Best pubs for trad music in Ireland
It is undeniable that one of Ireland’s top tourist zones is Temple Bar in Dublin. And why not: it’s an area of cobbled streets, lined with pubs serving Guinness direct from the factory just down the road, with craic well into the night and live music too.
But it’s not just the hot spots of Dublin where you will be able to sup a pint and listen to some vibrant traditional Irish music.
Irish trad or just trad for short has been making a comeback, whether it's the metal-turned-trad group Lynched or celebrated ‘supergroup’ The Gloaming, there’s a resurgence which shouldn’t go ignored.
So if you wish to experience some authentic music in the Emerald Isle, the Flexicover team has put together an insider’s guide of some great places to check out some trad sessions.
Slattery’s, Capel Street, Dublin
Minutes away from the River Liffey is one of Dublin’s best-kept secrets: Slattery’s, a low-key pub which serves exemplary Guinness and is known for their warm and welcoming clientele. The dark wooden furniture and low lighting adds to the cosy feel even on the rare days it’s sunny outside. Its trad sessions are advertised on its boards outside, but there are often impromptu sessions depending on who’s in. The pub is an early house so opens at 7am, but you’d have to be a brave soul to see who fancies a pint before breakfast.
DeBarra’s is one of the most active pub venues outside of the main cities, with acts from all genres taking to its small but celebrated stage. However, it’s best known for its trad bands, in part due to John Spillane, who’s been playing a monthly residency for over a decade. A member of Dublin group BellX1 explained its charm: “The fact that DeBarra’s is nestled away in a gem like Clonakilty makes it all the better. It’s a magical town full of special people. It’s one of those rare places where the music is in the walls, you know it the moment you walk in. This is not something that could be store bought.” We think that sums things up pretty nicely why this is a venue not to be missed…
The guidebooks that steer you to Athy (pronounced ‘a thigh’) are few and far between – it’s a small, nondescript village away from the tourist trail. But this year it celebrates 50 years of the Clancy's Traditional Irish Music session on Thursday nights, making it the world’s longest trad session they claim. Head along to watch regulars and newcomers sing touching ballads, centuries-old folk songs, and newer ones with a spot of humour. For whiskey aficionados, this pub gets better: it boasts a wide range of Irish craft whiskies, perfect to nurse over the course of the night.
Just next door to the rock and pop institution of Whelan’s, Devitts is a hotbed for rising folk talent. In keeping with the buzzy atmosphere of the area (think Camden on one, long street) it attracts a younger crowd and a younger set of musicians too. The pace is faster, the bar is livelier, but the heart from which the music is borne is just the same. Catch their sessions on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – it’s free to get in but full attention is appreciated.
Matt Molloys, Westport
Given that Matt Molloys is owned and named after The Chieftans’ flautist Matt Molloy, it’s no surprise that its trad sessions are hugely popular in the far-flung town of Westport. Nowadays, the pub is run by his two sons who ensure that the standard of the live music lives up to its name. But don’t be surprised to see local celebrity Matt in there himself, treating his regulars to pints, chatting to newcomers and taking to the stage himself. At night, the pub gets as rowdy as trad pubs in an Irish town can get, so if you’re after a contemplative session this won’t be the right one for you. But to see the very definition of Irish craic, hold onto your hats and step through its doors.
Whether you fancy heading to Ireland to sample trad music in person or are off somewhere else entirely this year for a bit of ‘R & R’ it’s good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.
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