It may not look particularly historic from the outside, but Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland – and it has a Guinness Book of Records certificate to back this up. You will find Sean’s Bar west of the Shannon, in the fascinating old part of the town near the Norman castle.
The pub with the longest continuous use in Ireland, Sean’s has a record of every owner since 900 A.D. – making it a mind-boggling 1,100-plus years old. Indeed the National Museum has certified Sean’s as the oldest pub in Britain and Ireland, and research is underway to ascertain whether it is Europe’s oldest pub too.
Enter the dimly-lit interior to find a mahogany bar, mirrored shelving, an open fire, and a huge settle bed. A particularly interesting feature is the sloping floor, which was installed to ensure that floor water drained back into the Shannon River when the flood receded. A glass case houses a section of the original 10th-century wattle wall uncovered during renovations in the 1970s. The remodelling also revealed old coins minted by various landlords for barter with their customers. Both the coins and the remainder of those wattle walls are now on display in the National Museum.
Historic claims aside, the bar is particularly popular with the local student population and with visitors taking a break from their Shannon cruise. Whether or not it does turn out to be the oldest pub in the world, Sean’s will always attract customers, drawn to its wonderful atmosphere, old world setting, and the best of traditional Irish music. Relax in the beer garden overlooking the ancient Ford of Luai and ponder the history of Sean’s Bar – it also serves exceedingly good pints.
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