Irish Pub Exterior
Irish Pub Exterior

14 of Ireland’s Oldest Pubs that Will Take You Back in Time

The Irish pub, with its unique culture centered around a casual, friendly ambiance coupled with the occasional burst of Irish music and lively banter, is what comes to mind when many people think of Ireland.

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The Irish pub’s widespread appeal has led to duplications the world over.

However, none can compare with the pubs located in Ireland, including many that are centuries old and are still serving up the customary pint of Guinness, Irish whiskey, and a myriad of other alcoholic drinks.

Here are 14 of Ireland’s oldest pubs that are worth visiting.

COUNTY ANTRIM
McHugh’s Bar, 29-31 Queen’s Square, Belfast

This pub has earned the title of being the oldest in Northern Ireland — and the oldest known building in Belfast.

McHugh's Bar in Belfast. Photo: McHugh's Bar Facebook.

McHugh’s was originally a private dwelling in 1711, but between 1715 and 1725, it was converted into a small pub.

While a major refurbishment took place during the 1990s, it still, thankfully, has some of its original 18th-century features, including the building’s original wooden support beams.

Enjoy a pint and live entertainment at this iconic destination.

Crosskeys Inn, 40 Grange Rd, Toomebridge, County Antrim

The Crosskeys Inn is Northern Ireland’s “Oldest Thatched Pub.”

Located in rural County Antrim, this iconic pub was once a coaching stop on the route between Belfast and Derry.

The Crosskeys Inn is located in Antrim. It was established in 1650. Photo: By Cormac Duffin, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13022715

According to research conducted by archaeologists at Queens University Belfast, the pub dates to 1654.

It was damaged by a fire in February 2000 but has since been brought back to its original glory.

An inviting open turf fire, great pints, and a cozy interior make this a favorite for many visitors traveling through Northern Ireland.

Two nearby tourist attractions include the Seamus Heaney Homeplace, a museum to the late poet Seamus Heaney, and Antrim Castle Gardens.

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COUNTY CORK
The Old Thatch, Main St, Killeagh Gardens, Killeagh, Co. Cork

While the Crosskeys Inn in County Antrim might be the oldest thatched pub in Northern Ireland, it appears that The Old Thatch located in East Cork, is in fact older, having been established in 1650.

Inside, you’ll find all sorts of items from the building’s past.

The Old Thatch Pub in Co. Cork. Photo courtesy of The Old Thatch Killeagh Cork Facebook.

Some include a deer head caught in 1851 by a previous owner, as well as stone walls and old barrels that are visible behind the bar.

The thatch on its roof has been re-thatched repeatedly since it was built in the 1600s.

The Old Thatch includes a popular restaurant serving up casual food like burgers, roast beef, steaks, mixed grills, and fish.

An outdoor beer garden can hold up to 200 people.

Gateway Bar, 125 Barrack St, The Lough, Cork

This pub is considered the oldest in Cork City having been established in 1698.

The Gateway Bar in Cork, known also as the Barbarella. Photo: William Murphy, https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

According to its current owners, the pub’s first patrons included the Dukes of Wellington and Marlborough.

Today, the Gateway Bar, also known as the Barbarella, is a popular spot for locals and visitors and touts a “chilled-out, easy-going environment” where customers can come in, relax, and have a drink.

COUNTY DOWN
Grace Neill’s, 33 High St, Donaghadee, County Down

Established in 1611 under the name, The King’s Arms, this legendary pub was known in the past to attract pirates and smugglers thirsty for a pint of ale.

Four hundred years after the pub was first founded, the owner, Hugh Jamison, gave it to his daughter Grace as a wedding gift.

It is among the oldest licensed pubs in Ireland, with the original deeds still in hand.

The exterior of the Grace NeillsBar in Co. Down. Photo courtesy Grace Neills, Ireland's Oldest Pub Est. 1611 Facebook.

When you step into this ancient piece of history, know that its stone flooring and beams, constructed from ship timber, are all original to the building.

There are plenty of antiques and other memorabilia here too, making this a must-visit while you’re in Northern Ireland.

Russian Czar Peter the Great, poet John Keats and the novelist, Daniel Defoe, reportedly visited the iconic pub.

There’s plenty on offer at Grace Neills, including Gracie’s Bistro, The Lounge, The Snugs, and a beer garden.

It is also a popular wedding venue.

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DUBLIN
The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge St. Usher's Quay

Known as Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head is said to have existed since 1198, although documents related to it date to around 1653.

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Perhaps it’s because the pub, in the 12th century, may have operated under the name of “Carles Inn,” according to an early map of medieval Dublin.

The Brazen Head in Dublin, one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs. Photo: By Harold Strongderivative, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25560565

However, it wasn’t until 1754 that it operated both as a coaching inn and a hotel.

Fast-forward to modern-day Dublin where The Brazen Head is known for serving up wholesome food and providing live music for its customers.

Some notable people from Irish history and the literary world are associated with the pub.

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They include Robert Emmet, who planned the United Irishmen’s insurrection in 1803 and was later hanged in Dublin for it, James Joyce who mentioned the pub in his novel, “Ulysses,” in addition to Brendan Behan, Jonathan Swift, and others who were regular visitors.

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The Long Hall, 51 South Great George’s Street

The Long Hall pub, licensed since 1766, oozes Victorian charm and is worth a visit if you are staying in Dublin for a few days.

The Long Hall’s original owner, Henry Mailey, ran a busy tavern at this location, and in the years following, the pub changed ownership, becoming a grocery store and wine retailer, even a recruiting location for the Fenians and the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) in the late 1800s.

The Victorian-styled Long Hall Pub in Dublin. Photo courtesy of the Long Hall Pub Facebook.

William Fitzpatrick took it over in 1898 and by that time, it was well known as a landmark on Great George’s Street, with its red and white-canopied exterior and its elaborate furnishings inside.

In addition to enjoying the sumptuous surroundings in The Long Hall, expect some of the best pours of Guinness there as well.

Johnnie Fox’s Pub, Glencullen, County Dublin

This pub, set in the Dublin Mountains, is also known as “the highest pub in Ireland.”

Johnnie Fox’s Pub was founded in 1798, a monumental year in terms of Ireland’s history.

That year, the revolutionary group, the United Irishmen, launched the Irish Revolution, influenced by the ideas of the American and French revolutions.

a building with a lot of stuff outside 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
The exterior of Johnnie Fox's Pub in County Dublin, one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs. Photo: ANDIKDUBLIN.com_Johnnie Fox's pub and Restaurant, Dublin for Failte Ireland.

They ultimately lost that battle, but throughout the summer of 1798, the pub became a refuge for many involved in the uprising, which was widespread in Co. Wexford.

When you visit, you’ll see years’ worth of history on its walls, including many antiques and relics of the past.

There’s more than history here, though.

Enjoy the pub’s popular Irish dancing performance, The Hooley Show, as well as traditional and contemporary cuisine from its award-winning kitchen.

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COUNTY KILKENNY
Kyteler’s Inn, St Kieran's St, Gardens, Kilkenny

A statue of Dame Alice Kyteler, the original owner of Kyteler’s Inn located in the heart of medieval Kilkenny, is what greets visitors to this iconic pub, which was established in 1364.

While some of the original 14th-century attributes were taken away, the most visible sign of its age can be found in the lower story of the building.

an open door of a building 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
The exterior of Kytelers Inn, Kilkenny, one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs. Photo courtesy of Kyteler's Inn Facebook.

The pub’s former owner is perhaps even more famous than the pub itself.

Kyteler married four times, with each husband dying mysteriously. The fourth husband willed all his property to Kyteler, which angered his family and they subsequently accused her of witchcraft.

Unfortunately, it was her maidservant, Petronella de Meath, who was accused of witchcraft in Kyteler’s absence (she had already fled to England).

de Meath was burned at the stake after what became the first recorded witchcraft trial in Europe.

Expect homey food, great drinks, and live entertainment in this popular Kilkenny pub.

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COUNTY MAYO
Lynott’s Pub, Achill

Reputed to be the smallest pub in Ireland, Lynott’s Pub in Achill is small for sure but it’s also lively.

a stone cottage 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
Lynott's Pub in Achill. Photo courtesy of Lynott's Pub Facebook.

Achill Tourism describes this quaint pub as a “small pub, not for the faint-hearted.” It goes on to say that public speaking is encouraged and that it is the perfect place for debates and singing.

The building has been modernized of course, but its structure remains true to its mid-1800s original.

Old benches and tables that sit on stone slabs, walls that are decorated with old Guinness advertisements and other cool artifacts, make this pub a favorite destination for anyone touring Achill and the surrounding region.

COUNTY ROSCOMMON
Morahan’s Bar, Ballingare, Co. Roscommon

Opening its doors in 1641, this pub is one of Ireland’s oldest family-run businesses.

When you step into this old-world establishment, look for the licenses on the walls that date to 1841.

Like many old pubs throughout Ireland, Morahan’s Bar also functioned as a small shop, selling everything from 50-pound bags of sugar to other essential items for its local customers.

Today, it still operates as a pub and a shop.

COUNTY SLIGO
The Beach Bar, Aughris head, Templeboy, Co. Sligo

If you’re looking for a mellow place to have a pint, with fabulous views of the Wild Atlantic Way, then The Beach Bar in County Sligo is where you need to be.

a white thatched cottage 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
This lovely thatched cottage at Aughris Head in Co. Sligo is known as The Beach Bar and is one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs. Photo: The Beach Bar Sligo Facebook.

This 300-year-old pub is also a restaurant and is popular with locals and visitors, including surfers who choose to ride the waves in nearby Easkey.

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COUNTY TIPPERARY
McCarthy’s Pub, 17 Main St, Spitalfield, Fethard, Co. Tipperary

This may just be the most unusual pub in Ireland.

McCarthy’s Pub in the medieval town of Fethard in County Tipperary also serves as a funeral home.

wooden stools and counter 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
The old-fashion McCarthy's Pub in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs. Photo courtesy of McCarthy's of Fethard Facebook.

Established in the mid-1800s by Richard McCarthy, the pub has been in the family for five generations.

What started out as a hotel, spirit merchant, grocery store, draper, glass and china shop, as well as taxi service all ceased when the owners at the time retired.

Today it is run by Jasper McCarthy, who runs a restaurant along with the pub.

Promoting itself as one of “Ireland’s oldest, unchanged pubs,” McCarthy’s has a definite old-world charm about it.

In fact, McCarthy says that the interior is the same as it was when his ancestors ran it.

The pub is internationally known, having served as the location for television programs, even ads.

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COUNTY WESTMEATH
Sean’s Bar, 13 Main St, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Touted as Ireland’s oldest pub, Sean’s Bar in Athlone was founded in 900 A.D!

According to research conducted by the National Museum of Ireland, the pub may indeed be that old.

people standing in front of a building 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs
People gather outside Sean's Bar in Athlone, one of the 14 of Ireland's oldest pubs that you should visit. Photo: Chris Hill, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

The carbon-dating of mud, wood, wattle, and tavern tokens, all found at the site, also backs up the theory. Some of the pub’s old walls are on display at the museum.

In 2004, the Guinness World Records issued a certificate acknowledging it as the “Oldest Pub in Ireland.”

This ancient pub sits along the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, and is a great place to stop off before taking a relaxing cruise.

The pub even has its own brand of whiskey. Shop for this and other merchandise on its online shop.

Have you visited any of these old pubs in Ireland? If so, let me know in the comments below.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Seosamh

    It’s quite impossible for Sean bar to be that old it’s doesn’t appear in any Maps in the area until the 18 cent . There no mention of it in the siege of Athlone Castle 1641 when it would have
    been in direct line of fire from the guns .

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