On Tour in the Emerald Isle
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invited readers to pitch us ideas, and we sent five of them on assignment. This writer and her husband traveled to Ireland for a musical pub crawl.
Our trip is winding down, and we make our way to Shannon, just outside Limerick, and stop at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. JP is fascinated by the tour of the 15th-century castle. He experiences it in a very different way than I do, feeling the cold stone walls with his hands, maneuvering along narrow stairwells, and calling out so he can hear his voice echo in the grand halls. We nearly bypass Durty Nelly's, a pub beside the castle, because some of the musicians we met said it's touristy. But we step in anyway—and I'm thrilled. The tight quarters are bursting with big-band and Irish ditties, and the locals (and a few tourists) are singing at the top of their lungs.
After the barkeep announces that it's last call, the piano player, who has performed at Durty Nelly's for 46 years now, lingers to tell jokes and laugh with the crowd. Out of nowhere, an a cappella seisiún begins. A young woman sings a mournful tune about a lover lost at sea, followed by an older man's baritone tribute to County Donegal. The crowd then invites JP and me to share a few of our own songs, backed only by the swishing sound of the barkeep sweeping the floor. It's a sweet decrescendo to our trip.
Quay St., Westport, 011-353/98-27-050, mccarthyslodge.com, from $110
2 Merlin Gate, Dublin Rd., Galway, 011-353/91-755-345, almarahouse.com, from $124
N18 Limerick-Ennis Rd., Bunratty, 011-353/61-360-788, tour $23
Bridge St., Westport, 011-353/98-26-655, mattmalloy.com
Mainguard St., Galway, 011-353/91-561-294
3-4 Dock Rd., Limerick, 011-353/61-314-483, dolanspub.com
N18 Limerick-Ennis Rd., Bunratty, 011-353/61-364-861, durtynellys.ie