Sean’s Bar, the World’s Oldest Watering Hole
A frosty pint is something special at Sean’s Bar in the central Ireland town of Athlone. The iconic public house rests in a time-honored Irish neighborhood on the River Shannon’s bank and is the oldest bar in the world, dating back to 900 AD.
In the 1970’s, construction workers found that one of the walls was made with daub and wattle, which is an early building compound utilizing wooden strips secured with clay and mud. Adding to the historic slant, there are records of every owner of the pub dating back to its founding in the 10th century.
During the renovations, coins as old as 900 CE were found, proving when the ancient wall was carbon tested. The discovered coinage was minted by landlords who used them for barter with clientele. Though the coins and a majority of the “wattle and wicker” wall are now housed in Dublin’s Irish National Museum, a segment of the ancient construction remains, enhancing the experience for visitors harboring a thirst for a side order of history with their Guinness or traditional Irish whiskey.
Guests are greeted by a sawdust-covered floor and an open turf fireplace. Live music, showcasing local talent, is enjoyed seven nights per week. The establishment boasts that at Sean’s Bar, the pints are always flowing, and the clientele is always diverse. The Guinness Book of World Records has bestowed Sean’s Bar with the title of Oldest Public House in Ireland, and there has been no data unearthed to disprove it being the oldest in the world. A certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records can be found on the walls, along with an expansive collection of fascinating relics.
Today, libations can be enjoyed indoors or in an on-site beer garden overlooking the Ford of Luain. It is said that the bar itself was established as an inn to accommodate myriad travelers who were crossing the fords that previously sat in the area. The legendary location was founded by Luain Mac Luighdeach around 900 AD, as he served as a guide for travelers who journeyed across the swift torrent of the River Shannon. A settlement developed around this crossing point, and this is how Athlone came into existence. Later, in 1129, King Turlough O’Connor constructed the area’s first wooden castle in order to protect the settlement.
A modern business development has come in the form of Sean’s Bar becoming distinguished for its trademark whiskey. Distilling’s 6th century origins are in close proximity to Athlone, in nearby monasteries and on the Islands in Lough Ree, so the expansion to sell their own whiskey was a natural progression. Sean’s also offers a daily historic talk detailing the story of local whiskey production.
Situated in the heart of Ireland for over 1100 years, Sean’s Bar remains a treasured local watering hole and tourist destination for its rich history and welcoming atmosphere. Great effort has been dedicated to preserving the monumental location as it strives to entrust patrons with more than refreshments.