You can’t truly say you’ve been to Clare unless you’ve immersed yourself in our rich pub culture, where people, drinks, music and tradition come together to make the special kind of magic for which we are famed. Wander into just about any pub in Clare come evening time and you’ll embrace ‘our way’ right there – in song, story, poem and banter. It might be that guy who, completely unannounced gets up and starts playing the fiddle… or the sweet voice of the girl who joins in the music. It could be the old farmer, telling folk tales of days long gone by – or just the gentle jokes or playful tall stories of the locals as they unwind over a pint. This is what the Clare craic is all about – and you don’t have to go very far to find it.
Nuala’s in Tuamgraney, East Clare
Famous for excellent quality food and drink and especially for its very warm welcome! This pub that dates back to 1850 lives by the ethic “you’ll be a stranger when you enter but you’ll leave a friend.”
The Blackstick’s Bar
Also in East Clare is The Blackstick’s Bar in O’Callaghan’s Mills – an old-style pub dating back to the mid 1800’s. It’s well-known for Irish traditional music sessions and some very famous musicians have shared their talents there – the likes of Mary McNamara, Pat O’Connor and Kevin Carey. Singing nights are held here – while there’s also a lovely area in the front of the pub with benches and seats so you can enjoy the long, light evenings in the summer. Be sure to call at night as this pub only opens when the sun starts to fade.
In central Clare, Brogan’s Bar is one of the oldest family-run traditional bar and restaurants in Ennis and has recently been beautifully renovated. It serves the best quality, locally-sourced Irish food and drink at great value-for-money prices – and its song and dance are as much a Part of the menu as the Guinness. “Every night at Brogan’s they just turn up. Musicians and those who love music. Spontaneous sessions come alive with the sounds of the fiddle and Bodran. Someone stands up and starts to sing and you wonder are they famous, they’re that good.”
Fawl’s Railway Bar
Fawl’s Railway Bar, Ennis has retained the beautiful, original old-style bar with traditional, old-fashioned snug. There’s a spacious beer garden at the back where you can enjoy a drink on sunnier days. Every Saturday night throughout the year, traditional music takes the floor: there are performances by local musicians and visitors are always encouraged to join in.
Durty Nelly’s is over in Bunratty, South Clare – Ireland’s oldest pub that has been Part of the landscape for nearly four hundred years! It’s the favourite watering hole of both locals and visitors alike – famous for excellent food along with a great sense of fun and friendly welcome.
O’Loclainn’s Irish Whiskey Bar
A North Clare hot spot is O’Loclainn’s Irish Whiskey Bar in Ballyvaughan which is Part of the world-famous Irish Whiskey Trail. It’s the kind of place that, when you step inside, the world just stops for a while and you’re caught up in something magical and soulful. The building dates back to the 1840’s and was once a shop – which you’ll notice by the original shop fittings which are still there. It was voted Best Bar in Ireland by Paul Clements in his book, Insight Travel Guide – and around 30 different whiskeys are on sale to enjoy – the pub’s signature drink being the gentle Green Spot Single Pot Still. Just time your visit well – the bar only opens at 8pm and at 7pm in the summer.
The living home of traditional Irish music and pub culture in West Clare is O’Keefes in Cooraclare – in a building that dates back to around 1740. Impromptu music sessions are held regularly and a monthly singer club- Chapel Gates Singers Club.
Eugene’s in Ennistymon has to be seen to be believed. It has one of the most amazing pub frontages you’ll ever see and is everything a pub should be – classic, intimate, cosy and full of character. There’s a massive collection off authentic vintage pub signs and memorabilia and some beautiful stained glass work. The local ‘singers’ club’ meets here – it just doesn’t get more Irish than this!
Kilshanny House offers delicious, locally-sourced homemade fare in a beautiful, original limestone house that dates back to 1860. The House is known for its lively spirit of celebration and as a place that truly embraces a love for music, song and story-telling.
O’Connors pub in Doolin – one of the most famous towns in the world when it comes to traditional music. You’ll find a great selection of local musicians here and sessions kick off at around 9pm. Exceptional traditional Irish fare made from local fresh produce is served all day.
Crotty’s Inn in Kilrush has the same kind of warmth and welcoming hospitality that made its name back in the early 19th century. It’s a visual treat as much as anything else – a symphony of mellowed wood, beautiful tiles and plate glass mirrors. It’s the perfect setting for some fabulous traditional music nights – enjoy!
The Long Dock
Over the years the Long Dock or “Dock” as it is fondly referred to by locals, has grown to enjoy a healthy reputation for providing quality food in a most relaxed atmosphere. It is located in the heart of Carrigaholt which is an ideal base for exploring the Loop Head Peninsula.
When Irish musicians get together to have a good time and make music using traditional Irish instruments like the fiddle and penny whistle, it’s called a seisiún.
These sessions are as old as Ireland and would traditionally take place in pubs and kitchen around the country. The important thing is: anyone can join in. If you sit and listen you’re a tourist… but join in and you’re one of us!