Irish Traditional Folk & Folklore

A clockwise road trip around Ireland that starts and finishes in Dublin, calling in at some of the country’s most notable traditional music locations.

DUBLIN, Co. Dublin

For a bit of musical history head for O’Donoghue’s pub on Merrion Row: it’s the place where The Dubliners learned their craft in the early sixties and there’s still plenty of music to be found in the back bar.


A picturesque town famous for its black pudding, Clonakilty also has a formidable musical reputation. De Barra’s on Pearse Street is the place to go. As the great Christy Moore put it, “there’s Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert, Sydney Opera House, and then there’s De Barra’s”.

DOOLIN, Co. Clare

This seaside village is arguably Ireland’s most famous centre for traditional music. MacDiarmida’s is worth a visit. Close by is Lisdoonvarna, location of a much-missed festival immortalised in song by Christy Moore, now known for its annual matchmaking festival.

GALWAY, Co. Galway

There’s plenty of great traditional music in Galway city. From street musicians to the biggest names there’s always a tune on the breeze. The Crane Bar on Sea Road is a favourite with musicians and audience alike.

KEADUE, Co. Roscommon

Turlough O’Carolan, a blind itinerant harpist and tune composer who died in 1738, is one of Irish music’s pioneering figures. Every August the O’Carolan Harp and Traditional Music Festival keeps his memory alive in this village close to where he’s buried.


Picturesque Westport is home to one of Ireland’s best music venues. Matt Molloy’s is owned by the Chieftans’ legendary flautist and has live music seven nights a week. If the man himself is in town you might even catch him on stage.


Ellen’s Pub is a terrific trad music venue that dates back to the early seventeenth century. “Worth the trip if you can find it,” one local told me, “Ellen’s is like Brigadoon. Don’t expect it to be there next time you return.”

CROLLY, Co. Donegal

Out in the windswept hills of Donegal you’ll find Leo’s Tavern; Leo being the father of Clannad and Enya. The musical Brennan offspring grew up here listening to and learning from the musicians before making their own public bows on the same stage.

NAUL, Co. Dublin

Just before returning to Dublin it’s worth calling in at the Seamus Ennis Centre. Named after the famous uilleann piper and song collector, the centre hosts a range of music events from tuition to concerts. Nice café too.

DUBLIN, Co. Dublin

After calling in at Trinity College to see the fifteenth century Brian Boru harp, finish your Irish music round trip at the charmingly ramshackle Cobblestone in Smithfield, whose front bar sessions attract the capital’s best musicians.

Charlie Connelly

Bestselling author, award-winning broadcaster, three-time winner of Radio 4’s ‘Book of the week’… and has performed a duet live on Uzbekistan national television with the nation’s biggest pop star.