Ireland's Oldest Pubs

The Crosskeys Inn, County Antrim
The Crosskeys Inn, County Antrim

Take a step back in time and explore the fascinating tales behind some of the island's oldest drinking dens. Grab a stool and get comfortable.

Like your fires roaring, your company good and your pint served with a side order of history? There here are some antique pubs you’ll love!

Download a PDF map of Ireland with these ancient pubs right here.

Pub One

The Crosskeys Inn, Ardnaglass, County Antrim

When carbon dating experts from Belfast’s Queen’s University come to your local pub on a mission to establish its age, you know you’re drinking somewhere special. Thanks to such a visit we now know that the Crosskeys Inn in Antrim was built over 360 years ago, in 1654.

A former watering hole for thirsty travelers to warm their weary bones along the old Belfast to Londonderry~Derry road, the Inn has served the local community as a shop, post office and, of course bar, in its time. Traditional music is a specialty at this beautifully aged and original establishment, and if you find a friendlier bartender on the planet, I'll eat my hat.

Pub Two

The Old Thatch, Killeagh, County Cork

There are few sights more inviting than an old thatched pub under a crisp fall sky. Few pubs of the sort wear theirs so well as The Old Thatch. And so it should look aged; this is a pub run by the Sweeneys who can trace their family’s involvement in the business back to the mid 18th century.

Tales of court battles and 19th century rebels pepper the history of this handsome establishment, which sits on a leafy curve at the very edge of Killeagh village in County Cork.

Pub Three

Grace Neills, Donaghadee, County Down

Originally known as the Kings Arms when it opened around 1612, the pub’s name was changed in 1842 when Hugh John Jamison bought the Kings Arms for his daughter Grace Neill.

For the next 72 years, Grace ran the pub, greeting guests with a hug and a kiss, recognizable instantly by her customary clay pipe. Should they be free, grab either of the two cozy snugs festooned with antique glass. They were formerly occupied by ne’er do well horse thieves and smugglers operating centuries ago from Donaghadee, back then, a busy trade port.

Pub Four

The Brazen Head, Dublin city

Welcome to the Brazen Head, a place of refuge for some of the biggest names in Ireland’s history, including revolutionary figures (Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins) and a literary giant or two (Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Brendan Behan). Ask the right (or the wrong) local, and they might even persuade you that Robin Hood drank here.

Life for the Brazen Head began as a coach house in the early 12th century. Does any trace of the carriage house remain? We’re not sure. But… were it to still form the structure of the existing edifice, the Brazen Head would date to 1198, making it one of the oldest pubs on the planet.

Pub Five

Sean’s Bar, Athlone, County Westmeath

When an excavation of Sean’s Bar in 1970 exposed walls consisting of ancient wattle and daub (mud and hay) building method, it was clear that the owners were sitting on something special. Coins, too, minted by the landlords of the era, were found in the same Athlone plot.

Today, both the walls and coins call Dublin’s National History Museum their home. And what does this ancient architecture and coinage mean for Sean’s Bar? According to the pub’s owners and the Guinness Book of Records, this is the Oldest Pub in Ireland. Come for the 1200-year old legacy, stay for the live music, cannon ball decorations and crackling fire.

Pub Six

McHugh's Bar, Belfast city

Watched over by the 145-year old Albert Memorial Clock, McHugh’s is not only the oldest pub in Belfast: it’s the oldest building, too. Surrounded by mementos of Queen Victoria’s visit in 1849 (the building sits on Queen’s Square just seconds from Queen’s Bridge), step in here and you’re stepping inside a Georgian Grade A Listed building.

Back in the summer of 1907, regulars at McHugh’s could have easily eavesdropped on activist Jim Larkin’s passionate orations during the Belfast Dock Strike. His stage, where he addressed an audience of tens of thousands, was the Customs House steps, directly across the square.

These days the soundtrack is more likely to be tomorrow’s superstars, as the likes of Seasick Steve and, closer to home, Two Door Cinema Club and Kodaline played early gigs in the Basement Bar here.

Like the sound of tipping back a pint in these pubs? Check out what it means to be a real Irish pub in Ireland.

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