Sean's Bar is located on Main Street, Athlone, on the West Bank of the River Shannon, and was originally known as Luain's Inn.

Quaffing Here For 11 Centuries: Sean’s Bar Claims Title of Oldest Pub in Ireland, Europe and Possibly the World

(Read the article on one page)

Sean’s Bar is a pub (abbreviated from ‘public house’) located in Athlone, in Ireland’s County Westmeath. This bar holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest public house in Ireland. In addition, it has often been claimed that this is the oldest pub in Europe, and it is currently seeking to be recognised as the oldest in the world. The mind boggles at the number of cheerful and woeful tales that must have been told in this spot over the last millennium.

Sean’s Bar is situated at a crossing point on the west bank of the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland. Althone, the town where Sean’s Bar can be found, is said to have been derived from the Irish ‘Atha Luain’, which means ‘the Ford of Luain’ in English. Luain is said to have been the man who established the pub on the bank of the river. Being the pub’s owner, guided travellers across the dangerous waters of the Shannon in ancient times. The town was perhaps named in honour of him. A settlement later grew up around this crossing point, and a wooden castle was eventually built in 1129 by Turlough O' Connor, the High King of Ireland.

Sean’s Bar in Athlone, has its claim to be the oldest public house in Ireland recognized by Guinness World Records

Sean’s Bar in Athlone, has its claim to be the oldest public house in Ireland recognized by Guinness World Records ( CC BY-SA 4.0 / Sean’s Bar )

The history of Sean’s Bar dates back to AD 900. According to the pub’s current website, the establishment has “a detailed and documented history right back to 900 AD”. Evidence for the building’s age has also been in its structure. During the 1970s, renovations were being made to the pub, during which one of its walls was found to be made of wattle and wicker. The use of these materials for the construction of houses was common in Ireland between the 9 th and 13 th centuries AD. The dating of the wall supported the claim that the building dates back to the 10 th century AD. In addition to this, ancient coins were also discovered during the renovations. These were “minted by various landlords for barter with their customers”, and were found to be contemporaneous with the wattle and wicker wall.

Wattle and wicker wall at Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland

Wattle and wicker wall at Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The majority of the ancient wall and the coins have been moved to the National Museum of Ireland, where they are on display today. A section of the wall, however, has been left in a glass case in the pub, and can be viewed by its patrons.

As a comparison, the oldest pub in neighboring Britain, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the Bingley Arms in Bardsey, North Leeds. According to the official records, this pub, which is situated on the road between two abbeys (and hence was originally known as the Priest Inn), was opened in AD 953. It has been claimed, however, that there is evidence suggesting that the pub was already in operation in AD 905.

The Bingley Arms, Bardsey, West Yorkshire, perhaps the oldest pub in Britain

The Bingley Arms, Bardsey, West Yorkshire, perhaps the oldest pub in Britain ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In any case, the Bingley Arms is not quite as old as Sean’s Bar, and the latter might just be the oldest pub in Europe, as some have claimed. Currently, the pub is seeking to be recognised as the oldest in the world, a process which could take a couple of years to complete.

The modern-day interior of Sean’s Bar, 2014

The modern-day interior of Sean’s Bar, 2014 (Sean’s Bar )

Sean’s Bar has been in operation over the centuries, and has undoubtedly changed owners a great number of times. At present, this establishment is owned by brothers Paul and Tim Donovan, who bought the pub from its previous owner, Sean Fitzsimons, in 2000. Fitzsimons, in turn, purchased the pub from an earlier owner in during the 1970s. Speaking of owners, it is rumoured that the English singer Boy George owned the pub for a short time, and that he was good friends with Fitzsimons.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The Sayhuite Monolith
Long ago, forgotten artists put their blood, sweat, and possibly even tears into creating more than 200 designs on a monolith in what is now Peru. They carefully engraved the forms of reptiles, felines, shellfish, and frogs and then surrounded the sacred animals with terraces, ponds, river, tunnels, and irrigation canals. The exact purpose and meaning behind these features remains a mystery.

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article