From Dublin, we rented a car and headed to Athlone, birthplace of Sean’s Bar, which is Ireland’s oldest drinking establishment.
Sean was so excited to take a photo in front of Sean’s Bar.
There’s more to tell you about Sean’s Bar, including how Boy George once owned it in 1987.
But first, let me tell you about our stop on the way at Newgrange, site of a Stone Age Passage Tomb nearly 5,000 years old.
The outside of the tomb is guarded by this carved rock, and the interior of the tomb contains a long narrow passage. The amazing thing is that each year around the Winter Solstice (between Dec 19-Dec 23), light penetrates the opening and illuminates the inside for about 17 minutes only.
This is apparently such a beautiful experience that each year thousands of people participate in a lottery to determine who will be able to watch this event.
From Newgrange, we drove to the Hill of Tara, where 142 historic Royal Kings were crowned. It started raining a bit hard so we didn’t get many good pictures of the mounds.
In fact, we had to take refuge in our car and eat lunch including these new favorite cheese puffs we discovered…
Because it was so wet and muddy, we hung out at the Hill of Tara at the churchyard and admired the graves dating back to 1822.
Here’s what it should’ve looked like though, if it hadn’t been raining and if we were in a plane.
From there, we headed to Athlone.
Getting to our hotel was a bit of an adventure. When we arrived in Athlone that afternoon, there was a Triathalon going on, which blocked access to the street where our hotel was. It seemed strange to us that a Triathalon was happening in late afternoon, but who are we to question?
In any case, Sean drove around trying to find different side streets to our hotel and was about to give up when I decided to ask the local traffic motorcycle cop for help.
“I tell ya what I’m gonna do…” he said (Imagine strong Irish accent)
“Tell your man to follow me down the road. I’m gonna put the siren on and you just follow me.”
So he removed the barrier, let the siren howl, and we drove down the road with our police escort. All the bystanders were wondering who we were.
When we arrived at our hotel, he kneeled next to our car and had a long conversation with us. Those Irish traffic cops are so friendly.
He thought it was hilarious that we were named Mary and Sean. In fact, he said he knew 7 couples named Mary and Sean.
So, Athlone’s claim to fame is Sean’s Bar, the oldest drinking establishment in all of Ireland.
Sean’s Bar is believed to have hosted drinkers on the very spot since the 9th century. I can’t even wrap my head around that.
And Boy George! Okay granted, 1987 is a few years after Culture Club’s heigh days, but still.
Sean’s Bar had so much atmosphere and was so rowdy. The inside room was packed with drinkers and there was an open patio with live music in the back. If you’re in this area, I highly recommend checking out Sean’s Bar.
We hung out here for an hour or so, then went back to our hotel to get ready for our fabulous dinner I already told you about at Thyme.