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In Dublin, the town Joyce claimed was impossible to traverse without passing a pub (only to be disproved with the aid of Google Maps a century later,) it can still be hard to find somewhere that suits your situation no matter the mood.

Somewhere that we’ve taken to recently is the Sackville Lounge, not spitting distance from O’Connell Street on Sackville Place. It’s that perfect mix of archaic and well, non archaic- a one room, no nonsense bar with a great pint, and with sound staff and customers alike. The horse racing on the telly, a bookies next door and the hum of ham and cheese toasties in the air; always made to feel welcome, and always a chat forthcoming whether in company or on your own.

In a city racing to be London-lite but with our dazzling city lights emanating from Spars, Starbucks, exuberant donut shops and expensive ‘brunch spots’ (I’ve grown to hate those words,) places like the Sackville are rapidly becoming a dying breed. People will claim Kehoe’s, Neary’s, Mulligans and their ilk to be the best ‘old man pubs’ in the city. To me, none is a patch on the Sackville.

roadtotherising

The Sackville during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ Image From the Sackville’s Twitter account

We spent a Saturday there last year in what I can only describe was a session of Canterbury Tales proportions. Dozens of people stuck their heads in throughout various parts of the day and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life, or walked away from another pub in Dublin with the same “that was a good day” feeling than I did then. We spent another Saturday there watching Bulmer Hobson sip whiskey and mull over James Connolly’s pre-Rising disappearance as part of Anu Productions excellent  “Glorious Madness.” We saw a British army soldier duke it out with his sister’s ICA partner outside in another Anu piece during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ And I’d like to say I cheered home many a winner there but I think the place was a jinx on me but that matters not, we’ll be there this weekend to say farewell.

For here comes the hammer blow- from a cryptic message board post the other day we gleaned that the Sackville is due to close its doors. Confirmed by the staff and by a quick Google revealing a ‘mutual lease break’ date on the ‘Spire Portfolio’ (which contains the Sackville Lounge amongst other properties) of 8/2/17, it looks to be true. No doubt the recently granted planning permission for Clery’s across the lane and for the construction of a new hotel on Sackville Place will have an effect on the future use of the premises as Dublin looks set to lose yet another of the institutions that made it what its known worldwide for. Sadly, as they say, another one bites the dust.

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Unless you’re a newcomer to CHTM, you’ll know that on one Sunday a month the three of us, in the company of a small group of friends head out on a pub crawl, with pubs carefully selected by one member of our troop but not revealed until we’re standing outside the door. Five pubs with a bit of history thrown in, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Unbeknownst to ourselves, we hit a landmark on January’s crawl and didn’t celebrate it in style. We’ve been wondering how long it would take us to reach the hundred pubs mark on CHTM! and we did it here, and in less than a year- with three of our number drinking bottles of Lech and another a Lithuanian beer called Svyturys in O’Byrnes Bar, on the corner of Capel St. and Bolton St. Don’t get me wrong, we found it to be a lovely place; any pub with an open fire gets our vote of confidence pretty much straight away. It was just the fact that we thought our hundredth pub would be a great pint of Guinness in an institution like Mulligans or the Lord Edward; our fault really, covering them in the first couple of pub crawls.

O'Byrnes Bar, taken from the Tale of Ale blog

O’Byrnes though- a lovely pub with sound staff and a great taste in decor- the walls are bedecked with some classic 7″ records alongside old Hot Press covers and obligatory pictures of the Dubliners, Thin Lizzy and the likes.  We neglected to take the comfy looking couches inside the door in favour of the seats down the back beside the (unfortunately dying) fire. This place has been known as a “corner of death,” in that any business opened here in recent years rarely lasts too long, but the current owners have done a fine job in bringing something to the place, offering a range of Irish craft beers and ales which come highly recommended from the excellent Tale of Ale blog. Great tunes filtered in over the stereo too, a mix of classic and Irish rock. As nice as it was, its a pub I’d like to return to on a busy night to really see what its like. As with all of the pubs on this crawl, there was no smoking area. Lucky we only had the one smoker with us so!

Bodkins, by the ever brilliant Infomatique, from Flickr

And so, we ventured across the road to Bodkins. Probably our first “student bar” to visit on a pub crawl, this was more a space filler between bars one and three than one I’d normally pick. Lets call it a “cultural experiment.” We were joined here by a pub crawl newbie and happily started into the Guinness. €4 a pint, not bad for the city centre, but certainly not the best pint of Guinness we have tasted on our rounds; a bit of an aftertaste and it lost it’s head very quickly. They do a €5 bar menu and thats probably the cause of that. They also have free wifi and do a “laptop loan” (“unless you’re an asshole” as per their site, which is fair enough.) There’s not many places left in the city centre with pool tables, but this being the closest DIT Bolton Street has to a student bar, you can see why they’re there, alongside a signed Man. Utd. jersey in memory of a young lad that passed away, a jukebox and plenty of televisions showing the footie.  It has drink deals (three bottles of Sol for a tenner and that kind of thing, ) but in complete opposite from our next stop, its certainly no local.

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Dropping into a pub like this (by which I mean any pub in Temple Bar) is always a risk. It’s no lie to say that you’d be very hard pushed to find a non- tourist frequenting them, Foggy Dew aside, and maybe that’s for a good reason. So, after a long day of work for me, and a hard days sticking it to the man for DFallon and mate Ois, we decided to head somewhere we’d never been before, and drink a pint to friends injured during Wednesday’s madness.

The Auld Dub

DFallon suggested The Auld Dub, and I agreed, having a mate that works there and being curious as to how the place fares up. The fare was up alright, a pint of Guinness costing €4.85, a good 60c dearer than Brogan’s only five minute walk away. No doubt they sell a good many pints at that price, though we wondered how many half pints of it the floor staff have to pick up at the end of the night. (Its always funny to see someone who has never drank Guinness before order a pint of it, take one taste and then ask for a Heineken instead, not being elitist in the slightest, its more a nod to the advertising power of Diageo; GUINNESS IN IRELAND IS THE BEST THING EVER.)

But anyways, the pub. Suprisingly un-kitsch for a touristy spot, the place looks great inside, a horseshoe bar dominating the interior with a staircase on either side, one up and one down to the (almost spotless, apart fron the “Love United, Hate Glazer” stickers) jacks. Pictures of visitors line the walls, and beside our table, a frame with a dozen or so of the Arthur’s Day beermats from last year takes pride of palce. The pint soured very quickly, I’m not sure why- it wasn’t that we were drinking slowly or anything, but by the time I got to the end of mine, I could have taken it or left it to be honest. So we didn’t stay long and decided to wander down and check out the banners on the Ha’penny and Millenium Bridges instead.

Just as we were getting ready to go, some live music started, a one-man-band idea, one bloke banging away on his guitar, everything from The Virgin Prunes to Green Day to Sting (Roxanne, and a group of what sounded like Swedish blokes seemed delighted, taking the oppurtunity to play the drinking game of the same name.)

Leaving the pub and heading out into the night, we stopped to have a gander at the mystery plaque on the ground outside. Ois had asked the barman if he knew the story behind it but alas, the mystery goes on…

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Two very different Kennedy's, one premises.

It’s like a song by the Beach Boys out here today, we’re melting.

It’s all Topshop girls and Choc Ice’s up in Merrion Square, and it’s very hard work altogether. We’re into the inevitable waiting game now, when two people want to hit the pub but both know it might be slightly too early in the day to do so. I give in.

“Shall we go for a….
Brilliant idea

Great, that was easy. From here, we either move towards Foley’s, Doheny and Nesbitt or Kennedy’s. I call Kennedy’s, purely on the grounds of long time no see.

The bar is lovely and quite old fashioned. The first thing that grabs your eye on entering is a picture of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde himself, who was born only around the corner. There are a few people around the bar grabbing an early lunch, and we order two pints, over the sound of the vuvuzela. I will always remember this summer as the summer of that irritating object. The telly isn’t too loud, but the vuvuzela is. Come to think of it, did ANYONE know what a vuvuzela was last month?

We grab two seats, and only then notice the ‘Pull your own pint’ set-up at the table. I hate, hate, hate the introduction of these things to Dublin pubs, but even some of the best have succumbed to them. In fairness, I can’t spot any more of them about. The pints from the bar are excellent, and we both comment on the quality of the pint. I don’t know why anyone would go for the vending machine option, but you never know with people I suppose. A map of Dublin from the 1700’s stands out on the walls, which are free of tacky rubbish.

So, all this has the feel of a lovely and quiet-enough-except-when-the-World-Cup-happens-in-Africa city centre pub, no? The place is well known as a Trinity College haunt, and it really does feel a bit like a ‘Sunday with a book’ haunt, and that is no bad thing. There’s more to the place but, much more downstairs.

‘The Underground’, is miles removed from the quiet boozer upstairs. It’s home to a music venue that hosts everything electronic and does things a little bit noisy.The door-tax is normally a fiver, but you can always pop back upstairs. Things move slower there, and the noise is (normally) that of chat alone.

We live a nice barman, two empty pint glasses and that sound behind us, and continue on. To the next pub.

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This graveyard hides a million secrets.
And the trees know more than they can tell.
The ghosts of the saints and scholars will haunt you
In Heaven and in Hell.

We’re fresh out of the brand new Museum at Glasnevin Cemetery, and much has been learned. It’s great, if you’re wondering.

The history of Glasnevin Cemetery is well known. It is, in popular Irish history, associated with many legends and great figures. Yet there is more to the place than that, there is also the history of ordinary people and communities. In fact, for all the talk of ‘The Liberator’, liberation struggles and more besides, it is perhaps the audio interviews with gravediggers who worked at the cemetery that was most captivating. Suitably enough, the interview was conducted over a pint in the Gravediggers pub next door.

I’d only done the excellent walking tour of the graveyard recently, and not having seen my mate in a while we decided a pint was in order. The timeless, tellyless (Publicans, take note) Gravediggers on the edge of the cemetery is one of my favourite boozers in Dublin, but you can’t ‘Randomly Drop Inn’ twice, now can you?

So, where to?

We settle for The Porterhouse. This decision is largely based on the reputation of their Chocolate Stout.

“No Chocolate Stout lads, not doing that anymore”

Hmm, bad start. I opt for the Plain (a pint of Plain, clever that) stout, and the mate goes for Oyster stout. Food is ordered, seats are taken, and we have a look around. The premises is large and spacious, the music not too loud (bit of Smokey Robinson going on…), and the food arrives quick. No food for me, but the reports were good. I’ve heard great things about the Irish Stew, but who am I to spend money when there’s dinner at home. Students, we’re like that.

The pint of Plain? Not quite your only man, but still a damn good light stout and I’m content. I’ve tried the Oyster stout before too and while it takes some getting used to, it’s a grower. As they’re quick and proud to tell you, these are award winners, and unlike in some Dublin pubs with the more famous stout on offer, you can rest assured each pint will be right here.

The smoking area is sizeable, but I’m not one to stand around smoking areas. It’s large, it’s covered and it’s heated. Three boxes ticked if you’re that way inclined. The staff are friendly and talkative, and seem to be engaged with what sound like regulars. My friend picks up on the menu in front of us, which boasts that “Our beer kills fascists”. Not entirely sure what they’re getting at there, but why the hell not.

The place is quiet enough, though it is 4.30 on a Wednesday. A few large screens around the place and the variety of both booze and grub makes me think this wouldn’t be a bad spot to catch a bit of the World Cup.

The Porterhouse, for what it does, isn’t too pricey. It’s worth a venture to any of the Dublin pubs to try something new, but be warned that the two city centre pubs are tourist hubs at the minute. A worthwhile visit, with a ‘we’ll only be 10 minutes’ trip turning into an hour out of nowhere.

On our way out, we pass a Christmas tree of beer bottles.

Bit late for that, or are they just early?

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As you probably know by now, every month this blog organises a pub-crawl. In rotation, a different person chooses the five pubs in advance, picks a meeting point in the city and makes sure not to let any details slip to the rest of the group about what pubs are to be visited.

April was my turn and I chose the area of Portobello.

I set the meeting point for the corner of Harcourt Street and Stephens Green. This was once the site of Little’s Pub, now the Stephens Green Hotel, which was taken over by members of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) during Easter Week 1916.

This location was also chosen to confuse people on the route we were going to be taking that day. We could of easily headed off towards the direction of Wexford St, Leeson St. or back towards Grafton St. One of the joys of these pub-crawls, in my mind, is having no idea where your ‘tour guide’ for the day is going to bring you.

Dfallon and Hxci were on time as usual, with CHTM! crawl regular JFlood only a couple of minutes late.

I led them up Harcourt St., stopping briefly to point out Edward Carson’s birthplace, and through Camden Place where we spotted this little letterbox. I crossed the road at Camden Street in order to point out the (mostly) hidden plaque at No. 34 where Na Fianna Éireann were founded in 1909. The plaque can be only been if you face the building from the opposite side of the road.

Our first stop was Cassidy’s. I was surprised to see the place so busy on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There were a number of families and punters dotted around the long, narrow bar. It is hard to talk about Cassidy’s without mentioning that it was a stopping point of Bill Clinton in December 1995 where he was photographed enjoying a pint of Murphy’s Irish Stout. Apparently, the Cassidy’s are ‘distant cousins’ to the Clintons. We were able to get the best seats in the house, by the window immediately on the left when you enter. The pints, were as far as I can remember, perfectly fine. In truth, we didn’t explore the pub or stay long enough to get a real feel out of the place. But I liked what I saw. Especially the prime spot, where we sat at the window, perfect for people watching.

Not an amazing bar but a lovely one none on the less. Definitely one to pop into if your ever going to try The Camden Crawl.

Cassidy's on Camden St. Not to be confused with the pub of the same name on Westmoreland St.

We only had to cross the road for our next stop. The historic, imposing Bleeding Horse. When we walked in, the place was blaring from the sound of the premiership. Far too loud to warrant the little amount of people in the bar. Usually thronged with after work types on the weekday, the immense pub seemed ghostly empty at this time on a Sunday. We were able to find two lovely sets of tables at the very back of the bar by the window. (For me, this pub-crawl was characterised by the great seats we got in every pub). The pints were lovely and it was nice to have our numbers boosted as we were joined by recent CHTM! pub crawl enthusiast Angela and veteran Hamada.

The Bleeding Horse, 1950s.

The Bleeding Horse dates back to 1649 and claims to be the second oldest pub in Dublin. There are many stories on how the tavern got its name. The most frequent one told is that during The Battle of Rathmines (1649), Cromwellian forces brought their wounded horses to the thatched, timber inn that stood here.

The Bleeding Horse, 1972. (It renamed 'The Falcon Lounge' for a time in the 1970s) Photo credit - Hohenloh

The Irish Times, surprisingly, does not wield many interesting stories relating to the pub. The only one that stood out was that Countess Markievicz presided over a Republican meeting in the premises in September 1923 at which Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen and Helena Maloney spoke.

The Bleeding Horse as it looks today. Photo credit - Ingawh

Across Kelly’s Corner, we swung by the renowned Bretzel Bakery and up to The Lower Deck, known locally as “Ryan’s of The Harbour”. There’s been a tavern on this site since the 1830s. Though I’ve spent many evenings down in the basement at various gigs during 2007-8, I don’t think I’d ever properly been upstairs. We managed (again) to get great seats by the window beneath the array of GAA merchandise.

The Lower Deck, 1960s (?) then called 'Ryan's Bar'.

The pints were grand and the barman friendly. My only complaint was the eager, acoustic cover singer who was playing far too loud at such an early time of the evening in the middle of the bar. We finished our pints up quicker than usual because we could barely hear ourselves chat.

The Lower Deck as it looks today. Photo credit - Kelly T.

Moving on, we crossed the road and into The Portobello. I had thought that this pub had completely gone down the tacky tourist route but I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely, wooden interior and lack of ‘paddy tourist’ vibes in the place. (The bartender said that the first half of the pub has barely been altered since the Easter 1916 Rising when the ICA occupied the premises then called Davy’s).

Davy's, early 1900s (?). It is now a bar and hotel called The Portobello.

We took seats in the middle of the premises beside an unusually placed vending machine. On the other side of us, a large trad session had begun involving up to a dozen people. The pints were again grand (I should of really taken notes during the night). A nice pub, full of history, but I’m not sure if I’d feel the need to come back anytime soon. The fact that there’s an over 30s disco called Rain attached to the pub isn’t a real selling point for me personally.

The Portobello as it looks today. As you can see, there's been little structural change to the front of the pub.

Stomachs were grumbling at this stage so we dropped into the quality Aprile (Est. 1969) chipper on the corner opposite The George Bernard Shaw. A feed of chips by the canal hit the spot nicely. Here, we were joined by our red-haired Italian friend Julian, in a jolly mood due to a Roma win, who had missed the last few pub crawls.

Next up was O’Connell’s on Richmond Street. This was my ‘pièce de résistance’. I for one had never set foot in the place before and I was pleased to hear that no one else besides DFallon had. This is what makes our pub crawls. Being brought into areas of the city and pubs that you’d never usually venture into. Definitely one of the few bars in the city that you’d have to point out to someone. It’s not loud. No neon lights, flags or banners outside. Deceptively small from the outside, the bar was unusually put together with various seats of different sizes all over. A little corner on your left as you go in, a thin row of seats directly opposite the bar and a whole separate section, slightly raised at the very back. We ordered our pints off the pleasant proprietress and settled in for the night. At €4 for a pint of Guinness, they were definitely the bargain of the evening.

J. O'Connell's on Richmond Street.

All in all, I thought it was a success. Certainly compared to my last effort, which saw three of my five pubs closed.

I might find myself back in Cassidy’s soon with a newspaper in hand, ready for an afternoon of people watching if I see that those seats are empty or The Bleeding Horse to watch ‘the football’ (there’s even a TV in the beer garden!) or indeed O’Connell’s for an (agreeably cheap) Guinness filled session.

Though you might not find me there, if GAA is your interest, check out The Lower Deck and if it’s Trad music, The Portobello might be your place.

Next up is JFlood who will be escorting us around the city at the end of May.

April’s five pubs were:

1. Cassidy’s, 42 Lower Camden Street.
2. The Bleeding Horse, 24 Upper Camden Street.
3. The Lower Deck, 1 Portobello Harbour.
4. The Portobello, 33 South Richmond Street.
5. J. O’Connell’s, 29 South Richmond Street.

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An tÓglach, Summer 1971 p.10

Spotted this today. The Shakespere was one of the ghost-signs of Dublin our own jaycarax covered in his piece on the literal ‘signs of the times’. Today, of course, it is known as The Hop House.

Our review of The Hop House

“I don’t think I could put my name to any list of good Dublin pubs and leave this one out. While we’ve found some great pubs so far, it can sometimes be the ones you knew already that shine brightest. This one would blind you”

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