Oldest Pub in Ireland

Donaghadee pub with its own resident ghost

A highlight of any tour of the North Down coast is to stop at Donaghadee and visit Ireland's oldest pub, Grace Neill's. As well as a pint you might even get a kiss from landlady Grace, the resident ghost.

But don't be alarmed, Grace (1818-1916) is what every bar needs, a friendly spirit. She is only extending the warm welcome she gave when she was still behind the bar. Staff swear that a 'presence' along with the smell of old fashioned tobacco smoke often accompanies spooky goings on such as lights turning on and off and objects being moved around.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, appropriately enough, the bar was established as the King's Arms in 1611 and was renamed Grace Neill's in honour of the former landlady who was life and soul of the establishment.

As far back as the 17th century, the bar was getting good reviews. A certain Marquis de Vere said the ale house 'served good food and excellent ale', and 400 years later they're still going strong.

No matter how far you've travelled, it could be from or as far away as Belfast, you can copy the Marquis and leave your comment in the impressive visitor's book behind the old bar. Bar manager Raymond McElroy said: ‘It's quite amazing, people come from all over the world to have a pint here. They stand behind the bar and pose for photographs as they pretend to pull a pint of Guinness. Then they can leave their comments in the visitor book. They know all the history of the bar and of Donaghadee itself, they've all done their homework.’

And there's certainly enough homework to be done. Peter the Great, the Russian Czar was a visitor, on his way to Warrenpoint to study boatbuilding. Poet John Keats and novelist Daniel Defoe also dropped in. These days, George Best is a regular visitor and Beirut hostage Brian Keenan had a pint after his release from captivity.

‘There are quite a few celebrities who call in. It's a relaxed bar and they know they can slip in and out without being disturbed, even Grace gives them peace and quiet,’ said Raymond.

However, history loving Guinness drinkers may not be so lucky if they bump into the pint pulling poltergeist.
By Graeme Forster
Grace Neill's is at :

33 High Street, Donaghadee, County Down, BT21 OAH

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