A myriad of traditional Irish pubs dot the Ballina and greater north Mayo region. These buildings are time capsules. They preserve our truest roots. Each one is a museum in itself, not so much documenting artefacts, but a feeling and an atmosphere that is quintessentially Irish. When people speak of the ‘Irish pub’ they always mention ‘the charm’. If you wander into one of these establishments you’re sure to be greeted with a warm welcome and interesting talk.
You know when you’ve crossed the threshold of an Irish pub. The walls more than likely boast decor that spans generations – pictures of smiling faces, tools and trinkets. The comforting smell of old wooden fittings and threadbare furniture flows through the air and gives the place a homely feeling.
If the weather is dreary, which is usually the case (!), you can count on the local pub and its mystifying turf fire to warm the hands, and warm the heart. If we’re speaking of smells, this is undoubtedly one everyone remembers – the beautiful, earthy scent of burning turf.
Sitting at the bar you’ll know who’s who pretty quickly. The characters have a way of making themselves known. If you have an ear to spare you’re certain to hear a lavish, unscripted history of the area and the people in it.
These traditional pubs also play host to traditional Irish music, an upbeat genre that compels you to dance a jig, clap your hands and join in. Fiddlers, flutists, banjos and bodhráns all come together to create a truly spectacular show, whether it be an informal musical focused seisún or a céilí, which is all about the dancing.
If you are lucky enough to travel the length of Ireland you’ll surely encounter many different distinctive styles and flavours of traditional music. If you ask any traditional Irish musician they’ll assure you that it’s in Irish pubs that this music rings truest.
So while you trudge the pages of TripAdvisor, or whatever travel site you use to plan your days in the West of Ireland, don’t forget to give some time to a good old fashioned wander, and if you stumble across an Irish pub take a peek inside and see a side of Ireland that you only hear about in stories.