3 Best Bars in The Midlands, Ireland

Sean's Bar

Fodor's choice

In Athlone's buzzing Left Bank sector, Sean's Bar styles itself as the world's oldest pub (a claim some cynics dispute, although a framed certificate from Guinness World Records says otherwise), dating to AD 900. This date has inspired the house beer, AD 900, a pale lager brewed in County Carlow. In 2018, Sean's produced two new whiskeys specially blended for the bar: one is dedicated to Luain, the first innkeeper, and is a blend of grain and malt, while the other is a malt whiskey called Clonmacnoise, a tribute to the monks who perfected the art of distillation, and with which you can wash down a complimentary dark chocolate whiskey-infused truffle. Sawdust on the floor of this dimly lighted, low-ceiling, long, narrow bar helps give it a rustic look and soaks up spills. Framed pictures and prints line the walls alongside maps of the Shannon navigation system, and the beer garden stretches almost down to the water. There's traditional music—or on Wednesday, jazz and folk—most nights of the year.

Note the slight tilting of the floor; this was an early medieval feat of engineering---when the Shannon River's water rose and spilled into town, it would flow in one door and out the other.

J. J. Hough's

Travelers love Hough's, where on spring and summer nights there's usually a sing-along around the German piano. Try the cocktails or the house special, Shakalaka Boom, a mix of Irish whiskey and Bailey's cream liqueur. Note the walls decorated with business cards, testifying to the pub's popularity the world over. Side rooms lead to a beer garden with wooden chairs and tables. You can also join in card games with the locals, and there's generally traditional music on Saturday night and most nights between April and October. The owner, Mick Hough, has been known to launch into song himself on occasion. If you're feeling peckish, 10 different styles of pizza are served from lunchtime to closing time.

Main St., Banagher, Ireland

Ramsbottom's Bar

For a glimpse of old Ireland, call into Ramsbottom’s in Lower Main Street where a log fire burns brightly beside comfy settees. It started out in the 1870s selling animal feed and importing the finest teas, wines, and brandies, but this former grocery-cum-bar now sells only alcohol, although reminders of its past are all around. The original bacon-slicing machine from the grocery shop is on display; walls are adorned with sepia-tinted photographs, whiskey and cigarette signs, and record sleeves featuring John McCormack and Bing Crosby, and banknotes from around the world are pinned to the bar. For €2, you can select your own five tunes from the jukebox, sit back, and enjoy a flawless pint.

101 Lower Main St., Portlaoise, Ireland

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