This Christmas reconnect and raise a glass in one of Ireland’s cosiest traditional pubs, writes Melanie May.
8 Great Irish Pubs For A Christmas Reunion.
The Christmas get together down the local is an enduring Irish tradition. All across the country, friends and family gather in familiar surroundings and catch up, wind down and share stories and embraces. Perhaps this year, more so than any other, the reunions will be even sweeter after such long Covid separations for many. So, to make your festive gatherings more magical, we’ve put together a list of some of the cosiest, most welcoming traditional Irish pubs serving the best pints, food, craic and conversations. Sláinte!
Paddy Coynes Pub, Tullycross, Connemara
There are many things to love about Paddy Coynes – the roaring fire, the creamy pints, the history — but it’s the people that make this pub perfect. The staff are friendly and welcoming and so too are the loyal regulars. The banter and the craic really set this place apart.
Come here at Christmas with your mates and relax and unwind as the chat and stories flow as freely as the Guinness. The crackling fire provides a wonderfully wintery soundtrack. It’s all very homely, especially with the trinkets and artefacts from the pub’s two-hundred-year history that adorn the walls.
You’ll also get a taste of home when you enjoy the delicious dishes which are made with as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible. This pub really is the great Irish escape.
The Castle Inn, Main Street, Cork
The Caste Inn in Cork is a traditional, small narrow pub that has a country feel in the middle of the city.
The O’Donovan family have been running the place since the 1930s and patron, Kate Lawlor-Lyne says it’s the first place she’ll head when she comes home this year from Worcester. “It’s where I first met my now-husband on the 23rd of December, 7 years ago. It will be a pint of creamy stout for me and a packet of scampi fries sat by the roaring fire.
The O’Donovans always treat their regulars like family.” You’ll find Micheal O’Donovan behind the bar and he loves this time of year. “It’s great to see friends meeting up for a drink and see the smiles and hugs.
It was one of the biggest things we missed last year while closed. The snug is back open and the fire is lightning and it’s very inviting to sit, enjoy a drink, and hear the world go by.”
The Bank Bar, College Green, Dublin
With its stained-glass ceiling and mosaic-tiled floors, The Bank Bar is an impressive and ornate setting for a get-together right in the heart of Dublin City. But this beautiful bar bedazzles even more at Christmas with its delightful decorations and festive feel.
Grab a table by the roaring fire, sink into the soft leather chairs and enjoy a great selection of food made with lots of Irish ingredients. The seafood chowder served with Guinness bread is a wonderful winter warmer.
There’s a great selection of drinks too. If you are looking for a pub with lots of space, lots of choice and lots of Christmas cheer, The Bank Bar on College Green is a wonderful option.
The Harbour Bar, Bray, Co Wicklow
Any local will tell you, The Harbour Bar is not a pub, it’s a Bray institution.
If you are after a pub with character, this is it. Curios and mementoes collected over its 150-year history fill the nooks and crannies, including the famous moose head donated by actor Peter O’Toole. This was a gesture of gratitude to the owners who made sure he was returned in one piece to his hotel each night.
The Harbour Bar, with its warren of rooms, has somewhere to suit everyone. For a quiet pint and deep conversation cosy up in the snug. Head to the Good Room and warm your cockles by the fire. Ready to tap and clap along? Make your way to the main bar and lounge for some live music. And when you are feeling peckish, enjoy a traditional O’Toole Toastie loaded with ham, cheese, tomato and onion.
Nancy’s Bar, Ardara, Co Donegal
With a welcome as warm as the roaring log fire, the flagstone floors, mismatched furniture and more than 100 Toby jugs hanging from the ceiling, Nancy’s Bar not only captures the imagination but it captures the heart too.
Nancy’s has been run by seven generations of the McHugh family and the pub still retains the traditional, cosy feel of old. “People like coming to Nancy’s at Christmas because there’s a familiar, cosy atmosphere. During the holidays it’s mainly family members working in the bar, so it gives the place a nice homely feel” says Jenny, the bar manager.
Pull up a chair by the fire and enjoy some fresh seafood like the famous seafood chowder, local oysters and mussels while chatting to old friends and making new ones. While you are here, you really ought to order ‘one of the best Irish coffees in the country’, according to Dead Rabbit NYC and believe us, they know what they are talking about.
With its focus on local food and drink and local musicians dropping in for a session, Nancy’s Bar is a truly unique pub with an atmosphere of conviviality and authenticity.
Roche’s Bar, Duncannon, Co Wexford
When Sinéad Fox heads home to Duncannon at Christmas, she and her sisters and brothers make a beeline to Roche’s Bar, which is their ‘home local’. “Christmas is buzzing in Roche’s,” says Sinéad, “you meet people home for the holidays and catch up on years of news.
It’s a real home from home. A traditional pub that has kept up with the times. Everyone from young to not-so-young is happy here in the nooks and crannies. Cosy fires, a warm welcome, great food, and nearly everyone knows your name and your order.”
Being a seafood village Sinéad says the seafood and fish dishes are always “top-notch.” With its roaring fireplace, comfy seating areas and cosy Christmas vibes, you’ll find yourself whiling away the hours with ease in the family-run seaside pub.
Hargadon’s, Sligo Town, Sligo
Hargadon Bros. has been at the heart of Sligo life for over 150 years and stepping through its doors is like stepping back in time. It is one of those pubs that have no TVs. Entertainment comes in the form of conversation and storytelling which takes place in front of the roaring fires in the snugs, alcoves, anterooms and hideaways.
The little rooms with old wooden chairs and benches are full of character and charm and are perfect spots for cosying up and catching up for hours. With all the nattering, no doubt you’ll work up an appetite, and you are in for a real treat here as the menu pays homage to local producers with ingredients coming from less than 60 miles from where you sit.
For a slice of Sligo life and the spirit of a real Irish pub, Hargadon’s is hard to beat.
J.J Houghs Singing Pub, Banagher, Co Offaly
J.J Houghs, with its door festooned with vines, is a landmark on Banagher’s Main Street. “J.J Houghs has always been a meeting place for friends and families, especially around Christmas time with our open turf fire providing the perfect centrepiece where people of all generations gather to converse, sing, and sip our famous creamy Guinness and spicy hot toddies.
We all sadly missed out on this experience last year, so Christmas 2021 will be a truly special one,” enthuses owner Gerald Hough. Your drink also comes with a side order of history. The building is a listed heritage site and the concrete floor dates back to an old 14th-century monastery.
The pub is also a great place to enjoy a trad session and it’s something that Noel Hayes looks forward to every year when he goes home. “I grew up across the road from J.J Houghs. It has always been a traditional Irish music pub and that music sent me to sleep in my youth. It is essentially the same now as it has always been. A drink by an open fire with family in J.J Houghs is bliss.”
So, for a traditional Irish pub with heart, heritage, hops and a chance of a hooley, head to J.J Houghs for your Christmas reunion.
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