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Monday, April 25, 2016

Part 11:Pub-crawling around the World - The Valley House, Achill, Ireland.

Far from just a bar, The Valley House in Achill is steeped in history, a previous Daniel Craig movie set and a top rated Lonely Planet hostel. I've mentioned it in many blog entries but never under pubcrawling. Now I'm correcting this clear oversight. It's difficult to pinpoint one particular night in this incredible venue as I've spent so many there but here are memories and reasons you should visit.
Slievemore at sunset, can be seen from the end of the lane at the Valley House

The location - Firstly, it's on Achill island, which is beautiful anytime of year but particularly in the summer months. The bar itself is hidden by trees, surrounded by a pitch and putt course and a small lake. It's less than a fifteen minute walk to the nearest immaculate and often deserted beach. It's courtyard captures stunning sun in the late afternoon and it's wonderful to while away a few hours basking in the sun there. I remember a particular bank holiday Monday in June 2007, guitars were out as was the sun, tunes aplenty and good company - it made for a perfect evening. Of the friends I spent it with, three live in different countries now, one is married with a child and one I have long since lost contact with.

The music. I can't remember many nights without music in this place, for me it's the first place I think of when I hear "session". From regulars who show up with their guitar to visiting musicians with banjo's, flutes, violins or crystal-clear voices - I have never heard such a diverse amount of talent in any other venue, and here you don't even pay for it. Even the owner, Pat and his wife, Alice, are great musicians and the "sesh" is encouraged every night. There are people who have been joining in the sessions here for over 30 years (including my own Dad) when Pat's father, Roger (RIP) ran the place. If you want a bar with music in Ireland, you can't go wrong here. My own favourite memories centre around jamming with my Dad when we've been here together, particularly August bank holiday 2012 and 2013. Hearing an ensemble version of "The Weight" with impeccable harmonies still resounds from 2008 and a version of "There is a Light that will never go out," will always remind me of nights in the Valley House.
Regulars taking part in the "sesh" one summer night

An inexpensive bed can be stumbling distance from the bar. In the cooler months of the year (of which there are many in Ireland), it is nice to stay in the warm confines of the Valley House after a few pints of Guinness (or whatever you're having). It is advisable to book ahead for holiday weekends - i.e St Patricks Day, Easter, Hallowe'en etc. The Hallowe'en party is normally great craic. Music as always and an array of creative costumes, from Slash (Guns N'Roses) to a French courtesan (portrayed by a man), Robin Hood to Sponge-Bob. It's great to be able to crawl up the stairs and not out into the freezing night, particularly in October or March - or even sometimes May!

The Guinness must be mentioned. It was the bank holiday weekend in October 2006 and a group of us were staying in the Valley House, sharing the 12-bed dorm (great fun, as you can imagine). Åine , a friend, was buying a round for everyone and was insisting that her friend's boyfriend, John, didn't need another pint of Guinness. I had been on the vodka most of the day and actually had a pain from it. John and Åine went back and forth over this and eventually she included him in the round. At this point, John looked over at me and said "You have to drink this pint, I can't." That was my first Guinness. After a sip, it eased the pain I had in my tummy and I wondered why I hadn't been drinking it all weekend! Since I have travelled to many countries, drank Guinness in a number of Irish bars and around Ireland but I haven't found anywhere with a pint like the Valley. In the final stages of the drive from Dublin, I salivate at the thought of the pint that will soon follow.

Ambience: 10/10
Cost: $$ (I haven't been in awhile but by memory a pint of Guinness is around EUR4.40, you must try one!)
Food: Now renowned around the county for it's stonebaked pizza, sometimes other food is offered. Always good quality pub grub and great after a day at the beach or a few hours whiled away in the pub. Reasonably priced.
Location: You will need a car to get here. It's located in Dugort on Achill Island and public transport isn't very accessible. There are some taxis on the island.
Toilets: Well maintained and cool on nights where the bar gets very warm.
Overall: If you don't visit here you're missing a genuine hidden gem and my favourite bar in the whole world.

Their own website has more photos, details of upcoming events and information.