How to Search for Ireland’s Traditional Music by Auto
Traditional Irish music is easily included in any automobile tour of Ireland. Rent a car at Shannon Airport, then take a short drive on the N18 to Ennis and the N85 to Ennistymon.
Plan to spend a couple of nights at the romantic Falls Hotel on an old country estate. To make reservations, write or call the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland, (065) 71004. The summer rates are about $33 per person, including breakfast.
A detailed map of the area and a “Shannon Region Events Guide” are essential equipment. Along with other useful information, the guide contains a list of pubs that offer Irish music. Some pubs offer music every night and others only on certain nights; this is noted in the guide.
Continue west along Liscannor Bay to the spectacular cliffs of Moher. It’s cold and windy there, so be sure to have warm clothing.
The road to Kilfenora and the Burren Display Center will introduce the wildly beautiful limestone country known as the Burren, a mysterious land of rare alpine plants, massive dolmens and tombs of rock constructed in prehistoric times.
In the evening, look for traditional music at Nagle’s on Main Street in Ennistymon or drive a short distance south to Mulagh and Ollie Conway’s Pub. Other nearby pubs include the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna and O’Dwyers Pub in Lahinch.
Pub food in Ireland ranges from small packets of crisps (potato chips) to full meals, but most pubs offer meager fare. In western Ireland seafood is fresh and delicious, so treat yourself to salmon or mussels. The cost of a complete meal is $12-$15, including soup and salad.
The next day, drive to Doolin and take the ferry to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands. Take a picnic lunch or enjoy a fine meal at the hotel, then walk among the cottages and their tiny rock-walled pastures.
It was there that we heard sean nos singing by children and a young woman who set aside her kitchen duties in the hotel up the hill from the ferry landing. It is the only hotel on the island. For a few minutes she enchanted us with the sweetest voice this side of the angels. In the evening try O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin or, for a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Queen’s Hotel in Ennis.
Galway is a fine city for shopping, strolling and eating as well as watching the sun go down. Stop early at the Tourist Information Center to arrange for a bed and breakfast. Accommodations might be scarce here, but elsewhere there should be no problem.
Galway teems with pubs featuring traditional music: Besides the Crane Bar there are The King’s Head, Taaffes, Clogs and the Celtic Arts Center, to name a few. Pick up a copy of the indispensable Entertainment Guide for a run-down of the week’s musical events.
From Galway, drive north toward Castlebar, or, if time permits, take the scenic road through Connemara. For music, your destination would be the town of Westport and the pub owned by Matt Molloy of the world-famous Chieftains. From there, continue north to Sligo.
The musical tradition of Sligo is slightly different from the other areas, emphasizing the wooden flute rather than the fiddle. In Sligo Town, visit the Tourist Information Center for tickets to a play by Sligo’s famous poet, William Butler Yeats.
Mrs. Killoran’s Pub and Restaurant in Tubbercurry, a large pub featuring traditional dancing and accomplished local musicians, is also a museum of farm and kitchen antiques. For information on the Sligo area, write to the Killorans at Killoran’s Travel Agency, Tubbercurry, County Sligo; (071) 85111.
Continuing north, plan to stay at the Glencolumbkille Hotel, Glencolumbkille, County Donegal; (073) 30003, a delightful small hotel near the ocean. The food is excellent and the entertainment features famous Donegal musicians such as fiddler James Byrne or the group Altan.
You can also find plenty of traditional music in Dublin. But before you search for a pub, walk out on one of the bridges over the River Liffey.
Watching the sun go down over Dublin is far more spectacular than watching the sun go down on Galway Bay. The newspaper In Dublin lists local events; traditional music is under the category of folk and country music.
Three reliable pubs for good music are Hughes Pub on Chancery Street near the Four Courts, O’Donoghues on Baggott Street and Slattery’s on Capel Street. Mother Redcap’s Tavern near Christchurch serves food and is the only place in Ireland where we saw a harp.
Returning to Shannon, stop at the tourist office at Nenagh near Lough Derg and inquire about bed and breakfast availability.
It’s a short drive to the airport and a more pleasant area to spend the night than Shannon. We stayed at Catherine Turley’s home, The Lookout, where we enjoyed a cup of tea and a panoramic view of the lake from her comfortable sitting room. Her home is a few minutes’ drive to Garrykennedy and the Barge Inn.