day and night. This is the tidiest pub Ive been in, with everything in it’s place and nothing to impede a comfortable chat with your neighbor. The locals here are the friendliest people I’ve met and they love to welcome in strangers.
7. DeBarra’s Folk Club – Clonakilty
Legendary for music, DeBarra’s is a sprawling series of rooms and music venues. Musical instruments and photographs of musicians (many of them quite famous) adorn every nook and cranny of the walls. Noel Redding from the Jimi Hendrix band was a regular here for many years and the pub has been mostly unchanged through the years. Bobby and Eileen’s son Ray now runs the place and he has the place humming with musicians, poets and locals every night of the week.
6. McDonnell’s Bar & Undertakers – Belmullet
A family-owned pub since the 40’s, Owner (and licensed embalmer) Padraig Conroy calls his place “The Lobster Pot”, because “once you come in, you can’t get out!” and he’s right! This is the place for serious drink, fun and frivolity – the locals are a good kind of crazy and before you know it, there might be three or four pints or whiskeys stacked up in front of you. There’s a nice fire in th e room next to the main bar, and Padraig is always eager to break out his guitar and sing a few songs from behind the bar while pulling pints! The family also runs the mortuary and serves the communities for about 100 kilometers around… and many of the past patrons are lovingly paid homage to with photographs on the walls in the pub. If you want a pub with character and characters, stop by McDonnell’s, but don’t be in a hurry to leave!
5. Linanne’s Lobster Bar – New Quay
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Linanne’s has the best pint of Guinness I’ve had in Ireland! That’s a bold statement and probably one that will get me in trouble, but it’s true. The seafood here is incredible as well, “so fresh it was caught tomorrow!” is their slogan and they really do focus on fresh quality food. Order the Seafood platter, a couple plates of mussels, crab claws and brown bread and wash it down with the creamiest yummiest pints of goodness! They’re also located along the water on a dock and sell fresh seafood to go – this is one of my MUST STOP places in Ireland.
4. O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub – Dingle
Husband and wife musicians Tommy and Sandra O’Sullivan purchased this place so they’d have a place to play music and host musicians. There’s live music here every night and it’s one of my favorite venues to enjoy Irish music. They’ve made a few changes recently which really improved the music venue, but much of the pub is still unchanged, including the really really low ceilings – mind yer head!
3. Ma Murphy’s – Bantry
What can I say about Ma Murphy’s? It’s got everything you want in a great Irish pub – the awesome Leonard family has been running the place since Billy and Patricia took over many years ago, and now their children Mary and Sean run things. The main bar is loaded with character, there’s a classic well-preserved snug at the front and an area that sells groceries. Next to the main bar, where the kitchen used to be when the family lived here, you can find local musicians playing. Out back, where there were once working stables and a blacksmith, there’s terrific music venue, “The Forge”. The sessions here by local musicians are the best I’ve seen in any pub in the country – it’s a great group of people all here to have fun and enjoy each other’s company – it feels like one big family! Finally, there’s a sprawling and sunny beer garden to hang out in when the weathers nice. It’s just a fantastic pub on so many levels – a MUST visit!
2. O’Loclainn’s Irish Whiskey Bar – Ballyvaughan
This bar will always be the closest to my heart because it was the location of the first film we produced. Margaret and Peter are such lovely people and the people you meet here can be from anywhere in the world. It’s doesn’t open until late, usually at least 8pm. There’s no television, no jukebox, nothing to distract from the fun of chatting with Margaret behind the bar or meeting with a friend, or making new friends over a lovely pint. The whiskeys here are the stars of the show, with hundreds of them lining the back walls of the bar. Margaret will guide you with tastings and do not miss out trying her Irish Coffee, the best you’ll ever have.
1. McLoughlin’s Bar – Achill Sound
If I could only have one last pint in Ireland, I’d go to McLoughlin’s. It’s just a comfortable place to be where owners Josie McLoughlin and Jackie Memory look after you, the pints are delicious, the locals are super friendly and there’s always a fire going. They often have music going on, and support the community with gatherings for dart tournaments, art classes, and special events. The landscapes of Achill Island are some of the most stunningly beautiful in the country and that’s just icing on the cake!