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auld shillelagh, london's best irish pubs
© Nerida Howard

London’s best Irish bars and pubs

Guinness, whiskey and dancing – get a hit of craic at one of the most authentic Irish pubs in London

By Laura Richards
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In theory, if not in practice, anyone can pour a pint of Guinness. But if you're looking for a London pub that's evangelical about how it serves the black stuff, especially ahead of upcoming St Patrick's Day, check out one that’s Irish-owned. Thankfully, Gibney’s is opening one just in time for the celebrations – but we've also put together a selection of other Irish pubs; from old-fashioned boozers honouring Gaelic traditions and young, cool London bars stocking Irish ales and whiskies.

At some, you’ll find the country’s music, food and even dancing; at others, you’ll get served Thai food with your Irish booze. But at many, you’ll find ex-pats looking for a taste of the home country. So get stuck into the craic: here’s a round-up the 21 best Irish pubs and bars in London.

Irish pubs and bars in London

Auld Shillelagh

Bars and pubs Pubs Stoke Newington

Known for its exceptional Guinness, always poured with care, and occasional raucous entertainment. It's the kind of pub where the wine list runs to 'red or white', and the staff are so matey and hospitable that they'll offer to bring your Guinness over to your table. You’ll find key GAA games screened here, as well as Ireland fixtures in the Six Nations tournament.

Blythe Hill Tavern

Bars and pubs Pubs Catford

Three tiny, dark, wood-panelled rooms, with a bar in each housing framed jockey portraits. The pumps have four regularly changing, well-kept guest ales and these days, craft comes by the can. There’s Guinness, of course, a fair few Irish whiskeys and trad music on Thursdays. Smart, tie-clad bar staff are knowledgeable and friendly. And sports nights include screenings of the Six Nations rugby. Action-packed craic.

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Boston Arms

Music Music venues Tufnell Park

This huge, resolutely ungentrified Victorian boozer is a popular and sometimes raucous Irish pub located just opposite Tufnell Park tube, with Irish music on Saturday nights. Check out the adjacent Boston Music Room and Tufnell Park Dome for even more live tunes. 

The Claddagh Ring
© Ewan Munro / Flickr

The Claddagh Ring

Bars and pubs Pubs Hendon

This Hendon pub is as legendary as Father Ted Crilly, with 25 years in the business. As such, catch All-Ireland Cup games and see Irish sporting legends stop by, while bands on tour from the homeland make this their gig spot of choice when in town. Among the standard pub grub fare you’ll find soda bread sandwiches. Guinness costs just £3.50 a pint during Six Nations screenings. For St Patrick’s Day, find Irish dancing and live bands across two floors throughout the day.

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Cow

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Notting Hill

A cosy slice of (faux-)Irish pubbery in hip Notting Hill, known for its good oysters and Guinness. The Cow is a rural Irish pub as imagined by Disney – all cutesy cottage-style net curtains, Guinness adverts and glossy 1950s Technicolor paintwork.

Faltering Fullback
© Greg Whitescaver

Faltering Fullback

Bars and pubs Pubs Finsbury Park

This vaguely Irish pub has long been a Finsbury Park favourite, and that's 98 percent down to its amazing garden. But drinks are reasonably priced, the Thai food is good and it’s a sport-watchers paradise. Obviously, Irish teams dominate, especially when it comes to rugger. 

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Homeboy

Don’t expect any shamrocks or fiddles at Homeboy, an Irish-run bar that mostly avoids clichés – apart from the Irish hospitality, there's plenty of that here. It's also home to ‘London’s smallest Irish pub’, a tiny, comforting drinking booth hidden behind a mirrored door at the back.

Howl at the Moon

Bars and pubs Breweries Hoxton

If the shamrock in this Hoxton pub’s logo doesn’t give away the fact that it’s Irish, how about the warm welcome? Howl at the Moon specialises in craft beers, real ale and cider as opposed to Guinness, but there’s live and traditional Irish music on Saturdays and Sundays – and for St Patrick’s Day this year, the pub will take over Hoxton Community Garden with this rousing entertainment.  

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The Lamb

Bars and pubs Holloway Road

Cosy indie pub with Irish music sessions every Tuesday and folk music on Sundays. It’s got a London edge too though, acting as an Arsenal hot spot on match days and with local craft beers on tap. Don’t worry – of course they pour Guinness. 

The Man of Aran

Bars and pubs Pubs London

Expect the flags and county colours to be flying outside on match days at this Rayners Lane pub close to the Gaelic Athletic Association ground. All the live sporting action is aired and sometimes accompanied by finger food at halftime and a band to wrap things up at the end, all thanks to legendary landlord Ambrose Gordon.

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Mc & Sons

Bars and pubs Pubs Southwark

Irish family-operated Mc & Sons pulls in the ex-pats, despite being relatively new on the London pub scene. It’s a wood-clad space with framed photos and newspaper clippings paying homage to past generations. Come on a quiet evening for Thai grub and a pint of lager, or visit on Wednesday and Saturday folk nights when that famous Irish welcome is in full effect. All Six Nations games are being shown live and with the sound turned up. 

Porterhouse

Bars and pubs Covent Garden

A Covent Garden outpost of the Dublin brewery, this cavernous hostelry has an impressive selection of own-brewed ales, including three stouts – the An Brain Blásta, at 7%, lives up to its name. Bottled beers are a global lot.

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Quinn's

Bars and pubs Camden Town

It looks a bit rough around the edges on the outside, to be sure. And not much has changed indoors across the years, either. But many locals have stayed loyal to Camden’s Quinn’s, despite its landlord of 30 years Pat Quinn passing away in 2017. That’s probably because the Irish boozer manages to feel like a real sanctuary from the outside world. Plus, there’s a rotating selection of guest ales, and one of the longest lists of Belgian and German bottled beers you'll find in the capital.

Royal Exchange

Bars and pubs Paddington

An Irish-run pub that's within walking distance of Paddington station. It serves Guinness, staff are a friendly bunch and it's pleasingly down to earth. Occasional live music and home-style cooking seals the traditional deal. 

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sheephaven bay, irish pubs
© Ewan Munro / Flickr

Sheephaven Bay

Bars and pubs Camden Town

An Irish pub, bar and restaurant on Mornington Street, just off Camden Town High Street. The main bar is decked with sports memorabilia signed by Celtic stars, making it an apt setting on match days. The Sheephaven’s food menu is a bit more best of British though, serving eggs and chips, sirloin and sarnies. Low prices on drinks feel like they’re from another time, let alone another country.  

Image credit: Ewan Munro / Flickr

Sir Colin Campbell

Bars and pubs Kilburn

Two rooms in Kilburn filled with thick accents and sessions three nights a week. What was perhaps once an unpolished but utterly genuine pub is now fairly poshed-up – the pub was been taken on by the owners of the Colonel Fawcett pub. But don’t worry – they’ve kept up the tradition of Irish music throughout the weekend and have added a pub quiz to boot. A kitchen residency from Tā Tā Eatery isn’t quite as on brand, but maybe it’s time the Irish pub met the katsu sando?  

Image credit: Ewan Munro / Flickr

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irish pubs in london, skehan's
© Ewan Munro / Flickr

Skehans Free House

Bars and pubs Pubs Nunhead

A backroad haven for those in the know in SE London, Skehan’s is the stuff of legend. Staff are warm, the setting is rustic, there’s a beer garden at the back, a smoking deck at the front, and an excellent Thai kitchen attached keeps punters well fed. It’s fuel for sing-a-longs when folk bands play the pub or when rip-roaring karaoke nights kick off.

Image credit: Ewan Munro / Flickr

Tipperary

Bars and pubs Fleet Street

This slender, centuries-old pub on Fleet Street is billed as the first to serve Guinness this side of the Irish Sea. It still serves a decent pint, of course, or choose from the stellar range of Irish whiskeys. The food menu includes such relics as liver and bacon.

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The Toucan, london pub
© Julie, Dave & Family / Flickr

Toucan

Bars and pubs Soho

This never-changing Soho pub could easily be mistaken for a Guinness museum: publicity posters for the black stuff cover the walls, overlooked by a trio of birds. The Toucan is a bit faded and frayed around the edges, but it does a mean Black Velvet.

Image credit: Julie, Dave & Family / Flickr

Waxy O'Connors

Bars and pubs Chinatown

Wood panels, stone walls and cushioned pews make Waxy O'Connors a characterful Irish bar. As expected, Irish beers are on offer, including Caffreys, Guinness and Rebel Red on tap. Waxy's hosts regular sports screenings, and there's live music four nights a week. Along with GAA and FA fixtures, the Six Nations tournament will be shown across the pub’s three screens.

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