There has been a pub awaiting weary travellers at the crossing of the river Shannon for over a thousand years.
But Sean’s Bar in Athlone isn’t just the oldest pub in Ireland. According to the lads at the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s the oldest pub in Europe. Excavations beneath the current pub have revealed wattle and daub walls, bits of crockery (mugs and the like) and self-minted coins the bar would use for trade with clients dating back to 900 A.D. Most of the artifacts are on display in the National Museum of Ireland, but a section of the walls is on display in the pub inside a glass case. Research is ongoing for the title of oldest pub in the world. So far, nothing older has been found.
There really is something magical about Sean’s.
Its doors open to a sawdust-strewn floor, an old-style open fireplace, nooks and crannies crammed with knick-knacks . . . and any night of the week you can stop in and there will be a crowd. Sean’s has got to be the most popular pub in the Irish midlands – you never know who you’re going to meet.
Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Sean’s as I usually blog the Sean’s Bar Sunday session, but there’s live music here every night and, on weekends, daytime traditional sessions as well.
It’s not an old man’s pub, nor is it a youth hang-out; every generation comes for one in Sean’s Bar. My first night in Sean’s I was chatting to a teenager and his friends, his parents were sitting at an adjacent table with their friends while his grandfather was up playing the fiddle with the band. That sort of cross-generational gathering for a night out just doesn’t happen where I’m from. Here, it happens every night.
My first thought when I came to live in Athlone and make regular visits to Sean’s Bar was, “I would love to do the website for this place.” Well, sometimes wishes do come true.
Wifey and I, in our capacity as Lightholder Productions, took a good deal of time designing the site and we’re really pleased the owners picked the design they did. We really wanted the site to have the same look and feel as the pub: warm and welcoming with lots of interesting features.
One of the main things we did to that end is recreate Sean’s sawdust-strewn floor in the background so that it moves as you re-size the window. There is also a gallery of beauty shots wifey took of the interior that reload randomly in the upper left so no matter how often or what page you visit, you always see something new. That last idea came from how we feel when in Sean’s – there are so many things on the walls and in corners, you’re bound to notice something you’ve never seen before every time you visit.
We also realised in doing research for the site that there are a number of other pubs claiming to be the “oldest.” Looking at these pubs’ websites we noticed that they made no reference to anyone else claiming the title (probably because doing so would undermine their claims!), so we decided, rather than ignoring them on the Sean’s Bar site, to address the issue directly. Here is a link to that page.
This is just the first version of seansbar.ie – there are plans to add a guest book and a load of other features as well. The owners of Sean’s Bar have sponsored a hot air balloon that broke a bunch of world records in Switzerland last year, so that’s bound to find its way on the site. There has even been talk of setting up a webcam and streaming the sessions live over the web.
The photo below is of the hot air balloon championships here in Athlone last year – if you look closely, you can see Sean’s Bar there on the right!