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Worst Pub Experience in Ireland

We just returned from a lovely three week trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic. We heard a lot of great music and saw a lot of great dancing all over. In fact, we only had one poor, nay, rotten experience with anything the whole trip.

O'Flaherty's Bar in Dingle receives high praise in the RS Ireland Guide. With friends we'd met who were also carrying the Guide, we dropped in at O'Flaherty's after supper one night. The music is all supplied by the owner, a solo performer on multiple instruments-"if he wants to"- as was told to our friends that afternoon.

After entering, we listened for a song, then found seats at the back. Before we even got our coats off, a woman appeared and asked what we wanted to drink. I said I was ok for the moment and she told us that if we weren't drinking, we needed to leave-she was running a business. So, we left. Losing 4 customers doesn't seen like a good business model.

I understand that pubs need to make a living and a fully expected to participate-given the chance, once we determined to stay. In EVERY other pub or venue we visited, if you wanted a drink you approached the bar. Once you had a drink, the bartenders never hounded you for a refill and I saw many patrons sit for lengthy times nursing a pint or even an empty glass.
Ireland is a great place and there are many. many great pubs, including several in Dingle.

Do yourself a favor-visit pubs, patronize the Ireland and enjoy the music-and avoid this snooty establishment.

Posted by
170 posts

I also had a bad pub experience in Ireland. Unfortunately it was also on the Dingle Peninsula and in a famous pub: the South Pole Inn in Annascaul.

I visited the pub in 2002 and again in 2010. In the 2002 trip, when I was on Dingle with my sister, I noticed that the South Pole Inn had framed newspaper clips from around the world (London, New York and other cities) about Tom Crean. He was an explorer on voyages led by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott to the South Pole, and Crean started the inn in his later life. The pub also had stunning photos of the masted ships Crean had served on and other beautiful ships in the British Navy.

Ironically, I had saved a 1,200-word clip about Crean from a Chicago newspaper and put it in a book I had read about him. In 2010, when I was back in Dingle to walk the 100-mile-long Dingle Way, I brought the clip with me. I thought I would give it to the pub to add to its collection.

I gave the clip to someone at the bar, who identified himself as a manager. He didn't seem to care I had saved the clip for almost 10 years and brought it 5,000 miles. He tossed it down on the bar. The inn's food was terrible: oil slathered on a tidbit of meat and a few leaves of lettuce. The Guinness tasted off.

As Jeff noted, visit only those pubs where the culture, conviviality and courtesy that Ireland is famous for is evident.

Posted by
317 posts

Greetings from Ireland

Friends, I understand your sentiments and your sensitivities, but if I walked into a bar in America and sat down and told them I'd get a drink later, I don't they'd be too happy. Some would insist I buy a drink or leave, and they'd be right in my opinion.

These are pubs (public houses) with high taxes and high expenses, their only revenue is from patrons buying drinks. These are not free concerts or a facility for tourists to "observe the Irish in their natural habitat' like in a zoo, without buying a drink. Which happens all the time and is so disheartening to see.

If you go into a pub in Ireland -- buy a drink. Its courtesy and its what keeps the pubs open for business.

O'Flaherty's mightn't have handled this as best they could've but they are not 'snooty', that bar is a Dingle legend. And if even one other visitor did not go there because they read the previous post, then that would be doing O'Flahertys bar and other travellers a disservice... and Tom Creans Bar also, they are great establishments. Ive been to both, literally hundreds of times.

Visit an Irish pub, buy a drink. its good manners. Theres no debate about it. Its clear and simple.

Le meas/with respect
Stephen McPhilemy
Rick Steves Ireland Tour-Guide
Dingle and Derry

Posted by
253 posts

Emma, there was no table, just some stools and, as I said, I didn't get a chance to remove my coat before being swooped upon. Stephen, I understand both the business and etiquette involved, and I expected to patronize the establishment. What I objected to was the immediate demand to buy or leave.

I honestly don't care if this place is a legend, or not. I wanted to hear good music. In my business, you are only as good as the next customer that comes in. Two couples, two bad experiences-one told in the afternoon there's music if the owner feels like it, four people told to order or leave.

18 days in Ireland, traveling all over-many different types of experiences and this was the ONLY one that left us with a bad taste. Guess we were lucky, except for once, but, with all due respect, I will stand by my recommendation to get your Dingle pub fix somewhere else.

Posted by
6616 posts

Sorry, but I don't understand why you would be offended or surprised by being required to buy a drink at a pub. It is a bar, a business, and you are taking a table but not buying.

Posted by
2353 posts

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Stephen and the others. My guess is the place after being in RS book they have sen their share of "lookie-loos" and are proactive in nipping it in the bud.

I imagine "After entering, we listened for a song," means you stood near the door or area close to the door and listened through the performance of a song - then decided to sit. It was perfectly reasonable at that point for the woman to expect you would be ordering something.

The Irish can be very blunt which can be mistaken for rude...its just their way.

Posted by
2515 posts

sounds like another great pub that has been ruined by recommendation.
I must admit there are many great places in my own city and in other cities I visit that I would never ever recommend as I really would not want them ruined.

Posted by
253 posts

I have no wish to belabor the discussion. If I'd had a wonderful experience, you'd expect me to say so. Why should a less than wonderful experience not be just as worthy of reporting? Michelin reviews its restaurants because sometimes standards are not maintained, right? All four people there felt the same way about how we were addressed and we all left. It was not welcoming, not cordially, not with expectation, but "buy now or leave".

At this point, I really don't care. We had a great trip to Ireland and we enjoyed virtually every minute of our trip. I'm just relating what happened to us -one pub out of a dozen or more we visited.

If you've been to Ireland, I hope you had a great time. If you're going to Ireland, I hope you have as good a time as we did. If you go to Dingle and choose to visit O'Flaherty's pub, I hope you truly enjoy it. That will be your experience.