Dublin’s been crawling with poets, playwrights, novelists, dreamers and schemers for centuries
Four Nobel Prize winners for literature have been among them, and it’s been enough to earn a Unesco City of Literature title.
It goes without saying, that all this writing and dreaming is thirsty work. Which is why on your literary tour of Dublin’s museums and libraries, you’ll also have to stop off at some pubs.
You can bet many tall tales have been shared at a well-worn bar counter, and Dublin’s pubs have often appeared in literary works. That the stool you’re sitting on, or the snug you’re snuggled in could well have been used by any one of our literary greats.
So draw up a stool and be part of the story.
Rumour has it that the author of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, made this spot his local. Swift was also Dean of the nearby Christchurch Cathedral and so he didn’t have far to walk home after a beer or two. Legend also suggests that Robin Hood crossed the threshold here and seeing as the pub dates back as far as 1198 it doesn’t seem such a tall tale.
Naturally Joyce couldn’t write a book based in Dublin without including a pub.
“He entered Davy Byrnes. Moral Pub. He doesn’t chat. Stands a drink now and then. But in a leap year one if four. Cashed a cheque for me once” (Joyce, Ulysses, 1922).
It was in Davy Byrne’s that Leopold Bloom enjoyed a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and glass of burgundy for lunch (you’ll find people of people doing the same on Bloomsday). The premises was first licensed as a pub in 1789 and purchased in 1889 by Davy Byrnes, whose name has remained above the pub to this day. Joyce was a regular patron and formed a friendship with Davy himself.
Author of The Borstal Boy and general man-about-town Brendan Behan (a self-described “drinker with a writing problem) held court in Neary’s in the 1950s. Get here early and secure the cosy snug (use the door on the left-hand side).
Oliver St John Gogarty
Named after the poet and author Oliver St John Gogarty, who in turn served as inspiration for the character Buck Mulligan in Ulysses. Patrick Kavanagh drank here along with his chum, and the comic genius Flann O’ Brien.
The mother of all Dublin’s literary drinking dens is the Palace Bar on Fleet Street. Being Pre-Victorian, it has a different feel to many of the other Dublin pubs. Writers have been drinking here since 1843, including Flann O’Brien, Brendan Behan and Paddy Kavanagh. It was also the unofficial HQ for Robert M Smyllie (editor of the Irish Times), who held literary gatherings here throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Look out for the brass square at the base of the lamppost outside, paying tribute to the most famous literary patrons.
The poet and playwright WB Yeats was not a pub fan, so the fact that he stopped into Toner’s for a sherry is quite the badge of honour. Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, was a more frequent visitor. Come today to soak in Toner’s rustic feel, with original stock drawers behind the counter and a traditional stone floor.