The Oldest Pub In The World Has Been Around Since 900 AD

The long and fascinating story of Sean's Bar, located in the town of Athlone, Ireland, begins more than a century ago. Nestled on the border of counties Westmeath and Roscommon, the small town has a long and fascinating history. Around 900 AD, it was recorded that a man named Luain Mac Luighdeach built an Inn by the famous Áth Mor (The Great Fjord) aka the Ford of Great Antiquity on the river Shannon. A community grew around his tavern, and today the original building still operates as a pub, welcoming locals and travelers alike.

While Sean's Bar has only yet been officially certified as the oldest pub in Ireland by the Guinness Book of World Records, it is expected to be the oldest in the world as well. To date, no older bar has been found. But Sean's wears the title proudly, embracing its old-world architecture and historic features. The undeniable charm of their open fireplace, walls bedecked in artifacts, and rustic sawdust-covered floors have made them a favorite stop for tourists and anyone looking to step into a bit of Irish history. 

Sean's bar was built to last

Sean Fitzsimons, who bought and renamed the business in 1968, is the latest in a long line of owners who have kept the gathering place in operation these many years. There are, in fact, records of owners dating back to the 10th century.

Renovations to the property in the 1970s unearthed building materials that date back centuries, confirming what written records had claimed for many generations. The original walls, once exposed, were shown to consist of layered sticks and clay. This 'wattle and daub' method with which the walls had been crafted is one of the oldest known construction methods for building waterproof structures. 

Archaeologists were able to carbon date samples of the wall to the 9th century AD, beating out the oldest bar in the U.S. by almost 700 years, and earning Sean's Bar the attention of Guinness World Records. While a small section of the original wall can still be viewed in the pub, other samples of the ancient craftsmanship, along with some coins dating back to the 900s that were found during the excavation process, are now on display in the Irish National Museum in Dublin.

Sawdust, stories, and spirits

Keen eyes and tipsy patrons may also notice the slightly sloped floors of the building — another hint at the age of the architecture. The angles of the floors, sloping from the front of the establishment to the back, are remnants of an old drainage system. The bar's location on the River Shannon means flooding was a constant concern, and the pub's original designers had exactly that in mind when building up their tavern. After a flood, sawdust would be spread to help dry the floors, a tradition that continues to this day.

But there is even more history to be found within the bottles of Sean's bar. Some of the earliest evidence of distilling, courtesy of innovative Irish monks (the same Irish monks responsible for Tennessee whiskey), along with the first written references to whiskey, are both from near Athlone. Given this regional heritage, it was only fitting that Sean launch his own Irish whiskey label, so patrons can bring home a piece of history for themselves. Sean's Bar offers daily historic talks, group tours, and a one-of-a-kind experience for anyone looking for a taste of the past.