I’d forgotten how special it was because it is more than a busy year since I last relished a night in my old Galway pub the Crane on Sea Road about which I have often written here down the years.

Even when I never mentioned the house at all it is a fact that many of the yarns and characters that you all met here were folk and stories I encountered there.

So it was with the greatest of pleasure that I pushed in the door in the dying days of another February to spend the evening with my strong sons Cuan and Dara. We had a mighty night.

It is about this time every year, as the evenings lengthen and the sun is a little more golden at dawn and twilight, that I am inclined to issue my first bulletins to those amongst you about to visit Ireland for the first time.

I will never offer better advice in the months ahead than the morsel I am offering you all now. That advice is that the Crane, for a whole host of reasons, is the best public house in the whole of Ireland today.

If you are within a day's drive of Galway during your trip then make sure you spend an evening there. You will not regret it and you will return again for sure.

I have to say here and now that I have no vested interest in this advice. When the Crane was my local first about 25 years ago I came to know the name of the man then running it.

There have been several ownership/lessee changes since, and I have not the foggiest notion who is now the proprietor. I do not care either.

What is certain is that the old pub's quality and character has not changed at all. If anything there was better craic around the bar on this visit than ever before.

The bars were crammed both upstairs and downstairs with musicians and merrymakers and singers and storytellers and interesting characters. It was a special and heartwarming night.

This kind of atmosphere is something that one can neither arrange nor purchase. It either happens or it does not and, to my joy, it always happens in the Crane.

By the time we arrived and climbed the stairs past the photographs of the fabled music and singalong sessions of nights from years ago or maybe only weeks ago, the musicians lined along the wall on their stools and chairs were in full flight along what they call a blast of reels hereabouts.

There most have been 20 musicians, male and female, young and older, playing about every instrument possible, totally lost in their art.

Earlier, and interspersed with the music later, there were singers who were ready to sing at the drop of a hat. Those listening to the fare, as always, were drawn from many countries and cultures. You could see how fully they were enjoying themselves.

As I said above, I had forgotten exactly how unique is a Galway night in the Crane. Much of that is because Galway City is the liveliest and merriest of all the Irish cities, is enlivened by the student population of its university and technical college and, especially in the last decade, by a very cosmopolitan citizenry.

It was always known as the City of The Tribes and nowadays, for sure, there are Tribesmen from about everywhere in the world mingling with the locals. It all adds to the buzz.

And still inside the first hour, like so many times in the past, I found myself in chat with a man directly descended from a Black and Tan! I will tell ye that story sometime soon.

It is a valid point, I think, that alcoholic consumption is only one element of an evening in an Irish pub. Yes one drinks a few drinks there, along the bar with friends, but the booze is not a really crucial part of the craic.

I normally, for example, go on the dry either during Lent or during the month of November. Like many others, that has never stopped me going out to the pub when I felt like it and enjoying the night just as fully whilst drinking Coke or orange squash.

My sons and I had a few beers and took a cab home and swore it will be soon we will open the door of the old pub on Sea Road again.

Take my advice and make the same resolution. You will be delighted that you did so, and if you see me sitting in the corner when you come upstairs then come over for a chat.