To get right into the action, start with Dublin. For much of the 1980s, the Republic of Ireland’s capital had just a single gay bar – The George (it’s still at the thick of it, we’re delighted to say). But it’s all change since then, with clubs, bars and a rollicking rota of comedy, bingo, quiz, karaoke, cabaret and even craft nights attracting a crowd that plays as hard as it works.
Dublin doesn’t really “do” gay neighbourhoods, but you will find clusters of gay and gay-friendly venues on Capel Street, Parliament Street and South Great George’s Street. Indeed, pinballing between stops such as The Dragon, The Front Lounge, PantiBar, Wilde and The George (now a mega-pub and club over two floors) makes for a fun night out no matter what your mission.
Dublin’s gay scene is also giving off cultural sparks. The LGBTQ Pride Festival (September) is a fixture on the calendar; and the city also hosts the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (May), as well as GAZE: Dublin International LGBT Film Festival (August), one of the most respected of its kind in the world.
There’s something for everyone. Fancy a bit of tennis? Check out the Out4Tennis Tournament (May). Perhaps you’re a bear, or admirer of same? Head for the Bear Féile (March).
While Ireland – and rural Ireland, especially – may not quite be ready to attend The Panti Show, times are definitely a-changing, and you’ll find funky spaces like the Dignity bars in Galway and Waterford, alongside regular gay nights in other cities.
The Rebel County also enjoys a thriving gay scene, to be found in the heart of the city. Bars such as Loafers on Douglas Street and Chambers on Washington Street are local institutions where gay people, straight people and everything in between people join together for drinks and dancing. Cork City also has its own Pride Parade (August) that covers the streets of the city in a blitz of colour once a year.
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Gay times in Belfast
“Belfast’s LGBT scene is thriving,” says the feisty In Your Pocket city guide. Among the hottest spots? Club-wise, there’s dance-tastic Kremlin, of course, dolled-up in its kitschy Soviet chic. And don’t miss Union Street, set beneath high ceilings in a former 19th-century shoe factory. It’s the kind of place that does good Gastro Pub grub, with a classy cocktail lounge upstairs.
A thriving gay scene offers more than just bars, of course. In Belfast you’ll find saunas, a new restaurant and supper club (Rainbow), one of the UK’s top pride parades (it brought out a crowd of 35,000 in 2012). And its City Council was the first local authority on the island to pass a motion in support of gay marriage. There are loads of gay-friendly venues, too.
So baby steps are morphing into a giant leap. Ireland has been slow to change, but it is changing, and the potential in its LGBT scenes is electrifying.
Why not pay a visit, and experience them for yourself? After all, as Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist everything except temptation.”