Which one is Ireland’s oldest pub? It’s Sean’s Bar in Athlone. If you are travelling around Ireland a visit to Sean’s Bar is a must. Just a quick search on Instagram for Sean’s Bar results in thousands of pictures from both Irish and international tourists appreciating the oldest pub in Ireland.
History of Sean’s Bar
Sean’s Bar’s website has a short history of the venue.
The Journal and the BBC wrote reports on how the pub came about and how it has become a tourist attraction. Dating from AD 900, Sean’s Bar started as an Inn near the river Shannon. The founder was a man named Luain Mac Luighdeach, and his name is firmly embedded in Athlone’s history. The pub is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest pub in Ireland. The pub even pre-dates Athlone Castle, which was first built as a wooden structure in 1129. There is ongoing research on the possibility of Sean’s Bar being the oldest pub in Europe. This is made rather difficult by the scant availability of written records.
Drinks at Sean’s Bar
The beer and ale selection is quite limited – most people go to Sean’s to enjoy a patiently pulled Guinness. I tried O’Hara Irish Pale Ale, which is very refreshing. It’s produced by Carlow Brewing, an award-winning independent Irish brewery.
Ambience at Sean’s Bar
Sean’s Bar has a different atmosphere depending on the time of day (or evening). During the day it is much quieter and a favourite hangout with tourists. The staff are very knowledgeable about the history of the pub and of Athlone in general. In the evenings and particularly at the weekend, the place is teeming with punters who are mostly local. When there’s music you won’t find a corner to squeeze in.
Live Music at Sean’s Bar
Traditional Irish music bands perform at Sean’s Bar on a regular basis. You can ear music outside as you walk past and it lures you in – there’s a performance area at the front and one at the back.
During one of my visits a group of American tourists even approached the band with music requests. The live music always guarantees to get people up and dancing, and when the popular Billy Rock residency is in the building once a month, the whole place goes wild.
Late Night Bar
Sean’s Bar stays open until late, usually until 12.30am.