As the countdown to St. Patrick’s Day begins, we are reminded that Irish pubs are so much more than just a place to quench your thirst – they are places for storytelling, music-making, and merriment. And the pub tradition in Ireland is a hallowed one – with many pubs dating back hundreds of years. We asked our Ireland experts, CIE Tours, for a few of their favorites. Most of these bars have an exclusive relationship with the tour operator - so if you’re going on a guided tour, only CIE Tours can take you there.
This charming country pub in Antrim- and the oldest thatched pub in Ireland. This old stone cottage, dating back to the 17th century, was once an inn for stagecoach passengers heading between Belfast and Derry. It served time as a shop and post office before its current incarnation as a pub. The authentic thatched roof is a real standout – once everywhere all over Ireland, only a couple of thousand of these traditional roofs remain. The building shows its heritage vividly: the stone floors are worn down from generations of footsteps, the walls are uneven, and the various rooms of the pub have open turf fires. Today, the pub is famed for its proprietors' warm welcome and as a popular spot for traditional musicians.
You can visit this pub on the itineraries of the Scottish Sampler, the Scots- Irish Tour, and Evergreen Ireland North.
Sean’s Bar in Athlone can lay claim to being the most historic bar of all. The Guinness Book of Records has recognized this charming old pub as the oldest pub - not just in Ireland, but in Europe! (And likely the world.) The pub has been around since 900 AD. Not only does it have a documented and detailed history, but archeologists have dated some “wattle and wicker” walls -- uncovered in a 1970s renovation – all the way back to the ninth century. Check out the castle next door – it’s 200 years younger than Sean’s! Visit the pub and you’ll see ancient artifacts on the wall, sawdust-covered floors, and cozy turf fireplaces.
You’ll visit Sean’s Bar exclusively on the Irish Legends, Irish Pub tour, Irish Gold, and Evergreen Ireland North tours.
Blakes of the Hollow
Blakes of the Hollow in Enniskillen is a classic Victorian pub from 1887 that still features its 19th-century atmosphere. The walls are paneled, the floors are elegantly tiled, and the bar is made from marble. It’s a beautiful, nostalgic spot for conversation over a quiet drink. Don’t miss the “Door of Thrones” – a quirky modern add-on, it’s carved from the wood of a fallen tree from the nearby Dark Hedges, made famous as a filming location for “Game of Thrones”.
This is a CIE Tours exclusive venue visited by guests on the Irish Explorer tour.
Walled City Brewery
This brewery is in Derry, mere steps away from the Peace Bridge that commemorates the process which put an end to the Troubles of the last century. Housed in an old military barracks, this stylish brewhouse and restaurant symbolizes Derry’s regeneration. Its history is tragic, but this thriving city is forward-looking and creative. Check out the signature brews, some of which were inspired by the popular TV show Derry Girls.
CIE Tours guests exclusively visit Walled City Brewery on the Irish Odyssey tour for dinner and a flight of beer.
In Dungarvan, you'll find a cozy spot at this pub where you can sit by a peat fire as you quench your thirst, as people have been doing for three centuries. In its earliest days, it served as a stop for British Marines based nearby, and later on, it became a popular stop for passengers along the stagecoach line, which passed nearby. When the railway led to the end of stagecoach traffic, and emigration rose, the pub’s fortunes declined. Musician Christy O’Neill purchased the bar in recent years and revived it. Marine Bar is now a lively spot where music lovers gather and local musicians often play.
This visit is available on the Irish Classic, Irish Gold, and Irish Pub Tours.
This is an antique-packed pub in Galway’s seaside suburb of Salthill. Owned by the O'Connor family for three generations, it’s a lively spot with a celebrity claim to fame: musician Ed Sheeran filmed his 2018 video for Galway Girl here, which starred actress Saoirse Ronan. The fiddle from the video is still in the bar, a popular prop for photos with visitors. Sheeran wasn’t the first notable to stop in – O’Connor’s has hosted actor, such luminaries, as Martin Sheen, singer Art Garfunkel, and a host of Ireland’s most beloved musicians. And it’s no wonder: the welcome is warm, the fireplace is lit, and the atmosphere is unbeatable in this intriguing old pub.
Visit O’Connor’s pub for an exclusive early opening to grab a great seat by the fire for a storytelling and music session on CIE Tours’ Irish Pub Tour
Visit some of Ireland’s finest pubs and so much more when you travel to the Emerald Isle. Whether you are looking for a guided vacation where all the details are handled for you or whether you prefer to travel independently, CIE Tours makes it simple, with a choice of 17 classic itineraries to Ireland, available for self-drive or with an expert specialist driver. Or choose to customize a dream vacation, whether it’s for a special private driver experience for a few travelers or a group trip for a whole gang.
Reach out to Jennifer, a European travel specialist and award-winning travel agent, to find out how your trip to Ireland is easier than you think.