10 great foodie pubs – where you can also stay the night
More people are staying at pubs where the hospitality extends beyond the bar
O’Donnabháin’s, Kenmare, Co Kerry: locally-sourced food makes for a crowd-pleasing menu
Ireland experienced something of an epidemic of magnolia-lacquered hotel development in the era post-economic apocalypse, with hallmark features like mass-produced Corinthian pots, MDF bar counters, plastic plants and a splattering of magenta somewhere in the mix.
As a backlash, guests in search of a weekend hideaway with a more intimate experience are heading towards the classic Irish pub, before taking the back stairs to sleep beneath rustic beams and traditional fixtures. With their time-worn solid timber, bespoke craftsmanship, inglenook fireplaces, friendly chat and local produce, they have matured elegantly over the decades, like a fine malt whiskey. We find 10 of the best.
Rathdrum, Co Wicklow; rooms from €85; jacobswellrathdrum.com
Tucked into the Vale of Clara and overlooking the River Avonmore, sleepy Rathdrum is home to Jacob’s Well, a foodie haven close to Saint Kevin’s 6th century monastic settlement at Glendalough. Behind its plain, late 19th century Irish architecture, with stagecoach lighting and modest scale that appears to curve up the village street, is a homely pub that has scooped multiple hospitality awards. Turf fires and honey-coloured oak furnishing set the backdrop for a solid restaurant menu that includes Irish stew and daily pasta, roast or vegetarian specials. Guests stay next door in comfortable quarters with muted shades and a dedicated resident’s lounge for quiet time. Two kilometres away are the gardens of Avondale House, birthplace of statesman Charles Stewart Parnell, where visitors meander along the marked trails in this magnificent 500-acre forest.
The Wild Honey Inn
Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare; March-October; rooms from €130; wildhoneyinn.com
Ireland’s first and only Michelin star pub is set in the outer fringes of Lisdoonvarna, Ireland’s matchmaking capital, in the heart of Co Clare’s Burren Geo Park. The Wild Honey Inn is operated by chef Aidan McGrath and Kate Sweeney in a handsome mid-19th century inn that once greeted guests in search of the remedial powers at the local spa wells. Today, guests are checking in to discover McGrath’s gastronomic powers with his set taster menus offering the best of local produce, from goat’s cheese, wood pigeon to crab and turbot. The open hearth, high bar, piano and timber fixtures retain the pub’s character while the bedrooms combine heritage with contemporary style, with cast-iron baths, tongue and grove walls and muted shades.
Kenmare, Co Kerry; rooms from €70; odonnabhain-kenmare.com
In the brightly painted village of Kenmare, on the crossroads between the Iveragh Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula, O’Donnabháin’s Townhouse is the best place in the village to catch a traditional Irish music session. Its quintessentially Irish bar interior with giant supporting ceiling beams and intricate stone masonry that dates back to the building’s origins a quarter of a millennium ago, has proven popular with advertising executives looking to capture an authentic setting for their ads. The simple, locally sourced cooking offers a crowd-pleasing menu and the standard rooms are comfortably furnished. Head during the off-season to enjoy the famous Ring of Kerry without the tour buses.
Day’s Beach Bar and Guesthouse
Inishbofin, Co Galway; rooms from €55; thebeach.ie
The fusion of an old-fashioned bar with a beach cabana and a dollop of good old-fashioned hospitality might tick every box in the quest for a secluded Irish island getaway. The words “arrive as visitors… leave as friends” are painted on to the cottage walls, promising an intimate service that moves beyond a digital greeting on the bedroom flatscreen. Four generations of the Day family have operated this sand fringed inn, with husband and wife team Adrian and Orla currently at the helm. While they stripped back and whitewashed the interior and exposed the teak floorboards, the bar is still anchored in its past with maritime memorabilia. The menu echoes that fusion, with freshly caught pollock or lobster or panko-coated squid available while the four bedrooms are pared back in style. The island’s desolate beauty is best explored on foot, when visitors can discover its past as a saint’s place of exile, a pirate queen’s base and the place where Cromwell incarcerated Catholic clergy.
Clonakilty, Co Cork; rooms from €90; ansugan.com
With its low ceiling, floor dips, whitewashed stone and old world style, the interior of this seafood bar has fared well through the centuries. The crammed shelves with local keepsakes, ambient light and matured wooden fixtures work well as a backdrop to the best of west Cork’s lush food scene. Since the O’Crowley family took over 30 years ago, they have perfected their signature seafood pie with winning mix of salmon, cod, prawn and garlic, along with a plethora of other dishes, and being Clonakilty, black pudding makes a high-profile appearance. The bedrooms are located around the corner in a Georgian townhouse, with sash windows, period décor and modern facilities. A statue of the Big Fellow, Michael Collins, stands on a square further down Emmet Street, a reminder that this comely seaside town is the birthplace to the eminent statesman.
Nevin’s Newfield Inn
Tiernaur, Co Mayo; rooms from €80; nevinsinn.com
Serving fishermen long before the arrival of rail travel to the area in the 18th century, this typical country inn overlooking Clew Bay on Mayo’s Atlantic coastline has adapted to new markets without losing sight of its origins. While local train travel ended decades ago, Nevin’s bar, with its timber panelling and open fire has become the refuge of cyclists along the recently developed Great Western Greenway. Following the old rail line from Westport to Achill Island, Nevin’s sits midway between the trail head and terminal, so expect to see as many bikes as cars parked outside its low rise, period façade. The lounge offers contemporary food cooked from local ingredients, while the bedroom wing has four simply decorated bedrooms.
O’Neill’s Victorian Pub and Townhouse
Pearse Street, Dublin 2; rooms from €124; oneillsdublin.com
Facing on to the northern rim of Trinity College, with the words “a pub with rooms” embellished in gold lettering over the door, this city centre establishment with its bloom-decked exterior has retained the essence of pre 1916 Dublin. The warm timber furnishing with rambling nooks and random shades cast by stained glass windows hark back to Victorian times, but the eight upstairs bedrooms match modern expectations. The bar offers standard pub food, with gourmet burgers, fish and chips and daily specials etched on to a chalkboard. The pub’s claim to fame is that it harboured rebels during the War of Independence. To discover a backdrop to that time, take a 10-minute stroll across the River Liffey to the GPO’s Witness History Museum on O’Connell Street.
Aughris, Co Sligo; rooms from €60; thebeachbarsligo.com
The sturdy, whitewashed walls and thatched roof of this cottage have harboured guests from the full force of the Atlantic Ocean for more than two centuries. Across from its sandy bay, Benbulben’s giant limestone block form draws the eye, while the original stone fireplace and low timber ceilings draws in guests through its red painted door for a flavour of nostalgic Ireland. It’s a local music venue, with a guaranteed session every Saturday night, when guests are encouraged to participate. Go native with the menu, seafood chowder, oysters or Irish stew accompanied by Guinness or a local brew from Sligo’s Lough Gill Brewery. The rooms are located behind the bar, in a dormer with standard furnishings.
Portmagee, Co Kerry; rooms from €70; moorings.ie
For an edge-of-world experience, visit the Moorings in Portmagee, the closest pub to Planet Ahch-to, Star Wars’ epic cinematic location that was partially filmed on Co Kerry’s Skellig Michael. It’s located on the village harbour front where boats ferry visitors to the Skellig tiny island (or Planet Ahch-to) for a day trip to climb 700ft above the untamed ocean to discover an ancient monastic settlement. In contrast, the Moorings’ brightly coloured plaster finish is a welcoming haven from the Atlantic’s awakened force. Inside, the pub has all the hallmarks of a traditional Irish tavern, with elevated nooks, high stools, blazing flames in its inglenook fireplace, solid bar along with seafaring paraphernalia like fishnet and ship’s compass. Rooms are modern and individually decorated.
Quin, Co Clare; rooms from €60; theabbeytavernquin.com
This early 19th century village tavern is a bastion of local hospitality in Quin Village, a bolthole in the heart of mid Co Clare’s lush countryside. Stretching across twin vernacular buildings that once housed the community’s commercial nerve centre, a haberdashery, store and pub, the Abbey Tavern now offers hearty fare and live traditional Irish music within its hefty timber beams and open limestone walls. Each of the five bedrooms are simply furnished and nestled into the eaves. They promise a view of Quin Abbey, an impressive 15th century ruin that dominates the village’s streetscape. The location is a hiker’s paradise, with marked trails leading to ancient hill forts or Magh Adhair, the inauguration site of King Brian Boru.