Emerald Isle pubs serve up the true taste of Ireland

March 14, 1993|By Candyce H. Stapen | Candyce H. Stapen,Contributing Writer

What could be more Irish than a pint of Guinness, more country than lamb and kidney pie and more local than a neighborhood pub? On your next trip to the Emerald Isle, chart a tour of the cities and the countryside that has you stopping between sightseeing for lunch and dinner at local pubs.

Not only will you literally rub elbows with the neighbors, but you'll taste good fare from stout to stew. As you soak up the ambience, which varies from workaday to upscale, you'll save money as well, since such traditional dishes as beef curry, Irish stew and thick potato soup are often one-half to one-third the price of similar meals in restaurants.

You don't even have to drink to enjoy a pub tour -- though quaffing a Guinness every now and then adds to the fun. But even if coffee or Coca-Cola is your preferred beverage, Irish pubs brim over with friendly fun.

Here is a list of places that take you from Dublin on the east coast; south to Kilkenny, a medieval town complete with a castle; to Cashel with its folk heritage center; then to Blarney, with its famous stone; and on to Killarney's lakes and parks, and finally to Shannon airport for the flight home.

Dublin

If, when you think of Dublin, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde come to mind, then sign up for the Literary Pub Crawl led by Derek Reid and Jerry Lee. Dressed in 19th-century garb, these actors begin at the Bailey, 2-3 Duke St., a pub whose hallway boasts the famous door to No. 7 Eccles St., the residence of Joyce's characters Leopold and Molly Bloom from "Ulysses."

Listen to the actors' rendition of a passage from Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," get in the spirit with a Guinness, then walk a few blocks to Trinity College, Oscar Wilde's school. ++ With the old gray stones of the courtyard lighted by the moon and the archways in shadow, hear a Wilde piece about his visit to a Colorado mining town.

During the three-hour tour, the guides will lead you to several more pubs, including Mulligan's, at 8 Poolbeg St., a Joyce hangout during his student days. At 5 pounds a person (drinks extra), this walking tour not only serves up the Dublin haunts you've read about, but gives you practice and confidence in bellying up to the bar. Call (01) 540228 or (01) 747733 to reserve a spot.

Kilkenny

Kilkenny is definitely worth a stop. The medieval city, with a population of 20,000, boasts Kilkenny Castle, dating to 1172 and "renovated" in the 17th century; Kilkenny College, where Jonathan Swift and William Congreve studied; the Black Abbey, a 13th-century church; the Shee Alms House, now the tourist office, which dates to 1582; a design center, which features the works of local craftspeople; plus 77 pubs, enough choices to fit every temperament.

For an entertaining city history, sign up with Tynan Walking Tours at the Kilkenny Tourist Office. From March through October, Pat Tynan or another member of his family leads you along the town's narrow, stone walkways such as the Butter Slip, into the 16th-century jail, and to the site of a popular 1800s supper house immortalized by the local ditty: "If you ever go to Kilkenny/ Look for the Hole-in-the-Wall/ Where you get blind drunk for a penny/ And tipsy for nothing at all."

Kilkenny also has one of the best pubs in Ireland: Edward Langton's, 69 John St. Housed in a 100-year-old building whose many additions attest to Langton's blossoming success, Langton's is far from Mulligan's workaday feel. With wood paneling, period antiques, stained glass, green leather couches

and marble-top tables, Langton's exudes the gracious feel of a gentlemanly Edwardian club.

Cashel

The drive through County Tipperary to Cashel takes you through green pasturelands and glens. Cashel's is noted for the famed Rock of Cashel, the ecclesiastical ruins that once marked the capital of the Kings of Munster.

The round, 11th-century tower situated atop a hill dominates the landscape. The climb is worth the view. Don't leave Cashel without visiting the nearby Bru Boru, a recently created cultural center that preserves Ireland's music and dance.

Although no alcohol is served at Bru Boru's restaurant, the tasty pub fare for lunch and dinner includes Irish stew and chicken. But the traditional Irish fiddle, flute tunes and dances, performed with dessert, are the real treats. For information on Bru Boru, call

(062) 61122.

Blarney

In Blarney, County Cork, a land of misty forests and ancient castles, tourists line up by the scores to kiss the Blarney stone, and smart shop

pers stop by the Blarney Woolen Mills for bargains on sweaters and rugs (blankets).

After a day of touristy but enjoyable tasks, leave the beaten path for Blairs Inn in nearby Cloghroe. The pub, in a 200-year-old stone cottage, welcomes a mix of savvy visitors and locals. John Blair, the garrulous owner, will charm you.

Killarney

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