Many travellers arriving at Shannon want to start their trip off by immersing themselves in Irish culture... pub culture, that is... and after touring Bunratty Castle and Folk Park some feel a little parched. Bunratty has a number of intersting pubs, but you're unlikely to find anyone Irish in them other than the staff! The pubs are filled with folks who 'flew in today' or 'are heading home tomorrow.'
Kathleen's Irish Pub at the Bunratty Castle Hotel is pleasant enough. It's brighter and more open than most pubs, but feels like an Irish pub themed bar you might find at a Holiday Inn back in the US. How does an authentic Irish pub give off the aura that it's an excellent modern reproduction?
When someone asks, "Wanna go to the Creamery?" I'm thinking ice cream. Wrong! In Bunratty, it's a neatly restored old stone building. The ground floor, now the pub, was used for stables until being converted to a creamery in 1927. In 1999 it was converted again, this time to a pub, with a restaurant above. The pub plays off the creamery theme with some large leftover metal apparatus - it put me in mind of a brew pub - and bar stools made from milk churns. One very authentic touch: the beer here was served lukewarm, without the slightest trace of a chill. More atmosphere than Kathleens's but still...
Mac's Pub is on the grounds of the Bunratty Folk Park. During the day, it's a fine place to stop while strolling the park. The simple two room building was moved to Bunratty from a small village where it was threatened with demolition. It's cozy, with a dusty feel about it, as if you're going back in time. Evenings, after the park closes, Mac's Pub stays open, with a separate entrance. Unfortunately, most evenings the pub is taken over by a tour bus load of people who shuffle in for dinner. If you manage to get in and push through to the bar the waitstaff is generally so strung out serving dinner that you'll be an afterthought. Mac's feels quite authenic and comfortable - but if there's a tour bus in the car park, pass on by!
Durty Nelly's is the prime pub in Bunratty and has been since 1620. The ground floor pub is a warren of small, low ceiling, wood timbered rooms with smoky peat fires. From a balcony, you can sip on your beer and watch the Shannon River flow by or you can move over to picnic tables on the patio for a view of Bunratty Castle, just across the street. Like all of Bunratty's pubs, you'll be hard-pressed to find a local to chat with, but Durty Nelly's has plenty of Irish pub atmosphere to spare... after all, it's been here almost 400 years!