Drinking in the Shadows of Ireland's Literary Icons

April 15, 2020

Brendan Beehan statue next to a river

Above: Statue of Brendan Behan, one of Dublin's favorite literary heroes and avid bar patron

Ireland may be famous for many things: green pastures with wandering sheep, year-round rain, traditional Celtic dance and the music of Thin Lizzy, The Cranberries and U2, but travel to the emerald isle and you can also partake in two of Ireland's most popular pastimes simultaneously: drinking and literature. Home to a massive list of the English language's most notable writers and poets, there's no shortage of historic watering holes and cafes founded in their names or celebrated as the place where these iconic literary minds paid their patronage. Here's a sample of some of our favorites:


Davy Byrne’s, Dublin

James Joyce and Davy Byrnes Bar

Left: Novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic James Joyce, Right: Davy Byrne's Bar

As one of Ireland's most famous literary exports, James Joyce immortalized Davy Byrne's pub in his classic novel Ulysses, a bar he frequented himself. There's even a holiday in Joyce's honor, Bloomsday on June 16th, where patrons stop by Davy Byrne's to relive the Ulysses protagonist Leopold Bloom's glass of burgundy and Gorgonzola sandwich.


The Strand Hotel & Bar, Bray Co. Wicklow

Oscar Wilde and The Strand Hotel

Left: Poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, Right The Strand Hotel

Venture less than 20 miles outside of Dublin to The Strand Hotel in Bray Co. Wicklow, formally owned by literary giant Oscar Wilde. Founded by his parents in 1870 and later inherited by Wilde in 1876, this boutique hotel includes ten rooms, a restaurant, and a bar specializing in the Irish drinking staples of whiskey and gin.


The Brazen Head, Dublin

Jonathan Swift and The Brazen Head

Left: Author and satirist Jonathan Swift, Right: The Brazen Head Pub

This iconic pub is Dublin's oldest bar, dating back to 1198, but its present form has been around since 1754. Most notable for hosting Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels, as well as James Joyce and Brendan Behan, The Brazen Head was also a refuge for Irish revolutionists Robert Emmet and Michael Collins


The Yeats Building, Sligo

WB Yeats and The Yeats Building Sligo

Left: Poet W.B Yeats, Right: The Yeats Building

Often referred to as Yeats Country, the picturesque coastal town of Sligo is where the renowned poet's relatives lived and where he vacationed as a child. One of the few Irish writers who wasn't known for his drinking habit, locals, and visitors honor his memory at The Yeats Building with poetry readings, historical exhibitions, annual festivals held every July, and a visit to his gravesite in nearby Drumcliff Cemetery.


James Toner, Dublin

Bram Stoker and James Toner Pub Dublin

Left: Author Bram Stoker, Right: James Toner Pub

Another Dublin pub with an impressive guest list, James Toner was a favorite haunt of the world's most famous vampire writer, Bram Stoker. James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, and even W.B Yeats saddled up for a few drinks, inspiring many of their characters and classic depictions of Dublin life.


McDaids Pub, Dublin

Brendan Beehan and McDaids Pub Dublin

Left: Poet, short story writer, and novelist Brendan Behan, Right: McDaids Pub

Many of Dublin's bars are steeped in history, but this might be the only one that previously served as the city's morgue and a Moravian church before becoming a popular drinking establishment. Their biggest claim to fame lies with Irish writer Brendan Behan who once said he was a "drinker with a writing problem." Other regulars included James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O'Brien, J.P. Donleavy, and Liam O'Flaherty, some of whom have their portraits decorating the walls of this often visited watering hole.


Honorable mention: The Bernard Shaw, Dublin

George Bernard Shaw and The Bernard Shaw Pub Dublin

Left: Playwright and literary critic George Bernard Shaw, Right: The Bernard Shaw Pub 

A far departure from the list above, The Bernard Shaw does not have historical patronage of famous Irish writers but instead hosts hip Dubliners under the name of the Nobel Prize winner and celebrated playwright who penned Pygmalion. The literary hero once said, "whiskey is liquid sunshine," and the bar at The Bernard Shaw would not disappoint him - and that's good enough for us.

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