Tipperary is often referred to as ‘The Premier County’; a term which is said to have been used by writer and politician Thomas Davis in relation to the counties nationalistic leanings during the 1840’s.
The term could also presently and justifiably be applied to the quality of the counties many wonderful pubs. In this feature, journalist Ger Leddin takes you on a short tour around Tipperary and looks at ten of the premier county’s premier pubs.
10. The Cahir House Hotel Bar, Cahir
Situated at the heart of the square in the south-Tipperary town of Cahir is the Cahir House Hotel. A small yet elegant, once period Irish town-house, long since restored into one of the finest hotels the county has to offer; a hotel and a staff who are rightly proud of the reputation which this hotel has gained over the years.
Leaving the accommodation aspect aside, the hotel bar is a fine example of the famed ambiance of the traditional Irish hotel bar; elegant but not over-powering. Hours will melt away relaxing around its oak horse-shoe bar.
The bar is a two-minute stroll from Cahir Castle built in the twelfth- century by Conor O Brien the Prince of Thomond on a small island on the River Suir which flows through Cahir on it’s way to the Irish Sea.
For visitors to the scenic Galtee Mountains, the nearby Swiss Cottage or indeed Cahir Castle itself, a refreshment stop at the Cahir House Hotel should be on your agenda.
9. O’Ceallachain’s Bar, Carrick on Suir
Carrick on Suir is very close to both the Waterford and Kilkenny county borders of Tipperary. The small town’s two major claims to fame are the former International cyclist Sean Kelly and the birthplace and spiritual home of the folk group The Clancy Brothers.
In point of fact, the town holds a Clancy Brothers music festival every year, which attracts folk singers from all over the world, well worth checking out. O Ceallachains is situated just at the east end of the main street and has ample car parking behind and adjacent to it.
Deceivingly small looking from the outside, the traditional Irish shop frontage masks a beautifully appointed bar, just inside its door. O Ceallachains indeed serve the best of drink, in a relaxed and friendly pub, but also serve the most delicious of meals; so much so that on a weekend it might be advisable to book in advance.
A very traditional Irish pub decor, with exceptionally friendly and obliging staff, makes O Ceallachains the place to visit if you’re in this neck-of the woods and feeling peckish.
8. TJ Ryan, Cashel
Any Cashel native will tell you that there are two places you must visit while in the Tipperary town of Cashel. One is the famous Rock of Cashel, which by the way, was visited by the Queen of England as part of her state visit to Ireland some years ago.
The other is T.J. Ryan’s traditional Irish pub on the main street. Rumour has it that H.M. the Queen would have stopped in for a pint, but she was pressed for time.
The bar itself is elegant in its simplicity. A typical small Irish town, small Irish pub; however the warmth of the low ceiling and timber-panelled walls, along with the quaint display of bric-a-brac from a bygone era.
The friendliness of both the staff and the bar’s regular locals makes this pub stand out. Generation after generation of Cashel people have been coming here and treat the pub as a second home — it has that feel to it. It is a great pity that Her Majesty didn’t get a chance to drop in, I’m sure she’d have enjoyed it.
7. The Brian Boru Bar, Cashel
Staying in Cashel for our next pub, we visit The Brian Boru bar just up a bit from Ryan’s but as they say in Tipp “a different class of a bar altogether.” The Brian Boro like the warrior chieftain it takes its name from is lively and a bit unpredictable.
The bar has gained a well-deserved reputation for being one of Ireland’s up and coming night spots. More of a late-night venue, than a pub in the traditional sense; it offers a diverse range of musical performances on a very regular schedule.
Here you can drink -away into the small hours of the morning while enjoying both live music and house DJs. If you are looking for a lively night out, this is the place to visit in South Tipp, and rock-away the night.
6. McCarthy’s Bar, Fethard
Fethard is a sleepy hamlet set among Tipperary’s mountains. It serves the needs of the areas mainly agricultural hinterland. McCarthy’s Bar is located right in the heart of the village and prides itself on catering to all the needs of the local population.
The staffs here have a saying. “We wine you, dine and bury you.” Yes in the age-old tradition of Irish public houses McCarthy’s is also the local undertakers; unusual now but once quite common in rural Ireland.
If you are in anyway interested in the sport of kings then a visit to McCarthy’s is a must do. The bar is located just a few short miles from the world famous thoroughbred stud, Coolmore.
Many of the regulars, who drink in this establishment, would be experts in the seed, breed, and generation of some of the world’s most successful racing horses.
Listen carefully to the subdued and hushed conversations and you’d never know what tips you might pick-up. The interior of the pub is soft, oak-lined and very inviting.
An award-winning restaurant, which surpasses most found in small Irish towns, exceptionally friendly staff and well-informed locals make McCarthy’s one of the most enjoyable pubs to be wined and dined in. The undertaker service is optional!
5. Larkins, Garrykennedy
If you’re looking for either a quiet relaxing lunchtime drink to wash down your delicious meal in a Michelin recommended pub, overlooking one of Ireland’s most awe-inspiring views. Or alternatively, enjoy the craic and ceoil of a lively night of traditional Irish music and dancing. Larkin’s pub in Garrykennedy can offer you both.
This thatch-roofed family run bar and restaurant is situated just meters from the shore of Lough Derg. Here you can sit and sip while enjoying the banter of not only the exceptionally friendly locals but also many cruiser holidaymakers, yacht owners, and water sports enthusiasts who busy themselves in and around the adjacent harbour. Larkin’s is the pub to visit, as I said, either for a relaxing summer day or a night of merriment.
4. The Lakeside Hotel Bar, Ballina
It’s more than just coincidence that three of the pubs referred to in this article are situated close to each other in the lakeside town of Ballina. This area is simply the jewel in the crown of County Tipperary.
During the 19th century, Lough Derg was one of the most important transport arteries in Ireland. Along with a network of canals, it helped connect the country’s waterways and the consistency of the lakes abundant waters was literally the driving force behind Ireland’s electrification with the building of Ireland’s first hydro-electric power station at Ard Na Crusha a few miles downriver.
Situated on the eastern shore of Lough Derg and enjoying the most magnificent views of the lake, lies the Lake Side Hotel. This period building extensively renovated at the turn of this century retains its original charm and an air of refinement.
Along with its extensive leisure facilities, function rooms and charming accommodation the hotel has a small but elegant bar, from where you can enjoy the most spectacular views of Lough Derg; northwards towards Holy Island and west across the lake towards the rolling hills of East County Clare. What makes having a drink here a special experience is simply the elegance of the surroundings, the beautiful gardens, and those wonderful views.
3. Goosers Bar and Eating House, Killaloe
The villages of Killaloe in County Clare and Ballina in County Tipperary are separated by an ancient bridge which spans the River Shannon where it departs from Ireland’s largest lake, Lough Derg and continues its flow to the Atlantic Ocean. This area must rank amongst the most scenic spots on the Island of Ireland.
Goosers Pub and Restaurant enjoys the magnificent views of not only the lake but also of the Shannon as it gathers momentum on its way towards the estuary.
On a warm summers day or evening, to sit outside this bar sampling the award-winning cuisine — the bar is operated by chefs Fidelma and Thomas Andrews — or simply to enjoy a drink is a wonderful experience.
Even on a cold and dark day, your comfort is assured, for inside the quaintly traditional low ceiling bar you’ll find a warm and welcoming fire around which you can take your ease.
2. Flanagans on the Lake, Ballina
Be it fortunate or unfortunate but just up the road from Goosers and situated marginally closer to the lake, lies Flanagan’s bar.
Newer and more contemporary than its neighbour, what the bar lacks in architectural flavour is more than made up for by its stunning views and closeness to the water’s edge.
This bar again offers delicious food and good drink but what makes it special are its summer barbeques.
These glorious barbeques can be enjoyed while sitting outside where you can listen to and watch the gentle passing of the lake cruisers and pleasure yachts as they sail by.
1. Matt the Threshers, Birdhill
Before the recent opening of the new Limerick-Dublin motorway the tiny village of Birdhill on what was then the main N7 main road between the two cities was known for two things; a notorious speed trap and a fine pub, Matt the Threshers.
Originally developed by proud Tipperary native, philanthropist and founder of RyanAir, Dr. Tony Ryan, as a means to promote the best food and drink the county had to offer, the pub today continues with this ethos.
Here you can relax in the comfort of the traditional Irish bar surroundings, sample the extensive home cooked food, sip from proudly poured drinks, and then meander around the award-winning village that is — thanks to the bypassing motorway — regaining its original charm.
Matt the Threshers named after a local GAA legend is situated just off exit 27 on the M7 motorway and twenty minutes from Limerick. Well worth a small detour.