From the thatched exterior to the glowing fire and exposed brickwork inside, the Singing Pub in Downings (known locally as "An Sibín Ceoil") in Donegal is as cosy as they come. Irish is the first language of many here and traditional music fills the air each week with the Sunday session being particularly lively. Settle in with tasty pub grub like their seafood platter or steak on a lava stone to replenish after a round of golf or day out on the high seas.
After a brisk walk along the beach or day spent surfing in coastal Strandhill, The Strand Bar will warm you through with fresh seafood and their famous Guinness beef stew. A haven of roaring turf fires, old stone walls and welcoming snugs, sit back and relax at traditional music sessions on Wednesdays or enjoy live bands every weekend.
In the City of the Tribes, unwind in one of the oldest and best known pubs in the heart of Galway city at The Kings Head. The local mayor once called this same address home, and the building has many links to the 14 founding tribes the city is nicknamed after. Soak up the feel of over 800 years of living history and be entertained by lunchtime theatre, regular stand-up comedy and free live music.
Home to a pub, leather shop, on-site brewhouse and voices raised in song, Dick Mack’s in Daingean Uí Chúis (Dingle) has charisma to burn. Inspect the handmade belts and patchwork tweed caps before settling into a snug. You can take your pick of hundreds of whiskeys as you drink in the atmosphere and follow in the famous footsteps of Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and countless other celebrities who have propped up at the bar.
Next to the The Esquire Restaurant in seaside Tramore in County Waterford is the lovely Raglan Road pub. Against a backdrop of traditional Irish bric a brac including a bicycle on the ceiling, there are plenty of romantic nooks and crannies to suit couples seeking a tipple. Choose from a selection of over 300 ports, spirits and liqueurs to heat up the chilly twilight hours.
Tucked away in medieval Kilkenny, Bridie’s Bar and General Store gives a nod to the past of the historic town. Step into the quaint shop filled with old sweet jars, baked treats and great coffee. Then walk through the saloon doors to find a bar that’s all about old world cosiness with its dark wood, comfy seating and walls lined with pictures of Marble City notables.
On the shores of Lough Derg in Tipperary, Paddy’s Bar and Restaurant has been serving velvety pints of Guinness and homemade food for nearly two centuries. Grab a glass by an open fire and give your toes a good toasting. Irish music is featured every Friday with all musicians welcome, so nip in with your fiddle and a few friends to join the mix of local characters.
Expect tunes to warm the heart at JJ Houghs Singing Pub in Banagher, Offaly. With live trad music sessions nightly, you’ll soon be stamping your feet to the rhythm. Passed from generation to generation, behind the sprawling vine over the entrance it retains its cheerful cottage atmosphere despite modern additions like pizzas and a cocktail menu.
Dating all the way back to 900AD, Sean’s Bar is the oldest in the country and should be top of your list when visiting Athlone. Next door to Athlone Castle, there’s over a millennium of history here. Peer into a preserved section of wattle and wicker wall as you sip their specially blended whiskey, named after Luain their very first innkeeper.
Established in Ballymahon in 1850, Skelly’s Bar and Restaurant in Longford is still a family affair many generations on. Full of inviting alcoves and hidden corners, it’s a restaurant, country pub and guesthouse all rolled into one. The rustic wood panelled feel is the real deal, and great grub accompanies eclectic live music from punk to jazz.
Taking its cue from the mysterious 5000-year-old Brownshill Dolmen, heritage and hospitality come together in Carlow town at Teach Dolmain. Pottery and historic artefacts accompany a crackling open fire with lots of comfy seating. Food is served all day, with highlights like beer battered fresh Kilmore Quay cod with a generous serving of chips.
After a seaside stroll or walk up Bray Head, step into the bar once voted best in the world by Lonely Planet. The Harbour Bar in Bray, County Wicklow has plenty of space to hunker down as the nights draw in. Sprawl on a sofa or armchair in The Upstairs area or battle it out with a board game beside the fire in The Good Room. It's been a favoured haunt of Liam Neeson, Katherine Hepburn and Bono so you know you’re in good company.
Named after the hot-tempered 10th Earl of Kildare who literally lost his head in 1537, the Silken Thomas is known for a warm welcome. Check out the two bars, lounge or restaurant and sit down with a bowl of hearty vegetable soup and homemade brown bread. With accommodation on-site, you can easily transform a lazy afternoon in Kildare town into a mini break.
With its flagstone floor and turf on the fire The Bloody Stream in Howth evokes a different era. Known for a menu featuring local seafood, specialities include market chowder and Wright’s fish cakes. With live weekend music from traditional Irish to blues, jazz and pop, stay toasty inside while the mercury dips outside.
A music lovers’ mecca, Baggot Street stalwart O’Donoghue’s Bar has a legendary reputation thanks to its close connection with The Dubliners. Stop in at lunchtime for a warming soup and a sandwich and behold the floor to ceiling ‘walls of fame’ with notables from The Fureys to Phil Lynott. Or drop by at day’s end for a trad session in the bar and a pint of Guinness.
Pass under The Long Hall’s striped awnings on George's Street and be wrapped in the pleasant hum of conversation. Pull up a seat at the mirrored bar in this regular stop for Bruce Springsteen on his many visits to Ireland. Slip into a snug at this Victorian spot and pass a sociable afternoon catching up on the latest gossip.
Behind a discreet door in Temple Bar with the letters ‘VCC’ above it you’ll find the shabby chic glamour of the Vintage Cocktail Club. Ideal for a date night, snuggle into soft furnishings and bask in rosy lighting in a return to the golden age of speakeasies. Their extensive drinks menu includes classics like the Martini as well as signature serves like their Dutch Gold with Bols Genever, mango and plum.
Discover more things to do this winter in Ireland and plan where to visit next.