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The Brazen Head is one of the few Dublin pubs with an outdoor patio.
The Brazen Head is one of the few Dublin pubs with an outdoor patio. (GolfPublisher.com)

Dublin's best pubs: A guide for thirsty golfers in Ireland

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

DUBLIN, Ireland - Sorry, I'd like to tell you about the best pubs in Dublin, but I'm having some trouble reading my notes from those days and nights.

Well, as the British - whom the Irish don't particularly like - would say, I'll keep a stiff upper lip and just get on with it.

You can't hit the golf courses near Dublin without visiting the pubs. It would be like going to Dublin and skipping St. Patrick's Cathedral or Christ Church, like going to Dublin without thoughts of James Joyce, the Easter Rising, the potato famine or the IRA in your head.

First, some general impressions:

I was initially disappointed with Irish pubs. They looked like American impersonations of Irish pubs - too clean, too bright, too expensive. I'd imagined malty aromas mixing with the smell of peat fires and rich, loamy soil amid the sound of boisterous Irishmen. Some of the Irish pubs I visited didn't have any Irishmen in them. And I never did see any peat.

Eventually it sunk in that Dublin, being the capital of the booming "Celtic Tiger," is as thoroughly modernized as New York or Tokyo. If you aren't careful you might find yourself trapped at a coffee bar ordering a latte, surrounded by preening urbanites.

There has also been a surge in trendy pubs, especially in the touristy Temple Bar district.

With that in mind, here are best Dublin pubs, or at least the best ones I stumbled into during my intense and grueling research.

The Brazen Head: Yes, it's in the all tourist brochures, advertising itself as the oldest pub in Dublin (dating to 1198). Robin Hood supposedly got sloshed here (and relieved himself on the old stone outside).

And even if it means dodging the tourists posing for pictures under the bar's sign, you'll want to hoist one where Robin Hood did.

The Brazen Head is sited in an unpretentious area on lower Bridge Street, right around the corner from Christ Church and the Guinness brewery and a block from the River Liffey. You can imagine old Celtic fishermen coming in for a pint, despite the tall modern building looming over the pub.

There are two small bars and an outdoor patio, heated and partially sheltered for those incessant drizzly days. For all the tourist trade, the Brazen head does bring in authentic locals, like the grizzled old guy with red hair who kept trying to cadge drinks off me.

The best thing about the place, though, is the live music, particularly the Sunday jam sessions. A terrific band was playing when I stopped by, with locals periodically jumping in singing sad Irish folk ballads. When you looked around you saw their compatriots with eyes cast down, spilling tears in their beers.

The Stag's Head: Down Dame Court, a little side street off Dame Street near Trinity College, the Stag's Head has stained-glass windows, elaborate mahogany woodwork and a marble-topped bar watched over by, natch, a big stag's head.

It's a beautiful place, with cozy little rooms off the main bar and additional sections on three floors. It was granted something called the "James Joyce Pub Award" for being an "authentic Dublin pub," and Mr. Joyce himself tippled here. So authentic and atmospheric is the Stag's Head that they film movies here, including Educating Rita.

The Hairy Lemon: The Hairy Lemon is what you expect an Irish pub to look like - cramped downstairs, with lots of wood and all sorts of Irish memorabilia on the walls: antique swords, aged guns, old rugby-match ticket stubs.

There's a stone arch inside and a smoking room upstairs, more spacious than the downstairs bar. Located in an old part of town at the corner of Drury and Lower Stephen streets, it's popular with students and trendy types listening to classic and indie rock. Avoid it in the evenings, when students love to go to real, authentic Irish pubs and listen to rock.

Worth a second pint:

The Beggars Bush: No frills here, just some of the cheapest pints in Dublin.

Mulligan's: Another great pub, whittled down to the essentials. No eat, just drink.

The Long Hall: Don't go if you're having a bad hair day. A ton of mirrors, but great Guinness. And as the old ad slogan goes, "Guinness for strength."

Stop in if you're thirsty: Davy Byrnes, Kehoe's and Sinnotts.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Irish pubs

    Fintan wrote on: Jun 18, 2009

    Typical ugly American. Did you really expect peat fires, no one in Ireland has peat fires.Pubs were too clean for your expectation, did you not think that if they were dirty they'd be shut down by the health and safety officers.
    Standards of pubs ,hotels, food and general safety are higher in Ireland than in the United States.