Although I’m a relatively short walk away, I rarely make it up to The Gravediggers (aka John Kavanagh’s), but as it’s That Time of Year, it seemed only right and proper.
My more usual area haunts (I know) have a few things going for them: they are a bit more directly on the way to wherever I’m going, and they have at least a few local craft beers on tap – and while the first point is more variable, the second is an immovable fact – there is no craft beer at The Gravediggers. Most importantly, my other local spots are not usually full of tourists who have all been told that this is where they will find The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland. However, sometimes that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for, and as I was walking around the area on a cool, intermittently rainy afternoon, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop in for a relaxing solo pint.
For those who have never been to The Gravediggers – or, improbable though it seems, have never read anything about it – it’s exactly as you’ve likely heard: the pub is built into one of the walls of Glasnevin Cemetery (only a short stroll from the grave of Brendan Behan, though astonishingly, I couldn’t find much reference to him frequenting the spot – is it the only Northside pub he didn’t regularly drink in, à la The Cat and Cage? I am more than happy to be corrected on this point.), and it has been in the same family since 1833. The plain wood floors and swinging doors divide it into cosy snugs, and the tobacco-smoke-stained walls have certainly ‘seen some things.’ There is no music or television, though on more than one occasion, including this most recent visit, there may be an auld fella surreptitiously streaming a horse race or two on his phone.
But it’s by no means a museum piece – the right-hand side of the pub has more of a lively restaurant vibe, with all sorts of interesting tapas choices; it’s not typical pub grub, and it’s especially great if you’re in with a group. However, on this most recent visit, as it was just me (and I only had time for a brief sit-down), I hit the left-hand door to the bar and took my pint to the back, near the fireplace, where I found a few tourists (yes, even mid-day) as well as regulars. Most importantly, though, it was quiet, with only moderate conversation in the background, and I could properly enjoy my rare alone-time over a pint.
It was a far cry from my first visit to The Gravediggers on a drinky-drinky GhostBus tour some years ago with a group of then-fellow Amazon corporate revellers – I’m sure we were the literal worst kind of group (well, barring British stag parties), though we were largely kept in the back before being popped back onto our bus after another pint, which was entirely fair. I’m sure we were told many tales of the ghosts rumoured to haunt the pub, but I confess my memory of the event is a bit hazy…so I had to Google ‘ghost stories at The Gravediggers‘ – even though haunted pubs and breweries are things that live rent-free in my brain.
There was the typical-in-pubs spooky interference with the electronics – card machines are relatively new here, and there is still no wifi – though I’ve heard similar said of a number of Pennsylvania inns as well when they brought in new-fangled cash registers; perhaps it’s simply part of the long-time publican’s makeup, wherever they are (or whatever plane of existence they are theoretically on). Another story suggests a man in tweed enjoys a pint before disappearing (or heading back into the graveyard?), which seems a pleasant ghost story for a pub.
And is it The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland? Well, I’d argue that it’s no different from the one you get at The Hut in terms of quality of tap lines and care in pouring, but it does have a lovely atmosphere – especially during the Samhain/Halloween season.
Where: John Kavanagh’s The Gravediggers, 1 Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin, D09 CF72
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 9, 16, 40, 122, 123, 140
Food: Tapas and coddle
TVs: Not a one
Music: Not a thing
Family-friendliness: Often a mac and cheese tapas option!
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – about a 10 minute walk to the main Phibsboro pubs, including The Botanic, The Brian Boru, The Bald Eagle, Doyle’s Corner, The Hut and The Boh
Haunted: So they say…
Local sites of note: Glasnevin Cemetery, National Botanic Gardens
Other notes: So, why so few photos of such an iconic pub? Well, it just seems like it would be, frankly, weird, to be taking more than the odd photo or two…it’s more for enjoying the pint itself vs photographing the pint…and I say that as someone who can be very extra about photographing a pint…