If the Irish didn’t invent the pub, they’ve certainly espoused its cause with great vigour. The pub retains a pivotal place in Irish society. It’s the place where stories are narrated, deals and pacts are made, jokes are told and traditional music is heard.
During the 1990s, the “Irish pub” concept (albeit with “authentic” period decor manufactured in Dublin) spread to far-flung points of the globe. Yet experiencing the real thing on its home turf to a live soundtrack of traditional music is still an unbeatable experience.
The country’s musical traditions remain essentially based on the age-old practice of passing down tunes and songs by oral transmission, from generation to generation and from friend to friend. The pub session has become its core, where the richness of the musical tradition can be experienced at first hand, and the craic (or crack) – that idiosyncratically Irish, heady combination of drink-fuelled chat, banter and fun – simply takes over.
With a pint of the black stuff in hand, here are some of the best, entirely authentic pubs to experience live music from the new Rough Guide to Ireland. It’s time to get started on a lifelong love affair with bodhráns, tin whistles, pipes and fiddles. But remember, sometimes the best sessions are the spontaneous and uproarious affairs you never expected to find.