Life s tyle
The ITM guide to the Any self-respecting Irishman will tell you that
country’s best drinking you can only truly enjoy a pint of plain in the
holes for a pint of Guinness land where it first sprang forth. And while
some might spout guff about Liffey water and
the like, what really makes for a beautiful jar of
the black stuff is the atmosphere around the
bar and the attention paid behind it.
Where to enjoy the perfect pint, though, is
a conundrum that has prompted rigorous
debate in both bars and novels, with publicans
up and down the country claiming theirs as
Here ITM sets the record straight with the
10 best pubs in the land for a pint of plain.
The criteria is simple: the quality of the pint
itself and the atmosphere of the pub where
it’s pulled. And who was left with the enviable
task of whittling down the contenders? Andrew
Jennings is your only man…
100101 IRISH TATLER MAN
MDUUBLLLIINGANS, POOLBEG STREET, HERITAGE, The taps when you walk
CHARACTER, in are a no-nonsense affair.
This legendary Dublin city-centre saloon has the CHARM AND Not quite Henry Ford’s “…
reputation of having the best pint in the capital. That STUNNING any colour you want as long
claim isn’t too far off the mark. PINTS. IT as it’s black” – but not a
DOESN’T GET million miles off.
Mulligans, which first opened its doors in 1782, is MUCH BETTER
the ultimate in old school charm, with tobacco-stained Irish author Colm Tóibín
ceilings, glassy-eyed pensioners and a reported no once stated that when
mobiles policy, which all means it retains authenticity and it came to Dublin pubs,
remains gloriously unpretentious. Sunday afternoon is “there are four or five that have survived the ravages of
the best time to sit back and watch the Guinness settle. new money”. This is one of them. An absolute classic.
This Poolbeg Street institution has always enjoyed TDHAEMSETCAOGU’SRHT,EDAUDB, LIN
a healthy cocktail of regulars and out-of-towners. The
most famous Mulligans regular over the years has got to One of Dublin’s treasures, the Stag’s Head is hidden away
be Irish novelist and poet James Joyce, who enjoyed his off a narrow passageway, and, according to Lonely Planet,
favourite spot at the bar for several years while living in suffers from something of a multiple personality disorder.
Dublin. In the 1950s, before becoming US President, John
F Kennedy visited the pub to see the place where Joyce We’ll take the travel bible at its word when it argues:
had sat, drank and written. “Centred round a Connemara marble surface and
watched over by the eponymous stuffed beast, the main
Outside the pub door, you will see a well-maintained bar is a vessel of Victoriana. The old smoking lounge is a
montage on the wall celebrating Bloomsday, 1904, the lovely lunch spot. Upstairs is by turns bookish, rowdy and
day that is the setting for Joyce’s Ulysses. How much of random; and the less said about the basement the better.
the classic he wrote at the counter of the premises while
he sipped his Guinness is still debated, but scholars “Patrons include a mix of Trinity students, brokers
attest that he certainly made relevant notes there that from the nearby Stock Exchange and miscellaneous
were later developed into passages, which survive in the blow-ins. All are equal at the Stag’s, however. It’s even
rumoured that Quentin
GJOLHANSNKEAVVIANN, DAUGHBL’SI,N Tarantino, trying to get an
after-hours tipple, was once
Hidden among the warren of narrow streets in Dublin’s refused for pulling rank.”
northern suburb sits Kavanagh’s, more widely known
as The Gravediggers. This moniker originates from the Anyway, ask most in the
gravediggers of the adjacent Glasnevin Cemetery, who know and they’ll tell you that
had a secret serving hatch so that they could drink on there’s no finer pint to be had
the job. in the capital, with The Stag’s
trotting off in the distance
So the place has character in excess. It’s also alongside Mulligans and
authentically old, with swinging doors – a true staple ahead of much-vaunted city-
of the sort of traditional Irish pub that is rapidly centre rivals Grogans and
disappearing. There isn’t a TV in sight either, and, of The Long Hall.
course, the pint is delicious.
Founded in 1833 by one John Kavanagh and still in the
family, Kavanagh’s is one of the best in Ireland, virtually
unchanged in 150 years. In summertime, the green of the
square is full of drinkers basking in the sun, while inside
the hardened locals ensure that ne’er a hint of sunshine
shall disturb some of the best Guinness in town.
pubculture TIGH NEACHTAIN’S,
CROSS STREET, GALWAY
Tigh Neachtain’s is strong on both literary and musical
Made famous as the adorable snow-covered public house customers with well-attended traditional sessions a
in the Guinness Christmas ads, O’Connell’s pub has regular feature. It helps, of course, that the pub is located
remained practically unchanged since the early 1800s, on one of the busiest streets in a city that is alive all year
with a snug and fireplace, wood-panelled walls and a round with a commotion of students, visitors and locals
whitewashed yard outside. alike – the atmosphere kept sharp by the music ringing in
on the Atlantic breeze.
A shelter for smokers acknowledges the no-smoking
rule, while the only modern contraption allowed inside This is a century-old, family-run business right at
is a pool table. Television broadcasts do not enter this the heart of the medieval quarter of Galway. The pub
establishment. is housed, incidentally, in the building that used to be
the townhouse of famous politician and animal rights
Not just a popular haunt for locals, O’Connell’s was activist Richard Martin, known as ‘Humanity Dick’, who
used as a film location by Neil Jordan when he shot the lived there in the last century.
pub scenes for his 1999 film The Last September, while
Matthew McConaughey is one of many Hollywood stars A stained glass door opens into a labyrinth of snugs,
who have sipped its renowned black stuff. alcoves and long rooms, shimmering with pitch pine
panelling, leather seats, timber tables and frosted glass
IF A TOURIST partitions. The wonderful pints of black have been pulled
WANTED A by the Neachtain family since 1894, who ran a pub on
GENUINE IRISH High Street before they moved in here.
PUB WITH A
FRIENDLY VIBE, This famed Galway drinking hole was machine-
THIS IS THE gunned in the War of Independence by the Black and
PLACE TO STOP Tans, who objected to the family displaying their name
AT FIRST AND as Gaeilge. Its history goes back even further than that,
LAST though, as the plaque outside the Cross Street entrance
will tell you.
COOMBE, DUBLIN If it’s a sunny day in summer there are few better
places in the country to sit outside with a pint than
Famed as one of the best pints in the Neachtain’s.
city, it’s an accolade that Fallons truly
deserves. This is a lovely spot for a ‘few
quiet ones’, just a stone’s throw from the
bustle of Stephen’s Green. Fallons is the
authentic old man pub, which means
toasted sambos with real Coleman’s
mustard, high stools and, of course,
A quintessential Dublin boozer,
covered in knick-knacks and old
photographs, it’s hard not to love this
bar. The atmosphere makes it – no
suspicious looks in here. Everyone talks
to you and there isn’t a single voice of
dissension to be heard.
The snug is a gem, where, though
you might be discussing your life’s woes
within hearing distance of punters close
by, it somehow seems OK. Once you
cross the threshold, you feel as if you’ve
known everyone for years. On top of that,
they serve a great pint.
If a tourist wanted a genuine Irish
pub with a friendly vibe, this is the place
to stop at first and last. A deadly little
boozer. The Guinness here is immense.
102103 IRISH TATLER MAN
One of the only places on the planet where you can
purchase a hammer and nails while ordering a pint at a
bar, this quirky and unique pub in Dingle is a hardware
store by day and a pub at night.
A bastion of hometown atmosphere, it can boast the
best pint in Dingle, if not all of Kerry, giving you a unique
opportunity to shop and sip. And just for good measure,
you can also rent a bike at the back of the pub.
Sinking a pint of the black stuff at Foxy John’s is a must
for anyone looking to quench a thirst in Dingle. But a
word of warning: don’t expect an exuberant welcome
from the locals.
MABOBRERYISLSEEIXY,’S, STHTREECEATS, TCLOERKINCNIT, MY AIN
Corkonians, by their nature, are a bit suspicious
The staff in Morrissey’s sport those of the marketing circus that’s always surrounded
traditional long white shop coats Guinness and its standing as the island’s
worn by grocers of a different century. premier stout. Most wouldn’t recommend you
Enough said? Well, if not, Morrissey’s set foot in the Castle Inn, but it remains as
is situated in the beautiful heritage integral a part of the city’s pub life as any other
town of Abbeyleix and is a dream for establishment. Plus, the Guinness here is great,
those with a penchant for seeing how and the setting stripped and genuine.
things used to be in a different era. Stepping inside the doors of The Castle Inn is
From the moment you walk through like travelling back in time. Men who could have
the doors of this impressive pub, you been pulled straight from the set of The Field
are transported back to a time when you could enjoy a populate the small room, snuff is still for sale,
pint of plain whilst collecting your groceries.
and customers are known
Built it 1770, the original single-storey building was on a first-name basis.
later extended to a two-storey premises. Incredibly, in It’s one of only a handful
its day it acted as a public house, grocery, undertakers, of places within the city
bakery and shipping agent. The interior is well worked bounds that manages to
and softly lit – a potbelly stove is centrally located, around feel and smell like a true
which a series of timber partitions are located creating country pub, which is just
lots of interesting nooks and crannies. about as wholesome and
satisfying an experience as
The dark wooden bar counter is L-shaped, with the it is possible to get in Cork.
focal point being the high back bar shelving laden with There are two entrances
local produce and original shop and pub artefacts, such and one leads you into a
as biscuit tins, sweet jars, copper measuring jugs, whiskey little snug, which is the
jars, scales and much more. perfect place to sit back and
relax. You don’t even have
Heritage, character, charm and stunning pints. It to move to get your pint!
doesn’t get much better.
BRENNAN’S, BUNDORAN, CO DONEGAL
Brennan’s, which opened on St Patrick’s Day in 1900, is a place – like most of the
pubs on the list – entirely locked in time, unspoilt and genuinely offering a glimpse
of a bygone era. It also comes with the added bonus of the keg sitting just under
One of the common traits of these fine old pubs is their capacity to steadfastly
remain authentic and unaltered in the face of a rapidly changing world right outside
What lies beyond its understated frontage is a pub of delightful character, offering
tranquillity, charm and homeliness. The décor and fit-out are pleasingly rustic –a
polished pinewood counter runs the length of the left-hand side of the main bar,
backed by high shelves stacked with copperware, bottles and knick-knacks.
Add to that the friendly welcome you can expect from the Brennan sisters, Nan
and Patricia – grandchildren of the original founders of 1900 – and you have a pint
that’s pure and sublime.