The Town of Ennis is the administrative capital of the county of Clare. Situated on the River Fergus it lies right in the middle of a county which can be culturally divided between east and west. About a fifteen-minute drive from Shannon International Airport the town is blessed with a magnificent motorway infrastructure which now makes the town far too easy to bypass if on your way to Galway and beyond. Don’t make this mistake, stop and take in the town; it’s well worth it.
Ennis is considered by many to be the capital of Irish traditional music. You’d be hard-pressed to go out on a night meandering the town’s narrow medieval streets without coming across a few good pubs hosting the best of local musicians entertaining their customers with the rarest of tunes. In this feature, journalist and adopted son of Ennis, Ger Leddin looks at the ten best pubs Ennis has to offer.
10. Nora Culligans, Abbey Street
Rapidly becoming the place to be seen in, Nora Culligans sits on the site of what was once Peter Considine’s pub in Abbey Street. Becoming famous for its wide selection of both whiskey and tequila Culligans caters for a younger more ‘with-it’ crowd. This pub boasts both a balcony bar and a beer garden. Culligans plays host to a wide variety of live music acts from rock to blues to jazz and back again. If you do drop in for a visit be prepared, you’ll have a late but an enjoyable night on the town.
9. Lucas Bar, Parnell Street
It seems that every pub in Ennis is subject to traditional music sessions breaking out at the drop of a hat. Lucas Bar in Parnell Street is no exception to this rule. This is a bar frequented by all age groups, visitors and locals alike. It’s a typical Irish bar, no more-no less. Even saying that it does have a character; a traditional exterior leads you into a slightly over-the-top interior which is quaint colourful and cosy. Its vintage style interior allows you to step back a bit in time, to relax sipping a pint during the day or choose from its extensive gin range for a pre-dinner cocktail. You could even drop back later in the night and join in the merriment that this pub is well known for.
8. Dan O’Connell’s Bar, Abbey Street
Located at the very top of Abbey Street, directly across from the statue of the 19th-century Irish politician Daniel O’ Connell, from whom the bar takes its name, lies Dan O Connell’s pub; its right in the heart of the town. A great pub to sit by the window during the day and watch the town go by. Again a great spot for lunch; this bar has a good and varied menu but what attracts most people to this establishment is the frequency of the organised traditional music sessions. For the aficionados of trad, this is the bar to visit. Have a look at their advertising, find out who is playing then visit and enjoy.
7. Mickey Kerins Bar, Lifford Road
If you want to get a flavour of a true Irish pub, then Mickey Kerins on the Lifford Road is exactly what you should be looking for. Just opposite the Ennis Court House and down the road from the County Council offices, this bar has three distinct characteristics. At lunch hour the pub is frequented by the town’s legal eagles and the council’s administrative staff — and believe me these people know a good spot for lunch or a sandwich when they see it. During the afternoons the bar takes on its second persona, that of a very friendly and efficient local bar where many of its regulars will drop in for a quiet pint and a chat. Night times in Kerins are different; the after-work office parties are joined by the locals who are out for a good time in familiar and friendly surroundings. Someone will produce a fiddle and begin playing. He’ll be joined by someone else with a tin whistle, then a guitar will join the mix, then a good old sing-song will start up. Expect a good night. A great place for a pint of Guinness, believe me, I know.
6. Ciarans Bar, Francis Street
In Francis Street Ennis, just opposite the side of the Queen’s Hotel, you will notice a traditional Irish shop front. On the top panel of the shop-front, there are, along with the name, Ciarans Bar, two other words, Ceol and Craic. That’s exactly what you’ll get in this long established pub, music, and good old-fashioned fun. Ciarans isn’t a bar too often frequented by tourists; more by loyal regulars, who return time after time to enjoy its cosy atmosphere and be among friends. If you are a tourist to Ennis and take my advice to visit Ciarans, sit back sip your pint join in the conversations — you will be welcomed — but keep it to yourself for this bar is truly a hidden gem, and we wouldn’t really want to spoil it.