For many visiting Ireland, the lure of a pint in Dublin’s Temple Bar is all too fierce, and you’ll find many of those who visit the capital and fancy a tipple never venture far from its cobbled streets.
While Temple Bar is definitely worth a ramble through, Dublin’s pub scene has heaps more more to offer from a value but, more importantly, a historical perspective – you just need to know where to look.
So avoid the hens, stags and overpriced pints, and venture into some of the best pubs in Dublin that boast a wealth of history, charm and character.
The Confession Box, 88 Marlborough St, Dublin 1
Our first stop off point, The Confession Box pub, stands at 88 Marlborough Street on the ground floor of a beautiful old Georgian era building. Dating back to the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), this pub has a quirky story behind where its name originated.
During the conflict that took place during Ireland’s war for for independence from the British, the last know excommunications from the Catholic Church in Ireland took place.
The excommunications were directed against those involved in the rebellion, of which Bishop Daniel Cohalan of Cork and Michael Collins were included. Back then the pub was known as the Maid of Erin and some of the rebels were known to drop by the pub to receive Communion and Confession from sympathetic priests from the nearby Pro-Cathedral, earning the pub the nickname The Confession Box.
The Oval Bar, 78 Abbey Street Middle, Dublin 1
The story behind Dublin’s Oval Bar is mighty impressive. In the years that led up to 1916, the Oval Bar became a haunt for members of the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers. On Easter Monday, 1916, the Irish Volunteers captured the General Post Office (GPO) and proclaimed the Irish Republic.
The week that followed brought devastation and untold destruction to the city of Dublin and the Oval. On the Wednesday, the HMS Helga II sailed up the River Liffey and shelled Liberty Hall and the GPO. A blazing inferno engulfed the city centre, with many buildings, including the Oval, utterly destroyed.
The pub’s owner, John Egan, set about rebuilding the pub and it was able to re-open its doors for business in 1922. Just in time for the civil war… although it shut its doors – the building remained unharmed.
Kehoes, 9 South Anne Street, dublin 2
Kehoe’s Bar boasts a rich literary history. First licensed in 1803, it stands in all its glory, a Victorian shrine with the interior decked out as it was after its 19th century renovation.
Kehoe’s was regularly visited by literary giants Kavanagh, Behan and Myles na gCopaleen. According to legend, John Kehoe was rarely pleased to see the three arrive as their high spirited showmanship clashed with this once strict and conservative pub.
When you enter, have a look around for the serving hatch and buzzer in the snug which both remain exactly as they did 100 years ago.
As if you need any other reason to drop by, Kehoe’s is widely regarded as being home to one of the best pints of Guinness in Dublin.
John Kavanagh’s (The Gravedigger’s), 1 Prospect Square, Dublin 9
Established in 1833, John Kavanagh’s lays claim to the title of the oldest family run pub in Dublin, with the current family the 6th generation to run the business.
Although the exterior is less glamorous than some of the previously mentioned Dublin pubs, Kavanagh’s boats a bountiful history and a quirky nickname to go with it. You’ll commonly hear this pub referred to as ‘The Gravediggers” because of a story that stems from the adjoining Glasnevin cemetery.
Many years ago, gravediggers from Glasnevin were known to knock on the back wall of the pub to request a pint. They’d then be served through the railings linking the pub and the graveyard, hence the name.
Kavanagh’s is a genuine unspoilt Victorian bar with a reputation for serving up a cracking pint of the black stuff.
Mulligans, 8 Poolbeg St, Dublin 2
The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge St, Dublin 8
The Brazen Head is officially Dublin’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198 when it started off as an eleventh century coach house.
While it’s unclear as to how much of the original coach house still remains, there’s a wealth of history within this busy little pub. The building that stands today dates back to the 1750’s, and it was known to be used by the United Irishmen while they planned their strategy in plotting against British Rule.
Robert Emmet (an Irish nationalist and rebel leader) kept a room at the Brazen Head and it was here that he planned the 1803 rising. Those familiar with James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, may recall the mentioning of the pub – ” you get a decent enough do at the Brazen Head for a bob”.
A tourist favourite, the pub does a roaring trade with live music ever night and Irish storytelling on occasion.