1. McCarthy's - Fethard, Co Tipperary
With a catchphrase like "We wine you, dine you, and bury you," one might be given to assume there's a cheekiness about this pub located in the smoky plain in mountainous Fethard. Yet there's no cheek here - in addition to a critically-acclaimed bar and restaurant, McCarthy's also features an Undertaking service, which they maintain is a "family business, so the personal touch has not been lost."
2. EJ Morrissey's, Abbeyleix, Co Laois
It's said that in better days, there was a de facto credo that said, "Thou shall not drive through Abbeyleix without pausing in Morrissey's for a pint." While there is no official record of this mantra, it is a good fit for the classic pub that features loads of old-world products one might've found in a grocery 50-odd years back. If Moses had carved this commandment into his tablets, maybe they'd have had a better time with the desert.
If you fancy yourself a musician or even just an aficionado, Ger and Breda Clancy have just the spot for you. Clancy's Pub is largely considered one of the best live music pubs of eastern Ireland. Every Thursday night, a crowd of musicians gathers at the pub to perform their artistry for the assembled patrons who sit comfortably on scruffy benches and assorted chairs. Considering the popularity of some particular pub songs, it is not unbelievable to imagine the entire pub singing along to chorus after chorus.
4. Tigh Neachtain's, Galway City, co Galway
A real family pub, owner Jimmy Maguire was born there and had his childhood bedroom upstairs. A fan of its classic appeal, Maguire says that "Very little has changed - I love old things and the way it was when I got it suited me fine." A popular literary bar, Tigh Neachtain's is a hit with students and old folk alike in the area - not unbelievable considering its prime location on one of the busiest streets in a city that is buzzing all year with tourism, students, and locals.
5. Thomas Connolly's, Sligo, Co Sligo
The tongue-and-groove walls of the pub feature rows of isolated, walled-off partitions that allow patrons to find some privacy in the gently popular bar in Sligo. The 19th-century facade might mislead an onlooker to think that the pub is a cozy, pint-sipping kind of place, but the buzz around the pub is a constant one, generating a crowd of local regulars at any time of day. The wide windows allow for plenty of natural light to delicately accent the dull, creamy brown of the interior.
6. De Barra's, Clonakilty, Co Cork
Touted as Ireland's number 1 folk music bar, De Barras has entertained a few prestigious clientele in its history as a staple in Clonakilty. Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was a featured regular gig at De Barra's for the last 27 years of his life, and Gavin Moore, nephew to Christy Moore, maintains a regular gig there as well. Christy offers that, "There's Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert, Sydney Opera House, and then there's De Barra's."
7. H McGinn, Newbliss, Co Monaghan
H McGinn pub in Newbliss was purchased by Hugh McGinn in 1912 and now-owner Annie McGinn has left the aesthetic of the place unchanged since the time of her parents. The pub draws in a motley crew of local characters, many of whom come from Annaghmakerrig, a nearby retreat established by theater director Tyrone Guthrie in his will. The retreat is aimed at artists and others of the like to be able to pursue their creative endeavors. A cast of peculiar characters often flock to the retreat, meaning that many of them wind up in the pub for a pint and good conversation. If you find yourself looking for inspiration, this pub might be the place for you.
8. M Finucane, Ballylongford, Co Kerry
The local pub in Ballylongford has maintained its name through a series of Michael Finucanes, currently standing with the current owner Michael Finucane III, who inherited the place after the passing of his father in 1982. One of those bars that is popular with the locals, it promotes a good atmosphere and good craic amongst the patrons. The upper shelf is lined with bits and bobs, crowded with things like tobacco-stained footballs, whiskey jars, brass lamps, and fishing nets. You might come to Ballylongford for the oysters, but you'll stay for a few rounds in Finucane's.
9. The Stag's Head, Dublin
The Stag's Head is a landmark pub in Dublin. Slightly off the beaten path, the way to find it in its alleyway location is to notice the tiled picture of a stag on the sidewalk just around the way from the pub proper. Composed of one large room with tables spaced intermittently along one wall, the Stag's Head boasts a couple of huge whiskey casks recessed into the right side of the pub.
10. Kelly's Cellars, Belfast, Co Antrim
The oldest licensed premises in Belfast, Kelly's Cellars is also one of the most attractive. Originally built in 1720 by Hugh Kelly, the pub started out as a bonded warehouse where rum, gin, and whiskey were the mainstays. Now almost 300 years old, the pub finds itself somewhere between an everyman drinking pub, political meeting ground, and historic museum. On weekends, there is a regular fare of folk musicians, and the Irish language is in full swing between both patrons and and staff. For a truly historical craic, this pub would be the ticket.