Earning the title of The Oldest Pub In Ireland, and perhaps soon The Oldest Pub in the World, Sean's Bar's history is a fascinating tale.
Athlone, marks the site of what was once a great ford across the Shannon known as the Ford of Great Antiquity. At around 900 AD there lived a man called Luain Mac Luighdeach - Luain son of Lewy. It is known that he established an Inn close to "Áth Mor - The Great Ford". This Inn is today known as Sean’s Bar! Luain acted as a guide to travellers who had to venture across the rapid torrent of the Shannon. A settlement grew up around the crossing point and in time the place came to be known by his name “Áth Luain” - the Ford of Luain which later became Athlone. In1129, King Turlough O' Connor built the first wooden castle here to protect this settlement.
Sean’s Bar has a detailed and documented history right back to 900AD. During renovations in 1970, the walls of the bar were found to be made of "wattle and wicker" dating back to the ninth century. Old coins which were minted by various landlords for barter with their customers were also found. The walls and the coins are on display in the National Museum. One section remains on display in the pub.
Sean’s Bar has been researched thoroughly by the Guinness Book of Records and proudly holds the record for "The Oldest Pub in Ireland" with an official dating of 900AD. Research is ongoing into the title of "The Oldest Pub in the World"; so far, nothing older has been found.
Sean’s Bar, as it is known today, is a building of great antiquity which over the years has built up a world-wide reputation for its atmosphere, old bar, open fireplace, floors covered in sawdust and walls - which are covered with many ancient artefacts.
Sean's is full of great character and an international clientele come to hear the best of traditional Irish music and song or just relax in the beer garden that overlooks the Ford of Luain.
Recently Sean’s Bar has become famous for its own whiskey. Having researched the history of whiskey in the region, it was discovered that the very origin of distilling began around Athlone in the 6th century on the Islands in Lough Ree and further down the river Shannon in the many small monasteries. It is known that the earliest recorded mention of whiskey was written in the "Annals of Clonmacnoise" in 1405. The name whiskey was actually coined by the army of King Henry ii during his visit to the region after having sampled the local "Uisce Beatha" or "Aqua Vitae" - The water of Life. Sean’s Bar now runs a daily historic talk explaining this fascinating story! Check out our whiskey page for more details.
For a small taste of Sean’s Bar’s culture, visit our Gallery section or simply drop by next time you pass through Athlone.
When you walk into Sean’s Bar in Athlone, the oldest pub in Ireland, you join the uncountable number of visitors who have been stopping here for a drink, a chat, and maybe a bit of music for more than a thousand years and we have the distinctions to support it.
No wonder, Sean's is located in the very heart of Ireland, on the banks of the beautiful River Shannon at its intersection with the Esker Riada - the ancient route carved by glaciers that allowed travellers safe passage across the bog for thousands of years. You can find us just next to Athlone Castle, a 12th century Norman Castle whose residents may have frequented the pub! Just as popular today as it ever was, Sean’s Bar is a must-see destination for people from every country in the world. Whether by boat, car, bus or train, people from every nation have come to "have one" in Sean’s.
Walking into the pub, you'll know right away you've arrived someplace unique. From the sawdust on the floor to the old-style open turf fireplace and the musicians playing in the corner, some things about Sean's Bar have changed very little over the centuries.