It's hard to decide whether the work that photographer Eric Roth did for his latest book was a dream job - or torture. Roth and his coauthor (and pub quest cohort), Eileen McNamara, made three trips over a 24-day period, "zigzagging all over Ireland, from pub to pub," in search of watering holes worth including in their book, The Parting Glass: A Toast to the Traditional Pubs of Ireland (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $30). In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, we pushed Roth to offer up the names of 10 great pubs - five in Dublin and five around the rest of the isle - worth settling into for an evening of good craic (fun). And though he feels like a rat for excluding so many, he was more than happy to oblige us.
Here are the top 10 Irish pubs to raise your glass to this St. Paddy's Day:
1 - The Stag's Head, One Dame Court: "Don't let the formal atmosphere of ornately carved wood, stained glass, and other rich embellishments intimidate you. This pub is as warm and as friendly as your local neighborhood pint."
2 - The Swan, 57 Aungier Street: A family-owned and very friendly spot, the Swan is a beauty of a "classic elegant pub."
3 - John Kehoe, Nine Anne Street South: Consider yourself lucky if you score the "old snug," says Roth. The "enclosed booth is the best seat in the house."
4 - The Temple Bar, Temple Lane: If it's nighttime, there's sure to be a music session underway at this local legend.
5 - Toner's, 139 Lower Baggot Street: Need to shake hands with new friends you met inside? Rest your pint on the half-round shelves on the walls.
6 - Morrissey's, Abbeyleix, Countºy Laois: "This is the most accurately preserved of all historic pubs," says Roth, "a true mecca for traditional-pub enthusiasts."
7 - Sean’s Bar, Athlone, County Westmeath: “Tucked in the center of the city in the very center of Ireland,” says Roth, “Sean’s [which claims to be the oldest surviving pub in all of Ireland] has the heartbeat of a joyful, musical pub.”
8 - Hargadon Bros., Sligo Town, County Sligo: All the way up in the northwestern corner of Ireland, a trip to this “great original, full of warm small-town cheer” will be “worth every lovely mile.”
9 - McCarthy’s Bar Hotel, Fethard, County Tipperary: A “casual country pub” loaded with beautiful details like colorful antique porcelain beer taps, McCarthy’s is a second home to more than a few “local devotees.”
10 - The Castle Inn, Cork City, County Cork: “This peaceful, unassuming pub is the last original survivor of the cosmopolitan vibrance of Cork.”