There’s a riot of wood in Courtney’s. It seems like every shade of Irish tree has been incorporated into the floors, walls and furniture, while the bog oak hanging in chains above the fire remains a hostage to the day the fuel runs out. In a town as tourist friendly as Killarney, it’s refreshing to find a bar so fixed on locals, and recommendations from Kerry people came with a reservation about making it too well-known. Regulars seem happy to chat though, barstaff nod hello and the message builds that this is a place that demands you find your place.
The open fire is pumping heat into the room as the crowd swells on a midweek night. Dark shadows and dim lighting mask couples while groups of friends cluster around tables throughout the long space. This is a music house and while we’ve come on the wrong night to enjoy it, it’s not hard to get people talking of the trad and contemporary sessions that have people dancing in the bar.
The chalkboard over the countertop signals this is a bar with a future. It might have been serving beer in three centuries, as its slogan suggests, but the range of great world craft beers on offer is a terrific twist on the Irish craft beer scene. It’s a vote of confidence in our own brews to see them scratched in chalk alongside greats like Duvel and Framboise and they’re doing a roaring trade. You’ll find Courtney’s on the Irish Whiskey Trail too, with a menu that celebrates the best of Ireland, Scotland and world whiskies.
Despite its age, this family-run bar feels like a place that’s moving with the times and while it might always have maintained its elegant looks and traditional demeanour there’s always something new on the boil.