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Guinness may not travel well, but you can

YouTuber Daragh Curran shares his top picks of drinking dens to visit this autumn as you explore Ireland

Too often in life, the idea that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone rings alarmingly true.

Plenty of us came to exactly that realisation during the early days of the Covid pandemic when we were suddenly thrust into lockdown life and left yearning for our regular routines to come back.

What was missed most looked different for everyone — ranging from seeing loved ones, to the freedom to travel, to watching a gig or a match — but certainly one of the most difficult losses for much of the country was the age-old tradition of heading to the local with a few friends, and putting the world to rights over a couple of pints.

Few people can attest to this more than YouTuber Daragh Curran. Previously known as The Guinness Guru, Curran’s channel (now under his own name) has more than 300 videos dedicated to testing out pints of the black stuff from pubs all over the world. These videos have earned him a loyal following too, of almost 600,000 people combined across Instragram, TikTok and YouTube.


“People have such an appreciation for the pubs now that I think is stronger than ever,” says Curran. “That really struck me coming out of the pandemic — I was running the channel for a good while before Covid but wasn’t really gaining traction. Once things started opening up again, though, and I could get back out filming videos, people were just mad to see the inside of a pub, and to see a proper pint! There was suddenly a way bigger audience for my content and anything pub-related, and I don’t think that post-pandemic hunger has died down yet.”

While lockdown was what opened many of his followers’ eyes to just how important local pubs are, Curran had already had that same realisation 10 times over, even before the pandemic. His videos have seen him travel far and wide in search of the best food, accommodation and, of course, pints — filming in Brussels, Boston and Amsterdam, to name just a few. While these have all been positive experiences, they rarely come close to a proper night out back home.

“I’m obviously biased, but the Irish are known all over the world for our pubs for a reason! I suppose it’s all intertwined with the Irish history of gathering and storytelling,” he reflects. “There have been plenty of times of struggle in our history, where all the Irish really had left were the stories they could tell or the songs they could sing. I’ve met some amazing characters along the way from visiting pubs across Ireland, people who held on to that tradition you could say. I think that’s the basis for any ‘authentic Irish pub’. You walk in and chances are there’ll be some oul’ lad there who, if you give him the time of day, will be full of chat and interesting tales. There’ll also be a lad there that’d wreck your head but sure there’s the good and the bad, like anywhere.”

As much as the company you’re drinking with, what also sets Irish pubs apart is, of course, the top-quality Guinness. “I don’t want to harp on about it too much, the whole “Guinness doesn’t travel well” thing, but it is the case more often than not. I’ve found it’s hard to replicate a proper pint outside of Ireland, as it’s part of the culture in pubs here more than anywhere else. I think you can definitely tell if a place overseas is Irish-owned, their Guinness tends to be way better.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in an Irish bar abroad that’s had the same authenticity as one at home either, but a lot of them are still very good spots. Unfortunately, some of them do try too hard to replicate whatever their idea of ‘Irish’ is and it just turns into a disaster. I suppose at home it really is just about the craic, the sing-songs, the few stories — things that can’t be copied or forced, they come about naturally. Obviously, you’re not going to get a sing-along in every pub you go into, but it is part of that authenticity here in Ireland.”

It doesn’t have to be a nightly trad session that defines a good pub for Curran, though. He’s been awestruck by a huge variety of pubs across the country, for countless different reasons. “I’m usually looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, and those are things I’d recommend to people for their staycations too. For example, I’ve visited both the most northerly pub and the most southerly pub in Ireland over the last few months and they were both really cool experiences.

“The most northerly pub is Farren’s Bar in Donegal, only about five minutes away from Malin Head. I had a lovely pint of Guinness there and enjoyed some amazing views. There’s a couple of great places in the area where you can stay overnight too, and make a proper trip out of it if you decide to do the loop in Malin Head.

“The most southerly pub, then, is O’Sullivan’s Bar in Crookhaven in west Cork, about 15 minutes away from Mizen Head. Out of everywhere I’ve been in Ireland, I’d struggle to top that. It was my first time in west Cork and I was blown away by the scenery, it was just absolutely incredible. The pub itself was great as well, it’s right on the waterfront where a lot of the boats would dock and you could just watch them come and go.

“Another one that surprised me recently was Carrick-on-Shannon. I’d always thought of it as a great spot for a stag or a hen do, or just a lively weekend, but I recently went there midweek to film a video and had a totally different experience than I’d gotten from the nightlife. It was nice and quiet, a lovely sunny day, but I couldn’t get over what a nice town it was! It was just really peaceful to stroll about, I think it’d be perfect for a couple looking to get away midweek. There’s some lovely pubs there too — I was in McHugh’s and only paid €4 for a pint. It’s a beautiful little pub that has two fires and loads of little nice snug areas. I’d also recommend Flynn’s, especially if you’re in a bigger group, as they have a nice big garden out the back where you can have a pod to yourselves.

“I’ve found that a lot of the places that have good Guinness tend not to be known as sexy cities or towns, with Mullingar and Derry being perfect examples. Mullingar has a pub called Dolan’s and I’ve had unbelievable Guinness in there. Derry has some fantastic pubs too, like Peadar O’Donnell’s. Derry in general is a lovely spot, it definitely feels like you’re in a busy city but it has a nice, small-town vibe to it as well.”

While a trip up North to the likes of Derry would definitely leave you with a tonne of great pubs to explore, sometimes there may actually be brilliant drinking holes much closer to home left undiscovered. “I know for people in Dublin like myself, we often think we need to go miles and miles away, and usually stick to the west of Ireland for holidays if we’re not going abroad,” says Curran. “But I remember getting a B&B with my girlfriend in Dalkey for her birthday a few years ago and we still talk about it to this day. Dalkey village is lovely, which we hadn’t really realised before that trip, even though it’s so close to us. We could see out to the sea and everything, it was perfect.”

And if you’re looking to save on money as well as mileage with your staycation, there’s only one spot that Curran would recommend. “If you’re exploring Connemara, then you should definitely pop into Johny O’Loghlen’s pub. Colm, who’s running the bar, is an absolute character. I was only there a few months ago and they were selling Guinness for €3.80, definitely the cheapest in Ireland. It was a lovely pint too.”

These reasonably priced pints are becoming increasingly rare, with inflation hitting the pubs just as harshly as all other businesses. It’s a tough time for everyone, but Curran urges people not to make it even harder for hospitality staff.

“When you go into a pub and see that your pint’s dearer than the last time, make sure you don’t automatically blame the publican or some young lad behind the bar. He’s not setting the prices, the pubs themselves aren’t even setting the prices! I can’t justify the price of pints in a few places, but to be fair most pubs are decent, family-run businesses just scraping by and trying to sell the drink at a price where they can still make even.

“I definitely think it’s important to still support your local if you can afford to. I don’t just mean rural, countryside pubs either — though you definitely should support them — but even busy pubs in city centres that you wouldn’t ever think might be struggling. They actually are in trouble, too, because they’re paying crazy high rents. It’s either support your local pubs now, or they might not be there the next time you’re craving a pint.”

To see more of Curran’s travel content and follow his adventures testing out the finest food and drink across Ireland and beyond, check out his YouTube channel.