As we were flying home to Scotland the following day I had booked the last night of our Ireland road trip in Drogheda as it was just a 30 minute drive to the airport from there – anything to avoid a hectic cross country drive, stressing about traffic and missed flights at silly o’clock in the morning. I happened to mention to someone on Twitter I was staying in Drogheda the night and in turn they happened to mention they knew someone that stayed there. I don’t know if you know how Twitter works but long story short I ended up following and being followed by the Drogheda resident and being invited to meet up with them when we arrived in town.
The drive across Ireland was pretty uneventful and my job (when I wasn’t navigating) was getting the exact coins ready for the road tolls. When we arrived in Drogheda we found the D Hotel by chance rather than my amazing navigation skills, which meant we had to do a quick turnaround. Parking wasn’t a problem though and we were soon checking in.
Bearing in mind we had just stayed in the 5star G Hotel and had been spoilt, I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed by the D. The room was nice and all but style overtook comfort and I couldn’t relax the same as I had in previous hotels that week. I tried to prop myself up on the bed but then realised there were no nearby plug points so I had to perch on the end of it so I could charge my phone and access Twitter to see if my new found Drogheda Twitter Friend (DTF) still wanted to meet up. It turns out it was a yes and she suggested a pub that she swore we could get the best pint of Guinness in town. She described where it was and said she would meet us there at 9pm because it didn’t open til then. She also warned us that it was a very old pub and not to expect much.
Since it was still early we ventured out to see if could find some refreshment and found ourselves in Mc Phails on Laurence Street. It wasn’t a bad pint but we just stayed for one. I wasn’t keen on the high stools and the privacy screens which stopped us being able to join in with the locals. I did get the impression that the bar would be better at the weekend when they had live music on the go though. A short wander and we fell into Sarsfields for our next pint. Low seats and a view of the horse racing on telly was much more enjoyable. Just before every race the barman would (loud enough for me to hear) phone the bookies and place a bet on behalf of one of the punters. We then all watched the next race and supped our pints.
We ate in the Riverside Restaurant but I’m not going to tell you about the food because I really want to tell you about the rest of the night but suffice to say it filled a gap and the chicken wings on the menu made me giggle.
As 9pm approached OH hustled me towards Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub) the pub that DTF had recommended. The nearer we drew the more apprehensive we got. The street looked derelict – the pub dark and ominous. There was a thin sliver of light down the side of one of the windows so OH tried the door and much to our surprise it opened. Like a lot of Irish bars there was another layer of doors. OH chose the one to the left which led him into a snug and emptiness. “Hello – are you open?” he called into the darkness.
“Come away in, I’m just lighting the fire” We went in and were greeted by a woman dressed in dark clothes with long white hair. Thinking back I can’t recall seeing her feet and OH swears she hovered over to us. The room was small, cold and smelled slightly of damp. There were posters covering the walls and ceiling, all yellowing and peeling with age. There were no signs of anything modern about the place – no TV or jukebox. To be honest, I was surprised there were electric lights. The decor was strictly pre 1900s and it was obvious it hadn’t been touched since. After giving our order of 2 pints of Guinness the woman in black lit the fire as we took seats at the bar.
“Oh, do we have company?” A distant voice called. We soon discovered the voice belonged to a woman with fiery red hair which was pinned up in an attempt to keep its wildness under control. She was also dressed in dark clothes. As soon as she was in the room she asked us what we wanted to drink.
“I’m seeing to them! They’ve already ordered.” The red haired woman was quickly dismissed as the white haired woman took over. Making conversation, I volunteered that we had been told via Twitter that we would find the best pint in Drogheda in this pub. This brought forth gasps of disbelief from both women and an admittance that they knew little of ‘the Twitter’ or anything to do with the internet. This didn’t surprise me. I was already pretty sure Roald Dahl must have visited Tí Chairbre before and found some inspiration.
We then discovered they were sisters and the 5th generation of their family to run the pub. They had taken over the bar from their Mammy who, they pointed out, was still watching over them from her place above the fireplace – we turned and could see a colourful smiling photo of her holding a pint of Guinness. We were assured that we had come on the right night because they had music on that night. They explained that the pub can be a bit touch and go as they never know who is going to turn up but tonight they had 2 guys with guitars coming. Between bickers and Guinness pouring we were given a potted history of the pub which opened its doors in 1853. Apparently, what used to happen is that Guinness would deliver their stout to the pub who would then bottle it themselves. It was up to the publicans to label their own bottles and those labels would be designed and agreed in collaboration with Guinness so that each bottle held the name and address of the pub it was being served in. As our pints of Guinness settled we heard how Mammy had insisted that her labels would be printed in the original Irish Gaelic with traditional lettering. These labels had then been used right up until bottling your own Guinness became a thing of the past. As we took our first mouthful of the smooth black gold we were told that Mammy had kept her unused labels and would only give them to favourite customers or visitors. Today the traditional label can still be found on a t-shirt for sale behind the bar at a bargain price of €15. It didn’t take long for OH to run to the nearest ATM to buy himself a piece of history. (Don’t be silly, of course there was no card machine in the place. Come on, there wasn’t even a till just a small money box).
However, before OH did disappear to find some euros DTF arrived. It’s always odd meeting people you’ve only chatted to online and never met before but DTF bounced into the bar wearing tartan in my honour and was immediately my new best friend. Houses and fire come to mind. What a giggle we had. As DTF had been in the pub before she was able to chat away with the two sisters and they discussed all the locals and who was up to what and who was doing who. More Guinness was ordered. The 2 guys with guitars turned up as well as one of DTF’s old teachers. Old teachers just get everywhere, don’t they? More Guinness ordered. Chatting with the two sisters, finding out more about the history of the pub and DTF meant the time flew by.
It was highlighted to me that there was only one draught pump in the place and that was the Guinness one. Everything else was in bottles and the only whiskey (notice the ‘e’) they served was Jameson’s and when Mammy was in charge she would only serve you whiskey if you could handle your Guinness and she rarely served whiskey to under 25 year olds. They also didn’t sell Alcopops or shots and DTF wasn’t allowed to smoke her E-cig in the bar. I was liking the pub more and more. They say the shorter the pipes that lead from the keg to the pump the better so I was told to look over the bar to see how long the pipes were. I could see the keg and the pump which meant the pipe must have been about 2 metres long, if that. I can confirm that it was a mighty fine pint. More Guinness was ordered. OH wanted his photo taken with Mammy and his T-shirt so he stood in front of the fireplace smiling. He informed the sisters that in future whenever he wears the t-shirt he will think of their Mammy. He was told that he was already with her in spirit as he was standing in the exact spot Mammy’s coffin had been during her wake. DTF had arranged for her OH to pick her up before 11 (probably in case we were weird axe wielding internet murderers) but she managed to get one of the sisters to call her poetically named OH not to come until midnight. More Guinness was ordered. The music kept playing and the craic was great. DTF and I disappeared to the loos and were reminded that it was Fir for men and Mná for woman. DTF, being Irish, said of course she already knew that and then promptly went straight into the men’s! Good job I was already in the loo as I almost peed myself. (I won’t bore you with the umpteen selfies we took in those loos!)
DTF’s OH appeared and even more Guinness was ordered although he wasn’t partaking. Poor man had the patience of a saint as he put up with us and smiled throughout. Then the haunting, beautiful music finished and no more Guinness was allowed to be ordered 😦 But we were allowed Jameson’s. 🙂 Jameson’s were ordered.
Past closing time and DTF was insistent that her OH gave us a run back to our hotel, which was about a 5 minute walk away and probably took longer to drive. Honestly, by the time the sisters managed to get shot of us out their pub and we’d had our run home and we had sat in the car and blethered it was almost 2am! It was the latest we had been out all week and, by far, the best night we’d had all week.
If you like Guinness make sure you visit Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), 11 North Strand, Drogheda. I’ve already told you not to be silly – of course they don’t have a webpage (but you can search for them on FB as their nephew keeps a page there for them) .
Saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned and the pub just wasn’t there. All night it felt surreal. Brig O Doon and Midnight in Paris were mentioned a few times and even the sisters (who refused to be photographed) said they weren’t real and were just figments of our imagination…