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Once a staple of this here blog, our “monthly” pub crawls have become somewhat sporadic of late. We only managed to fit in five last year, the last taking place all the way back in June, making it 114 pubs that we’ve visited on the crawls alone. Add in another 30 pubs or so that we’ve done on “Random Drop Inns,” I make it that (including the five pubs here) we’ve visited and reviewed 149 pubs in the city.

The back story… for anyone that doesn’t know the story by this stage, once a month or so the three writers behind this blog, joined by a small group of friends, visit five Dublin pubs and then write about our experiences. A different person each month picks the five pubs and makes sure not to give away any details beforehand. This month was my turn, and for the first pub crawl of 2013, I decided to drag people out to Ringsend, from where we could make our way back into town, stopping in a couple of spots along the way.  I’ve always loved Ringsend; standing on Bridge Street, you’re a fifteen minute walk to Grafton Street and less than that to Sandymount Strand. Perfect.

The Oarsman, from their official Facebook.

The Oarsman, from their official Facebook

Meeting the other two and KBranno in town at five, a Leo Burdocks and a taxi in the lashing rain later, we headed over the canal and into The Oarsman. A very busy spot this and my first impression was that… Christ, this place is a relic; but in a good way! The pub doesn’t appear to have changed too much inside or out for donkey’s years. There has been a business on this spot since 1882, and a pub here since the sixties. The original grocers shop became the snug area inside the door (where we were lucky to nab seats, kudos to Paul R for that,) and the pub was extended out the back. A long narrow layout means ordering a pint from the beautiful old wooden bar is awkward enough. The stairs down to the jacks is halfway along it on the right, meaning if the seats at the bar are taken and you’re ordering, chances are you’re blocking someone’s way. Nonetheless, we weren’t left waiting and ended up staying for a couple of pints apiece, at €4.45 a pop. The most expensive pint of the crawl but still, relatively cheap compared to pints closer towards town.  A lovely pub this and a place I’ll be back to, if just to try out the food they’ve recently started to serve.

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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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Stubborn. I’m very stubborn.

Friends had just left Ireland for excursions abroad, and others have just moved homes. All events worthy of celebration. I hadn’t seen eight full hours of sleep in a few days, and everyone else invited to the crawl was much the same. Still, this is like Christmas mass at this stage. The pub crawl is a sacred thing, and many sore heads were evident at Connolly Station before departure.

Cleary's, credit to thatman1 on Flickr.

I’ve frequently gone past Cleary’s, or the ‘pub under the bridge’ with my father in the car. We’ve both meant to venture in, but never have, perhaps owing to the fact I’d drink a bit nearer to the bus stop (You know what I mean). Like many of the great Dublin boozers, Cleary’s has been in the hands of the one family for generations. On first entering, I’m struck by the interior, a beautiful bar which feels a bit like Ryan’s on Parkgate Street and a handful of others which don’t seem to have aged at the same pace as other pubs in the city. The bar is busy, and seems to have plenty of locals, impressive on a ‘GAA day’ in itself. Thinking we’re screwed for seats, the very likeable barman tells us to pop down the back. A huge lounge is there, most welcoming and plenty of room for an ever-growing group. Soldiers are coming back from the wars of the weekend, slowly dripping in to the group. Sam notes a snap of the Irish Citizen Army on the wall of the bar, always a thumbs up. The pints are perfectly fine, in fact a step above the norm. All in all, I’m off to a flyer.

Or so it seemed.

Harbor Master, credit to flickr user jellyshots

The Harbour Master really takes you back when you step inside. A beautiful restaurant/bar, the decoration is top class. It is telling that one of our company, who works in design, is impressed by the attention to detail in the presentation of the premises. Everything here looks wonderful, food included. Everything, down to the Guinness.

One of the lads complains of a one-pour pint. I’m ever the optimist however, and proceed to tuck into my own. It dawns on me, and everyone else at the table, that these are rubbish. If you read my pub crawls, or Random Drop Inn’s, you’ll know I’m not in the business of slating pubs. I’ll leave this one by saying on leaving the premises, two or three half full pints littered a table of seven. A disappointing one.

Never mind that, we’re on a boat now.

Quay 16, credit to Flickr user infomatique

This is great. Perhaps our most unusual one to date, the MV Cill Airne ship rests on the River Liffey and provides excellent views of NAMA buildings, The Point and the docklands in general. The dreaded price list turned out to be not so scary at all, in fact I was taken aback that a Guinness on board was in the same price range as one in any city centre pub today. We rest on the deck enjoying the views of the city, and lose track of time completely here. In all truth, I could have abandoned the tour (abandon ship seemed weak) here and been content for the night. Alas, crawls don’t work that way.

I don’t doubt they would frown on large groups of lads treating this one as a ‘pub’ as such (It is definitely a restaurant first) but a visit to the MV Cill Airne should be on your agenda. Without sounding my young age, it is…pretty cool?

I move the pub crawl on, in the direction of Pearse Street. The pub I wanted to visit next seems closed, not closed as in “we’re not open yet”, but closed as in “we’re not going to be open again”. panicking, I push on for Cassidy’s on Westmoreland Street.

Cassidy’s seems closed. Not closed as in “we’re not open yet”, but closed as in “we’re not going to be open again”. I think on my feet, and opt for Fitzgeralds on Aston Quay. I’ve never even gone in here to use the toilet, and this is a real gamble. All I know of this pub is that a ‘ghost sign’ now stands out front, from the time this was the Daniel O’ Connell.

Straight away, I cop the sight of t-shirts behind the bar. Normally, this is a bad sign. There are a few exceptions (Kavanagh’s, Mulligan’s) but generally a pub shifting t-shirts is a bit shamrocky for my liking. I’m pleasantly surprised by Fitzgerald’s but, and as The Shins come on the radio I realise I’m doing ok today. Against the odds, this pub crawl is working out.

The smoking area is excellent, I first mistook it for some sort of quiet room, decorated with a few old Guinness murals and with plenty of room for a reasonable crowd, it’s only a tiny drop of rain that makes me look up and realise where we are standing. One of the lads opts for a bowl of soup, always a safe bet, and returns content fifteen minutes later, insisting it was great. With its location, it’s hard to imagine a pub like this having any ‘locals’ as such, but it is a most decent effort. In short, it’s fine. I’m glad it was there today, and I’d probably drop in again.

By now, it is obviously Sunday night. I want to go to a pub that is, at most, six minutes walk away, but people are having none of it. Everyone is hungry, apparently. A flexible fellow, I decide perhaps Madigans on O’ Connell Street will do. There are, as some of you will know, three Madigans within a stones-throw of one another around O’ Connell Street. It remains an ambition of mine to one day do a pub crawl of Dublin that will consist only of visiting pubs called Madigans. I think it will be a nightmare for people to read. This one, is the one with a sizeable snap of Jack Daniels in the window. Up by The Gresham.

Maidgans, credit to flickr user susan crawford. I love this snap actually.

Once again, I’ve never been in here. One of my locals, The Hop House, is too close to justify it. I like this one but. The Guinness is great, the bar man a really nice character, and the pub homely, far larger that it appears from outside. It’s one of those pubs you’re at a loss to describe in too much depth, but also would be hard pushed to fault. It’s by no means as exciting as the MV Cill Airne, but it is a nice conclusion to an enjoyable pub crawl.

With that, we were done. Another five down. Another Sunday evening complete, and everyone returned home. Quite the weekend.

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At a random guess, we’ve covered approximately seventy pubs in Dublin at this stage and we’ve only just scratched the surface. But nonetheless, there is still fight left in us and we’ll struggle on through Pub Crawls and Random Drop-Inns until we can say finally, when anyone asks “Have you been in such-and- such” that yes, we’ve been there because, well, we’ve been everywhere.

So, with our mission in mind, on the last weekend in June and we hit the streets again. The five regulars met up at Molly Malone, but this pub crawl we had a special guest; we were joined by a good comrade World by Storm from Cedar Lounge Revolution. I was on hand to lead the way, and started by covering old ground. Our first spot was one we had crossed on our travels before, but we didn’t stop for a pint last time, such was the “welcome” we got. I’m glad I decided to give the place a second chance, as we were delighted with the welcome and the pint we got this time around. We were, of course, in McDaids of Harry Street. And while the sun shone down on us on this pub crawl, it was back to Guinness for all of us.

McDaids, by Carly Whelan, from Flickr.

A different day, a different barman and a totally different attitude. Whereas last visit, we were made feel so uncomfortable we left without ordering the pints, this time we were more than happy to stick around, the telly was off, there were plenty of stools for us to plonk ourselves down on, and the Guinness seemed to be the regulars choice. All six of us were happy with the fare, and took to nattering away amongst ourselves, inevitably about archaic Irish politics. McDaids was one of the pubs to take part in the Arthurs Day celebrations last year so I chanced my arm and asked the barman if they had any of the “250” beermats lying around. Smart enough, he asked if I was collecting them to flog them on E-bay, obviously I’m not the first person to have asked; but kindly enough, he disappeared down to the basement and brought back up a stack. Nice one. A pub with great history this, one of those pubs to be mentioned in the same breath as Davy Byrnes, O’ Donoghues and the Baggot Inn, a favoured spot of Behan, O’Brien et al. The pint, at €4.65 was not overly extortionate considering we were just off Grafton Street. Definitely glad we gave this place a second chance, we were sorely tempted to stay for a few but we had four more pubs to go through, and plenty of topics of conversation to cover before the end of the night.

The Hairy Lemon, by the fantastic Infomatique, from Flickr.

So onwards and upwards to our next spot, The Hairy Lemon on Stephen Street. I’ve only ever been here once before, and that was to avail of their well reknowned lunches. But the fare was different today, as was the crowd as six fine pints of Guinness were put up in front of us in a pub free of the shirts and ties that were here last time I was.

Named after a notorious and nefarious 1950’s Dublin dog-catcher, the bar is a throw back to old Dublin. It was used as a location in arguably the best film to come out of this city, and one that depicts it best, Roddy Doyles “The Commitments.” And it hasn’t changed a bit since then; not that you’d want it to either. We stationed ourselves at a big kitchen table down the back of the pub in an area I didn’t notice on my last visit. This place was, in a former life, The Pymalion, a pub with a deep history of its own, being home to the punk and metal scene in 1980’s Dublin. We drank at our leisure, and again, the intricacies of political splits and the history of the Irish music scene were covered and recovered by all, with World by Storm chipping in as if he were a pub crawl regular; his insights and knowlege were very welcome! It was hard not to get comfortable here, and I had to remind our comrades that while the pints (Unfortunately steep at €4.80) were tasty, we had further to venture. Tip of the day for this place; all continental beers are €4… Deal.

Hogans, by 1541, from Flickr.

Futher, but thankfully not too far. Bypassing a couple of places in the vicinity, we headed to our next watering hole, Hogans on South Great Georges Street. An odd place this, it tries to strike the balance between old and new school Dublin, like crossing Brendan Behan with Ross O’Carroll Kelly and they do it quite well actually. Walking in the front door (which is actually around the corner on Fade Street, not far from the recently sad-to-be-missed Road Records) you’re met immediately by a long bar, a mere ten foot away from you. You could be forgiven for thinking that thats all there is, until you walk around the corner and find a duplicate of the bar backing onto it, and another huge area behind, with plenty of seating.

We took our place under a Queens Park Rangers calender, definitely out of place but amusing all the same. This place gets mental on Friday and Saturday nights, when the trendy types roll out and it tends to be wall to wall jammers- but Sunday afternoon pints work here too. The pint was well received, at €4.45 it was well presented and for taste was definitely around the 4/5 mark. It’s very rare you’ll get the 5/5 mark (from me anyways.) While I liked this place, we didn’t stay long, gathering ourselves together and heading Northside, for what is only the second time on the pubcrawls if I remember correctly. Shocking stuff really! But, not too far northside- the next port of call was Jack Nealons pub on Capel Street.

Jack Nealons, by Lilyandthejoh, from Flickr.

I love a pub with an open fire, and although there wasn’t one blazing on that Sunday, I made a mental note to drop back in when the harsh winter kicks in and a pint beckons. After a bit of confusion with us looking like we trying to gatecrash a private party upstairs, we eventually got a perch around a high table by the window, under a telly showing sheep dog trials, bizarre enough but enchanting all the same. Cue everyone looking up at me (the only culchie in the place) “how the f*ck does the dog know what way to go?!” With plenty of hyas and whistles. Mad stuff. The pub itself was established in 1905, and caters for a range of clientele- For while the last time I was here, it was a Friday evening and the place was packed with office workers from the area indulging in the bars impressive cocktail menu, Sunday seemed to be a regulars only affair.

We were joined here by veteran pub crawl part timers DMcHugh and ANagle, and the pints were really starting to flow now. Pints of the night here for me, and as such we ended up staying for more than intended. At €4.20, they were a steal. The place really had a nice feel to it as the evening outside started to dim and time had come for us to depart again and head for our last stop, The Bachelor Inn on Bachelors walk.

The Bachelor Inn, by ClarkeC_99_88, from Flickr.

The Bachelor Inn is what you would call an institution in itself. There are some pubs in the city centre, like Neds on Townsend Street, or Molloys on Talbot Street that seem like they’ve been there for ever. The Bachelor Inn joins those; certainly a regulars bar, but not one ready to turn away eight pint hungry bloggers. The barstaff in the place are top notch- it was getting on by the time we got there, a bit like ourselves to be honest. There was no such thing as just the one or two in here, there were several return trips to the bar. And the best thing about the place? Hitting the magical hour where if drinkers aren’t out of the pubs, they turn into pumpkins, or get their names taken by over- zealous Gardai, the barman made his way up to the back of the pub to ask if we would care to indulge in another beverage. What a man. Of course, the answer was a resounding yes from all concerned. I’d be lying if I said I remember how the night went after that, but before I got to the stage where my memory went out the window, I made up my mind that I liked the Bachelor Inn very much. Deceptively large, it stretches way back towards the Bachelors Lotts behind it. A nice, clean and well run pub too, with plenty of seating up the back. There was a nice buzz about the place too, with plenty of buzz and laughter which, for a fairly tight regulars bar, didn’t quieten down when us shower entered! €4.40 a pint and no complaints, they do a regulars card, for… regulars, and possession of one of these grants you the honour of getting pints for a bargain €4. One to remember!

Right. So five more pubs down, and many more to go. A big shout out to World by Storm, and as ever, our other regulars DFlood, Hammy, ANagle and DMcHugh. We’ll be back soon, and if I remember correctly, pints are on Sam. Nice one.

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I reckon I should open this piece with a bit of an apology.

Up until this point, whether on pub crawls or Random Drop Inns,  we’ve stuck with pints of plain. We have, article by article, gone some way towards drinking a pint of it in every pub in the city. But we just could not touch a drop of the stuff the day of the crawl, which turned out to be the hottest day of the year in Dublin City Centre; what else could make that day any better only an ice cold pint of cider and a nice perch outside.

This turned out to be the deciding factor in us hitting eight rather than the regular five pubs- not that any of us minded of course, it turned out to be a great day, with a couple of minor irks rather than anything majorly wrong with any of the places we visited. It does leave us with the problem though; How can you judge how good or bad a pint of cider is? Is it cold? Check. Wet? Check. Taste like apples? Check. Every pint is a winner.

The Bull and Castle. By Nathan A, from Flickr

So… Waiting for an exam-laden DFallon to turn up at Christchurch, we ventured into The Bull & Castle on Lord Edward Street. I’ve often passed this place by in favour of its lesser frequented neighbour, The Lord Edward as I’d assumed this Gastro-Pub effort would scorn on people like ourselves looking only for a cold drink and solace from the sun. Thankfully not as the barman dispensed with ciders and beers without a qualm. I’ll be honest and say I was a bit dazzled at first- the pub is quite dark inside, and with a cloudless sky outside, it made it difficult to work out what was what behind the bar. They have a wide range of beers, only to be matched by the Porterhouse I reckon, but none of us was brave enough to venture a try. Nice pub inside, a bit of an olde-worldy feel to it. Very clean also, a must obviously with the place doing a fine trade in grub. But the best thing about the place was the bench outside. I’ve remarked a couple of times this week, and I don’t think I’m off the mark. Dublin in the sun has to be one of the best places on the planet. So perched on a bench, not far away from where the vikings made their mark on this city, with a pint of (relatively expensive at €4.80) cider in hand and the world passing by, I’d have happily stayed there for the evening.

The Legal Eagle. By Infomatique, from Flickr.

But with the arrival of DFallon, we reluctantly gave up our spot and headed across the Liffey to The Legal Eagle, on Chancery Place. Now this pub was a pleasure for a reason- Half Price Sundays! From when doors open at 12:30 on Sunday morning to when they close at an unusual 10pm, everything in the pub sells at half price. This meant an unbeatable €2.20 for a pint, and should we have wanted it, a carvery dinner for €5.50. DFallon tried the Guinness here and said it wasn’t to be faulted but would be following suit in joining us on beer or cider at the next stop such was the heat. The bar was busy enough, I reckon the cheap booze the draw for many. For while it was a nice place, it didn’t set the heart racing and you couldn’t imagine getting comfortable on the hard benches and seats, provided for a quick turnover of diners rather than a slow swell of drinkers- problematic of a lot of pubs selling lunches.

O'Sheas Merchant. By Gianluca 61, from Flickr.

So with that, we upped and out the door, we had miles to go before we slept tonight. Back across the Liffey and into O’Sheas Merchant, on Lower Bridge Street. Cracking pub this. DFallon had been here on a session before, said the doors were closed pretty early and getting out them was prohibited unless you sang a song. Now thats the kind of place I like. It’s a bit of a schizophrenic pub, falling somewhere in between an “old man” spot and a tourist joint. Pint bottles here rather than pints, and a reeling out of the “and its still a pint” line. Images of one of dFallons heroes, Seamus Ennis, adorned the wall, and a member of an Garda Siochana propped up the bar. Off duty of course. A nice pub indeed, one to think about if we’re down this neck of the woods again. We didn’t stick around long here, for while it was nice, the formica tables and blaring telly with the Simpsons on didn’t exactly add to the charisma of the place. Maybe they turn the telly off for the sing- song at seven o’clock or something…

Pifko, from their official site.

So with a few nudges and giggles we made our way to the next spot, Pifko on Ushers’ Quay. This is an odd one. We’ve never been in a pub in Dublin where we were the only Irish people in the place but this was the case with PiFko. Primarily a Czech bar, the place was full of Slovakians watching the Ice Hockey World Cup. We weren’t mad on their “all tables must be reserved” rule; even though there were a number of empty tables, we were forced to stand under the telly. I actually liked the place apart from that, it was a bit of a laugh cheering when Slovakia scored, the whole place went mad. Nice cold pints of Paulaner, cheap at €4. Lovely. Funny looks from everyone else in the pub when we started singing Olé Olé Olé, not so. Was mad to try out the “Beaked Pork Lion” on the menu though. Being made stand while tables sat empty did nothing to entice us to stay so we made our way up to The Liberties and into a pub I’ve passed a million times, The Clock, Thomas Street.

The Clock. By dmckenna, from Flickr.

Not imposing looking from the outside, the place is pretty huge when you walk in, nicely decorated and well laid out. The punters were glued to the box, with “Reeling in the Years” on. As we reached the bar, Packie Bonners save against Romania in Italia 90 (Brilliantly portrayed in this clip from the Van) was on. myself and DFallon were only too delighted, I’ll never get sick of seeing it; The nerves, the save, and those stupid jumps he does afterwards. Pity about his Fianna Fáil connections, he used to be a hero to me! Anyways, we headed out the back to the most unusual smoking area I’ve ever been in. Well it wasn’t the smoking area itself, rather than what inhabited the smoking area- a huge cage containing around fifty twittering and cheeping birds of all shapes and sizes- canaries, budgies, cockateels, even a guinea fowl legging it around in the bottom. Mad stuff. Nice boozer, €4.60 a pint, not to be faulted.

1850's (?) Thomas Street. From Archiseek.

Nows around where it starts to get hazy. Lucky we didn’t have far to go,  only to Bakers of Thomas Street, just across the road. The three pubs we hit around the Liberties all came across as being very much locals spots. It doesn’t help that when we come to these places, more often than not, its only for one or two pints and because of that, its hard to get a proper feel, and a proper welcome from the locals. I liked this place, though Britains Got Talent made it feel less authentic than it might. Again, €4.60 a pint (cold, wet- check) what more could you ask for. A nice pub inside, with low seating, and aging memorabilia adorning the walls. Whilst most of it had seen better times, it kept us interested and deep in discussion.  Onwards drunken soldiers.

Tom Kennedys. Again from the excellent Archiseek.

Tom Kennedys of Thomas Street, right across the road from the Thomas House. What can you say about this place only it was truly terrifying. The walk to the jacks was a scary one, not because the punters were in any way threatening but because Sunday night in Kennedys is Karaoke night. And the MC took a liking to one of our crew, and kept demanding that she come up and sing! Not tonight mate… Again, a locals joint in every sense of the word, the woman behind the bar had the pints on before the locals got to the bar, that sort of place.  The place you might get looks of beleagured astonishment for sitting in “Shielas seat.” Lucky enough, we were well mannered, drank our fill and headed off. I think the pints were €4.50 here, I really need to write them down as I’m doing them. This was JFloods pubcrawl though, so I wasn’t expecting to be doing the write up!

My home away from home... Brogans Bar. By Ester Moliné, from Flickr.

The night could have ended here, but no- We had one more stop to make; Brogans on Dame Street. I really don’t want to write too much about this place because for personal reasons, its my favourite pub in Dublin. Its as close to a local as I’ll get, and is oft frequented by a large crew of my mates. Theres no particular reason its my favourite pub in Dublin, apart from some stories I could tell that you wouldn’t believe. One of the only pubs I can walk into on my own, sit at the bar on my own, order a pint and not feel like a loner/ escaped mental patient/ alcoholic/ all three combined on my own. It really is a scrap between here and Mulligans for the best pint in Dublin, and when I’m drinking it, the Guinness rings in at €4.30. I can’t describe it, just go for a drink here on a sunny afternoon and you’ll see its allure. I’ll stop now!

Right. The hardest write up I’ve ever done, what with a million things coming up between the event itself and me getting a chance to write it up. But it was a great day, amongst the best of the pub crawls we’ve done. Major kudos goes to JFlood for the choices, and to Hammy and Bookie for coming along. Next pints are on me, Sunday fortnight. Give us a shout!

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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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So, the calendar timing of these things is getting a little looser, I confess. It doesn’t seem too long since the last one to me (Or my wallet) but the Sunday after Saint Patrick’s Day was set for my second pubcrawl. A bad week for the ATM.

On my first pub crawl, of pubs six to ten, they were all a bit pretty. Davy Byrnes? A great, famous pub ideal for a ‘Sunday lunch and a pint’ combination. Doheny and Nesbitts? You might catch your local T.D at the counter. Lovely pubs, guidebook pubs, polished and presented pubs.

Trips over the Liffey have been rare. Limited to one pub crawl before this, (with visits to Frank Ryan’s and The Cobblestone) that side of town hasn’t really got a look in. This pubcrawl, for that very reason, was a Northside only one.

The Celt, Talbot Street. Photo by flickr user sandraarrell

The Celt, on Talbot Street, is a funny one.

I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it there before in all truth. Pointed out by a friend (The recurring Come Here To Me character, Simon) who had a good night there before, it seemed worth the gamble. This pubcrawl had a few new additions among the faces present, and Oisin and Alan made first time appearances with us here, adding to the usual suspects. A handful of us had been here before, others had not. Great mix.

To the right of the bar, I spot a large, framed picture of Michael Collins. Not unusual in any Irish pub.

What is unusual, is that to the left of Collins, there’s a picture of Liam Lynch, a leading figure in the Anti Treaty movement. Clever barman that, you’ll never lose on both sides of a fence!

The pints (Guinness, naturally. At €4.40 a pint. General agreement they’re good pints too) arrive and we take a seat behind the musicians. This pub boasts of its live music across the week, and it was nice to walk in somewhere at half five on a Sunday evening and hear it, relaxed and in the corner. The playlist was a bit random, with the musicians going from Neil Young covers to whipping out Tin Whistles, but all in all I’m a fan of live music in pubs providing it’s in any way half decent.

Between songs I pick up on a funny sound and can’t quite gather what it is. Two budgies, in a cage by the bar. Why the fuck not, really. The pub is nicely decorated with some interesting odds and ends, and the stone slabbed floor and fireplace add to the places character. It is pointed out by two of the lads that The Celt does good food too, but it’s a bit early for that. Kebabs await later, more likely.

So, we leave The Celt (and a friendly barman, thanking us for dropping the glasses back up to the bar. Something I’ve always done without thinking) and take off on the long walk towards Croke Park. So far, our Northside day out is going swimmingly.

the Red Parrot, Dorset Street. Photo by flickr user xtopalopagueti

The Red Parrot is up next. No, no, no trip to Fagans today. I’ve no doubt people expected it on the walk up Dorset Street, but I’ve different plans today. This is a locals pub in as much a sense as any pub can be. Walking in the door to the bar, the place is a mix of old and young faces (Some very young, scoffing crisps into themselves) and the atmosphere is very much laid back.

The pint, at €4, is a bargain. I can’t spot anyone drinking anything else (Bar the prior mentioned crisp scoffers, who are on the fizzies, duh) which is always a good sign.

The pub is just that. It is a pub. It has tables. It has chairs. It has pints. It won’t blow you away, but it does its job and people obviously enjoy coming here. The place is clean, there is no rubbish blaring music or annoyances, and the regulars are happy enough and don’t seem to mind day trippers either. One of few pubs in the area that doesn’t seem to be too much of a ‘Croke Park Pub’ image wise. Thumbs up.

Right across the road from The Red Parrot, is Patrick McGraths.

I have learned from this pubcrawl to ALWAYS carry a camera, as McGraths would prove the first internet image search nightmare to date. The yellow one. On the corner. This snap is by flickr user tarts larue

This pub was greatly enlarged a few years back, and I can see it being a busy one on match days. Apparently the place is unrecognisable from its previous incarnation in some ways, and I’m fond of this one pretty soon after walking in the door. A sliding door seperates the bar from the lounge, and the place is enjoying the custom of four or five similar sized groups to our own, as well as a few heads along the bar. It’s all moving very slowly here, and it’s a quiet pub too. A good thing, on a Sunday evening.

The pints? You’re here for the pints afterall.

Fine. So fine, that while on paper the crawl is always a ‘1 pub, 1 pint’ thing, seconds are ordered here.A good bit of time is spent here, in a pub everyone finds most agreeable. Is there much going on on the walls? Not really, no. The decoration is minimal. Still, the lighting, seating arrangements etc. create a lovely atmosphere. I believe the pints were around €4.50, sadly the order was a mess of crisps, Pringles and whatever you’re having yourself. This was probably my favourite pint of the day.

Still, there’s work at hand. Time to move on. Up the road to the ATM (Jesus, the ATM) and on again. We’re now joined by Angela, who joins a tiny, tiny band of ‘women who have gone on a Come Here To Me pubcrawl’

We do invite them, honestly.

While W.J Kavanaghs seems to be hiding from Google, Yahoo, Flickr and everywhere else, just look out for the bottle of this (surprisingly half decent) whiskey in the window of the Dorset Street boozer. Tacky as it comes.

It’s W.J Kavanaghs time. Purely on a hunch this one was picked. I’d heard it was one of the best pubs on Dorset Street, and it is well known for a good breakfast (Bit late in the day…)

There’s a pub in the area that proudly boasts of being a ‘Gastro pub’ (Go away), but this is the kind of pub I like. A mix of old and young faces, a friendly barman awaited us and half a box of crisps seemed to find its way to the table too. Between a Bulmers drinker and a Corona drinker, things were looking a little different to normal. A friend of one of the lads adds a pint of something that isn’t Guinness (!) to the table and we’re now about as diverse as that Abrakebabra ad from five years back (You’ve got the whole world….)

The black stuff is good. Bargain town stuff Monday to Friday too, at €3.50 before a certain time in the evening. I wish I remember the details. Some day, I will be like a journalist and carry a notepad and all that business.

Honestly, I would condemn a bad pint if I got one on a pub crawl, and I think maybe the pub crawl in question just got lucky, but these pints were great. Again, seconds are ordered here (and I think in some cases thirds) and the cosy spot in the corner is occupied for a good hour or so. This is how you lose a pub crawl, when it becomes a pub sit-in.

There seems to be flashy lights (not much, mind) and a Rod Stewart track coming from the back of the pub, a sort of Dead Disco nobody is paying any attention too. Pubs like this should avoid that lark. This pub is buzzing with the sound of chat and laughter and doesn’t need anything else. In fact, I wonder if anyone else at the table even picked up on the sound. The walls are well decorated and not at all tacky, and the pub clean and well presented. Another unfaultable barman, you’d wonder if the pubs knew we were coming in advance today (imagine).

I can see a return performance here some night. I’m chuffed with the Dorset Street/Drumcondra gamble so far, and it’s all make or break now at the last hurdle, Mayes.

Mayes of Dorset Street. Photo from flickr user Ian_Russell

I’ve always loved the Guinness clock feature on the front of this pub,but never ventured inside. Apparently this was once quite a popular pub with Dublin politicos(I would guess due to the Teachers Club also being in the area) and being located only a stonesthrow from O’ Connell Street, I’m not sure why I’ve never ended up here before.

The pints are again right up to scratch, and being the last pub of the night, consumed in good numbers. I order a vodka (!SACRILEGE!) and relax, content with how the evening has gone. The pub is laid back, with a number of (what appear to be) locals at the bar and a few small groups scattered about. Like with The Red Parrot earlier it would be hard to say anything too amazing about the place, and yet it is a great pub. It does the job. The barman even popped over with a free toasted sandwich, brilliant. (The fact Oisin had to remind me of this TODAY is an indication of where I was at by that stage)

So now, it’s end of the night stuff. It goes past eleven on a Sunday ‘evening’, and a half five pub crawl can be deemed a success. The bus is gone. Let it go. Maybe we need to start earlier, who knows. I think our new recruits had fun, and that’s all that matters. Certainly, the pubs today were of different stock to those done before. In some cases, there’s very little you can say about these pubs. They’re good at what they do.

We’re a pub. Simple.

This should be over the doors of a few of them.

Fagans of Drumcondra, as hxci threatened in his article on barstool football fans, remains unvisited. Us little people don’t forget 😉

Fagans of Drumcondra, snap by flickr user MacGBeing

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