Top 5 best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo

County Mayo is a haven for fans of live music. So, if you’re looking for some great spots to make the most of it, read on.

The mountains and beaches of County Mayo have captured the hearts of singers and songwriters the world over, so it comes as no surprise that Mayo is at the core of traditional Irish music.

Although natives of Mayo, Donegal, and Cork still fiercely debate who has the longest coastline, no one can contest the fact that Mayo is a hot spot for a roaring ‘trad session’, an open turf fire, and the perfect pub.

Planning a trip to Mayo? We’ve got you covered – here is our list of the five best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.

5. Rouse’s Bar, Ballina – one of Ballina’s oldest bars

Rouse's is one of Ballina's oldest pubs.
Credit: Facebook / @rousesbar

Ballina was home to U.S. President Joe Biden’s great-great Grandfather and is the birthplace of Rouse’s Bar, the first trad music hub on our list of the five best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.

Rouse’s bar was established in 1946, but the building itself has been a pub since 1865, making it one of the town’s oldest bars.

Rouse's is one of the best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.
Credit: Facebook / @rousesbar

Everything about Rouse’s bar exudes authenticity, from the black and white photos on the walls to its decorative ornaments and cosy interior.

You can find live music here every Saturday from 10 pm, so enjoy the singsong and take advantage of the pub’s locally distilled beers and whiskeys.

Address: 53 Pearse St, Carrowcushlaun West, Ballina, Co. Mayo

4. Gielty’s Bar and Restaurant, Achill – for a traditional Irish feel

Gielty's offers a traditional Irish feel.
Credit: Facebook / @gieltysbarandrestaurant

Achill Island becomes an exotic paradise on a sunny day, with Keem Bay looking like ‘the beach’ from the early 2000s Leonardo DiCaprio film.

If you are planning a trip to Achill, tunes and a pint are among the essentials needed for cooling down after a long day of sightseeing.

We recommend Gielty’s bar, where you can find Irish music sessions almost every night of the week.

The staff at Gielty’s bar go above and beyond with their hospitality by providing a free shuttle service that will bring you to and from the pub from any location on the island. (Check Gielty’s website for more information.)

Now, you can enjoy each set of reels responsibly while sampling Gielty’s great wine and whisky selection.

Address: Main Street, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo

3. Clare Island Community Centre, Clare Island – one of the best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo

Clare Island Community Centre is one of the best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.
Credit: Facebook / @ClareIslandCommunityCentre

Irish rock band, The Saw Doctors, have immortalized Clare Island with their hit song ‘The Green and Red of Mayo’.

The lyrics of this song tell us that Clare Island is the ancestral home of Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile) and a great place to spot whales and other sea creatures.

Most importantly, Clare Island Community Centre is a must-go for fans of Irish music. Trad session nights take place there every Tuesday night throughout July and August.

Visitors can observe or participate in music, song, dance, and storytelling. All the bells and whistles that come with the traditional Irish music and culture experience.

Address: Clare Island, Capnagower, Westport, Co. Mayo

2. McDonnell’s Bar, Belmullet – the lobster pot

McDonnell's is a must-visit.
Credit: Instagram / @pstimpel

Belmullet is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) town of just over 1,000 people who all have one thing in common. They, as well as the tourists, adore McDonnell’s bar.

The truth is in the pub’s nickname, known as the ‘lobster pot’ to locals. The reason being that it feels like an addictive trap.

Minutes turn to hours in McDonnell’s, where visitors can enjoy regular live music and a fantastic pint of Guinness. McDonnell’s is unforgettable due to the kindness of the pub owner Pádraig, who greets each guest like a member of the family.

Pádraig hosts regular trad sessions, solo singers on guitar, and will often play music there himself.

Address: Lower Barrack St, Belmullet, Co. Mayo

1. Matt Molloy’s, Westport – our top spot for live music in Mayo

Matt Molloy's is one of the best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.
Credit: Instagram / @aux_clare

Westport is popular amongst tourists for its many attractions, such as Westport House and the famous pilgrimage mountain Croagh Patrick.

This makes it the perfect choice for the number one spot on our list of the five best places to experience live Irish music in County Mayo.

When you’re there, be sure to visit Matt Molloy’s pub. This spot is owned by Matt Molloy of the internationally renowned band The Chieftains. Brace yourself here for Irish music sessions seven nights a week!

Matt Molloy might even make an appearance.
Credit: Instagram / @mattmolloyspub

The music and laughter oozing from this bright red and white-painted bar will draw you in from down the street. When he’s not on tour, you can spot Matt joining in on small sessions.

If larger pubs are more your style, you will love the bright and airy yard bar in the back, which often hosts concerts and small gigs.

Address: Bridge Street, Westport, Co. Mayo

By Mairéad Ni Ghráinne 

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