Lots of people think there’s not much to do in Ireland but go to the pubs, and in a way they’re right. But it’s not fair to break an entire culture down to just one activity or even to relegate pubs to nothing but the simple pursuit of the next pint. Many pubs serve as a central gathering point for everyone in the community; in many rural areas it’s the only place for folks to gather to talk about matter that concern everyone. Plus get a pint. Many more pubs serve up a nice meal along with some great trad music, or offer big screen televisions for everyone to enjoy the rugby, football or hurling match. When you find the pub that fits with you, it’s like a second home.
My problem with most pubs is that they only offer pints and beers and maybe the occasional glass of wine or rum & coke, when I’m really a cocktail kinda gal. The larger hotels and fine restaurants offer cocktails, but if you order something too far out of their comfort zone you usually get a scowl and an opportunity to order something else. I was bowled over the other evening when Claude & I went into the Skeff to while away a bit of time waiting for the bus, and there was a cocktail menu offered. On it I saw Mai Tai and I have no idea what came over me…but I ordered one from the barman, who said he’d try to make it. Imagine my surprise when it arrived and was as good as any I’ve had in Hawaii! I guess it helped that they’re used to serving foreigners at the Skeff, so weird Americans like me can order off-the-wall cocktails and still get good service.
Of course, if you don’t drink at all, pub culture can be a bit trying. Drunks are no fun at all, loud crowds of sports fans yelling at the match can be trying on the nerves, and the cock-eyed looks you get from the servers and barmen can be annoying.
Recently the Kerry County Council considered a proposal to loosen the drink-driving laws for people in extremely rural areas who have no other social outlet but an evening at the pub. This created quite a bit of havoc and hilarity with people both reviling the idea and embracing it. The proposal did not pass.
So while a great deal of Irish culture does revolve around the local pub it isn’t the only thing to do while here. However it’s definitely something not to miss when visiting!