Revisiting Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub

BBC Travel posted an article today An Irish pub born in the Dark Ages that took me back to November 2014 and two nights I spent in Athlone, Ireland before flying to London.  The BBC article provides a good read on why Sean’s Bar with a history dating back to 900 A.D. has historical value for the nation of Ireland.

My contribution to this story is a flashback to a hotel stay in Athlone and my visit to Sean’s Bar. I thought I had written an article on Sean’s Bar in 2014, but I only devoted a portion of my trip report ‘A Day in Athlone’ to Ireland’s oldest pub with a couple of photos.

Sean’s Bar Athlone, Ireland

Looking through my photos of Sean’s Bar was a flashback revisit to Athlone as I scrolled through pictures stored on a back-up hard drive of images I have not seen in a few years.

Sean’s Bar

High hotel rates in Dublin and the availability of a $37 room night at Radisson Blu Athlone set my travel destination for two nights in Ireland. Some of my best travel adventures are the result of going to a place motivated solely by a good hotel deal to conserve my travel budget.

I was at an off-licence store and chatting with the clerk. He asked why I came to Athlone?

When I told him the Radisson Blu hotel rate was really low, he quipped,

“There is a reason for that. This town sucks.”

A day in Athlone, Ireland

Without the Radisson Blu Athlone hotel deal, I would have never been inside Sean’s Bar. 

Sean’s Bar fireplace
Sean’s Bar – Athlon, Ireland 900 A.D.

Sean’s Bar, Athlone, Ireland was awarded the Guinness Book of World Records title in 2004 for oldest pub in Ireland dating to 900 A.D.

I stopped in Sean’s Bar for a pint and photographed the place in November 2014, but never published most of my photos. The BBC article today had me revisiting Sean’s Pub in my photos to recall the experience of a day hanging out in Athlone, Ireland. The low light inside produced a deep orange tint in my photos. I have changed color to brighten some photos and turned some photos to B&W to make print easier to read.

Guinness World Records June 2000 letter certifying Sean’s Bar oldest pub in Ireland

Mr. S Fitzsimons 27, June 2000
Sean’s Bar
Main Street
Co. Westmeath

Dear Mr. Fitzsimons

Congratulations! We are writing to inform you that the oldest pub Sean’s Bar has officially been accepted as an Irish record by Guinness World Records. A certificate to confirm this fact is enclosed.

The Keeper of the Records will now consider this record for entry into the world’s biggest selling copyright book – Guinness World Records itself. Although a certificate does not guarantee entry into the Book, all records are considered for publication on an annual basis.

In order to keep the press informed of new records which we have accepted, we occasionally send out a bulletin to national and regional newspapers and radio stations. We may mention details of this record in the next issue, and would give out your address and/or telephone number if asked to do so, unless we hear from you in the next four weeks that you do not want to be included.

Once again, welcome to the select band of Guinness record holders.

Yours sincerely

A.M. Collins
Records Research Services
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records Oldest Pub in Ireland certificate

Guinness World Records Certificate

The oldest public house in Ireland is Sean’s Bar in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland, which claims to be on a site of a tavern first built in 900 AD.

The bar has a record of every single one of its owners over the past 1,114 years, including Boy George, who owned the bar briefly in 1987. – The Daily Mail (July 31, 2014)

There were only a few people in Sean’s Bar in early afternoon the day I visited in late November 2014.

Sean’s Bar beer taps, Athlone, Ireland
Sean’s Bar interior with my pint of Smithwick’s Ale.
Sean’s Bar press clippings display
Sean’s Bar Athlone stick and waddle wall construction is dated to 900 A.D.

The Director
National Museum of Ireland
Kildare Street
Dublin 2

Mrs. Anna Fitzsimons 4 December, 1972
13 Main Street
Co. Westmeath

Dear Mrs. Fitzsimons,

Please excuse the delay in replying to your letter about the wattle partition.

The use of wattle-work in house construction is a well known feature from very early times. Indeed, you may have read in the newspapers of the excavations being carried out at present by the Museum in High Street, Winetavern Street and Christchurch Place in Dublin. In these excavations the remains of houses incorporating wattle-work in their construction have been uncovered for various times raging between the 9th century and the 13th century.

In Britain and in various countries in Europe many houses still in use to the present time incorporate wattle-work in the construction of the walls.

I have not done any research as to when your house in Athlone was originally built or subsequently renovated. Perhaps Mr. English or some other local historian can help you in this matter.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

John C. O’Sullivan

Sean’s Bar sawdust on slanted floor

The story is the floor is constructed at a slight angle towards the Shannon River to allow water entering pub to run down toward the river. Sawdust is on the floor to keep customers from slipping in a pub where chances are your shoes are wet from the rain and damp outside.

Sean’s Bar Athlone – James Joyce Pub Award

This pub has been granted the James Joyce Pub Award for being an authentic Irish pub.

“A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub” Ulysses

James Joyce identified and described the characteristic ambience of the Irish pub so successfully that the characters in Ulysses may be fictional, but they are based on a multitude of living beings, characters who Joyce found in pubs just like this one. This establishment remains an outstanding example of the tradition which Joyce immortalised in his works and is an authentic Irish pub which retains a genuineness of atmosphere, friendliness and presence of good company.

Sean’s Bar Athlone, Ireland
Athlone, Ireland Sean’s Bar – An Irish pub born in the Dark Ages (March 14, 2019).

Irish Central – Look inside Ireland’s oldest pub – it might be the oldest in the world (July 2014)

Sean’s Bar – Wikipedia – Sean’s Bar in Athlone is Ireland’s oldest pub – and a bona fide tourist attraction (Feb 2018)

Bucket List – 5 Oldest bars in the World

Loyalty Traveler Ireland 2014 Trip Report

Loyalty Traveler – Where the hell is Athlone, Ireland and why am I planning to go there? (Nov 12, 2014).

Loyalty Traveler – A day in Athlone, Ireland (Nov 22, 2014).

Irish dancers at Radisson Blu Athlone, Ireland (Nov 23, 2014). Hotel review and this article includes a visit to Sean’s Pub, Ireland’s oldest pub according to Guinness World Records.

I stayed in South Dublin at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s for a few nights on my return to Ireland the following week.

Loyalty Traveler – Estate Life at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin (Dec 2, 2014).

Dublin footsteps of Bono, Michael Collins and Oliver Hardy (Dec 1, 2014) A day hike part 1 from Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in south Dublin along the coast to Dalkey, Ireland.

James Joyce slept here and Ulysses begins here in Sandycove, County Dublin (Dec 2, 2014) Part 2 of coast walk.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk in County Wicklow Ireland (Dec 2, 2014) One of Ireland’s most popular coast walks.

Bono and Enya’s neighborhood Killiney, County Dublin (Dec 14, 2014) Photos of the coastal village of Killiney, so-called Beverly Hills of Ireland.



  • Charlotte March 14, 2019

    Do I ever miss the 2 for 1 Carlson rate for Gold members!

  • Ric Garrido March 15, 2019

    I will likely clean out my Radisson Rewards account this summer for reward nights at one of the few remaining category 2 or category 3 hotels in Europe. Just don’t find much value with the program since it changed hands.

  • Dan March 17, 2019

    Thanks for the post, Ric! I am glad you reviews some of the Rasisson Blu hotels. We are going to Ireland 2020 and am thinking of the using up those Radisson points we have.

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