When you think of Ireland, I imagine you might picture cute green leprechauns, rolling lush fields, fun friendly people who are always having the “craic*,” endless pints of Guinness and of course, a huge range of wonderful whiskeys to complete the story. And naturally enough there are some beautiful Irish girls dancing away in the corner of the pub, to some great live music. They’re such good dancers, they’re probably on a break from Riverdance!!
So when you come to Galway, to be sure, to be sure, you will want to sample one of these staples of Irish life: Ireland’s wonderful whiskey. Rarely has a drink carried with it such fascinating folklore and history, and in Galway you can follow along the route known as the Galway Whiskey Trail.
Did you know that Ireland is officially home to the best whiskey in the world?
Not only does this excellent route immerse you into such a central aspect of Irish culture, but it brings you to fantastic place after place, where you can really soak up the local Irish and Galwegian craic*.
The Galway Whiskey Trail: the finest establishments & whiskeys
This guide walks you through some of Galway’s finest bars and establishments, where you can learn much while hearing stories about the finest Irish whiskeys. With Galway being one of the world’s most creative cities, you can be sure that you will bump into some fascinating arty types as you visit the bars along the Galway Whiskey Trail.
Did God or the Irish invent whiskey?
Of course before you set off on this whiskey pilgrimmage in Galway, it is important to settle a common argument. Who invented whiskey?
Now some will say that God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world! And while some of us Irish might agree that this is a reasonable and realistic concept, it turns out not to be true.
It was, in fact, the very Irish themselves who gave birth to Uisce Beatha (the Water of Life in Irish), that golden, magical substance that you have come to know and love today as Irish whiskey.
Legend tells us that travelling monks who had been inspired by brandies and liquers in other European countries, began distilling barley around the year 1000 A.D. Over the centuries, throughout Ireland, many Irish dedicated themselves to improving the distillation methods, while numerous others played the role of very willing tasters!
So the drinking and distilling of Irish whiskey reached its dizzy heights around the 18/19th centuries, when Galway, like the rest of the country, had a thriving whiskey industry. In fact today you can see signs of this in pub memorabilia, place names and on the River Corrib banks, where the remains of the Persse Galway Whiskey Distillery lie.
The Galway Whiskey Trail
There are 12 establishments that make up the official Galway Whiskey Trail and you can recognise these by the engraved stone that is found outside each of them. Below you can also check out the map for the Galway Whiskey Trail. Additionally when you click on the name of each establishment, it directs you to Google Maps.
Map of the Galway Whiskey Trail
One of the founding members of the Galway Whiskey Trail, Sonny Molloy’s on High Street is the perfect place for a really warm welcome and the ideal starting point for this route.
The establishment was, like many Irish bars, a shop; a drapery store run by the larger than life character, Sonny Molloy. The epitome of a friendly Irish man, Sonny had a great appreciation for a good pint of Guinness and of course, a fine whiskey.
“Sonny was the unofficial king of High Street where he reigned for 40 years running his traditional drapers’ shop, Naughtons, with wife Teddy, who passed away in 2002….. He had married into the shop which in total traded for 80 years but it quickly became known as Sonny Molloys thanks to his warm personality and his close attention to getting to know his customers.” From the Connacht Tribune, 2014.
So when Sonny Molloy’s was chosen by Redbreast Whiskey as the first on-trade establishment worldwide to release a Redbreast 16 Year Old All Sherry Single Cask, naturally Sonny was over the moon.
Come inside and enjoy a special atmosphere in the King’s Head, with its medieval windows and 400 years old fireplace. Our second stop along the Galway Whiskey Trail, is renowned for its live entertainment.
The venue is spread over three floors and has played host to big names such as the Manic Street Preachers. Lots of great Irish cover bands play at this venue and on a Wednesday night, you can come along to enjoy some Irish trad music and Irish dancing.
The Kings Head boasts a superb range of whiskeys in its Irish Whiskey Bar. The pub is proud to be a member of Ireland’s Good Food Guide, and serves food from 11 am til 10 pm every day.
Just a couple of minutes walk away from Eyre Square is Blake’s Corner Bar, set in a building with a fascinating historic past. In 2012, during some refurbishment, two big stone tablets were discovered inside a kitchen wall. These could be traced back to 1790 and bear the Freemason symbol and the name John Scully. Today you can see them featured in the bar.
Blake’s Corner Bar won Bar of the Year for Bar Food, so you can’t find a better bar in Ireland right now for bar food! There is often live music on at the weekends and you might even spot a famous person in there. The likes of John Mahoney, Killian Murphy and Paraic Breathnach have been known to go!
When you drop in there while on the Galway Whiskey Trail, be sure to ask for the Four Corners of Ireland whiskey tasting board! A highly recommended experience, along with a welcoming open fire and the expert bartenders who are wonderful characters; Malachy and Ulick.
O’Connell’s Bar is considered a landmark in Galway and it is also where Ed Sheeran’s video for Galway Girl was filmed.
In its early days O’Connell’s was both a grocery store and a little bar. Its doors opened way back in 1862 and visitors today can see lots of its gorgeous antique fixtures and fittings. It is also home to one of the city’s best and biggest beer gardens, which is partially covered. And believe it or not, you’ll find a pizza shop called The Dough Bros, out there!
Inside O’Connell’s historic walls is a wonderful selection of over 120 whiskeys along with a great gin selection.
Named after the Connemara traditional sailing boats, An Pucán is one of the founding members of the Galway Whiskey Trail. Go there for live music every night, a superb all day menu, a lovely beer garden….and to enjoy a great atmosphere!
More than 200 whiskeys are stocked in An Pucán, from all around the world …even some Japanese whiskey. Choose from a range of Whiskey Platters, including a delicious Irish Whiskey and Food Platter, which matches three great Irish Whiskeys with scrumptious locally sourced foods.
An Pucán even has their own cask bottling, monthly whiskey specials and special whiskey themed events. This bar even has its own downloadable Whiskey Menu. Just click Galway Whiskey Trail menu to check it out.
As well as being part of the Galway Whiskey Route, Garvey’s Inn is also the home to American football in Galway! And as Garvey’s Inn suggested on a recent rainy day on Facebook,
“Its a day for the ducks out there today….So why not escape from the rain with a creamy pint paired with a beautiful Irish Whiskey from our Premium Whiskey Selection. We’ll also have live Traditional Irish Music tonight from 10pm.”
Garavan’s Bar is an architectural gem located in the city’s main shopping area. Today the third generation of Garavans, one of the city’s oldest trading families, welcome you to the place that was opened in 1937 by their ancestor, Charles Garavan, as a Spirit Grocery.
In those days Garavan’s combined a grocery shop with a bar; a public house where whiskey has held pride of place since its inception. The footprint of the bar goes back way further however, to at least 1650.
When you go to Garavan’s Bar, you can choose from an extensive whiskey collection, that is sourced from around the globe, and includes some rare whiskeys.
Considered an institution in Galway, for four generations, Mc Cambridge’s of Shop Street, have been serving great drinks and artisan food. Beware if you are a chocaholic, that this is a danger zone with lots of delicious Irish chocolates.
Mc Cambridge’s is a combination of a deli, coffee shop, restaurant and off-licence, with a take away sandwich bar. It is the place to go for a foodie or drink treat and you can sit outside and watch the world go by!
The McCambridge’s award winning Off-Licence carries the best range of Irish and Scotch whiskies in the west of Ireland. Customers can sample the whiskies at the Whiskey Bar to help make their minds up before buying!
A firm favourite with the locals, Freeney’s is one of Galway’s original Whiskey Bars. Perfectly located on High Street, you could easily wander by Freeney’s without realising that it is a pub, as your view is drawn towards the display of Zippos and Swiss army knives in the window. You can even buy your fishing tackle there.
The pubs itself oozes character, with an old fashioned bar and more than 210 bottles of whiskey. Freeney’s has an extremely loyal local following. It can get very busy at the weekends but during the week, it is a lovely place to go for a relaxed drink. You can chat with the bar staff who have a very good knowledge of whiskey., to borrow a comment on Facebook, “Joe is the consummate gentleman and is knowledgeable about his drink.”
Believe it or not, it was only back in 1976 that Freeney’s was still a General Merchant as well as a pub. So in those days, before the onslaught of supermarkets, they bottled their own whiskeys from the casks.
The name of the bar, the Dáil, translates into the meeting place. The Dáil Bar has not only been what it is now: a much loved meeting place, but it has also been a toy shop, and a family home.
In the Dáil Bar, it is a pure pleasure to talk to the bartenders about the wonderful Irish whiskeys they have on offer. They are sure to guide you according to your own palate and talk you through the story behind each whiskey.
This pub is also renowned as a great Galway sports bar and a good live music venue.
Tigh Neachtain has had a long running bond with the city’s musical and artistic communities. Originally the home of Richard Martin, an animal rights champion, this building has welcomed guests since 1894.
The pub is proud to stock one of the best collections of whiskey in the West of Ireland. While their range is mainly Irish and Scotch, they are always on the look out for whiskeys from other parts of the world. Their aim is to ensure that their extension whiskey collection represents the most important distilleries from all over the world. These days it includes Australian, American and Japanese Whiskeys.
Visit Tigh Neachtain for its great ambience and enjoy time in its beer garden. It is also one of Galway’s favourite music bars.
All photos, unless otherwise credited, are courtesy of the bars that make up the Galway Whiskey Trail.
*Craic refers to the activity of having the best of fun, with a bit of an Irish edge to it.