Barfly: Clarke’s Bar, Drogheda

A bar that loves its place in the world and revels in its own accent

The “pub at the top of the hill” at Fair Street in Drogheda is in the midst of a renaissance. Long linked to the arts since it was built in the 1850s, its warren of snugs, great beer and tremendous welcome are attracting more fans than ever before.

Music and art are part of the fabric in Clarke’s. The Irish artist Nano Reid was born and grew up within its walls and her vision of the world could well have been shaped by the way light and dark play with the smooth, aged wood and hidden corners here. It’s a thrilling place that children love to explore and adults like to lose themselves in. Candlelight only deepens its drama at night. It hasn’t changed since 1904 and the creak of the floor and soft wooden snugs are stuffed with history and meaning.

It’s a tremendously happy place – on a Monday afternoon it’s already half full and rolling with craic and banter. Customers salute, talk, laugh and curse with abandon and it’s easy to see how comfortable they are in this home from home.

Music is a big part of the landscape. They run big-band “door-side” sessions and regular weekly trad nights. Music has become so much a part of what they do that they’re currently building a brand new venue next door. Meanwhile, upstairs they plan to open a Nano Reid museum in her former living quarters.

Customers tell me that the staff are the key to the success here, calling them charming, polite, in charge, the best.

I hope that Nano Reid would have been proud to see her home still thriving. It’s a bar that loves its place in the world and revels in its own accent. If you let it, it will bring you to the heart of this town and keep you laughing as you learn. It’s a journey well worth taking.

Clarke’s Bar, Drogheda, Co Louth

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Published by Gary Quinn

Writer on the Sea Road. Gary Quinn is a writer and editor based in Dublin. He's the author of the Harper Collins book Irish Whiskey (2020) and writes about whisk(e)y for the Single Malt Shop, The Irish Times, Stories & Sips and others. He has won several national and international awards for his writing and media work.

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