Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Bull & Castle

Gargoyle friend at The Bull & CastleBack in the day – you know, the late aughts to the mid-2010s – Ireland had very little going on from a craft beer perspective, especially compared to its neighbour across the Irish sea, or the larger one on the other side of the bigger body of water. And yet, a small-but-dedicated group of beer enthusiasts and homebrewers used to regularly meet and exchange notes at the subject of this week’s entry: The Bull & Castle.

While these days, the craft beer coterie tends to gather at The Underdog, there’s still plenty to enjoy at The Bull & Castle, and some amazing steak, to boot. Also: bonus ghost content! Well, dodgy ghost content, but surely, one expects nothing less. There is a literary connection, in any case, but it’s neither James Joyce nor Brendan Behan; it isn’t even Yeats!

The upstairs bar at The Bull & CastleBut back to the pub itself: The Bull & Castle is very much ‘sleek steakhouse with taxidermy and statuary’ downstairs, and if you’re simply looking for the bar, you need to head up the stairs. But before you do, it’s worth noting that the steak is top-notch; it’s part of the FX Buckley family, and if you are a meat-eater who hasn’t had their steak, well…you should probably get on that, whether at The Bull & Castle or one of their other locations around Dublin. Upstairs, there is also excellent food, but also a more pub-like atmosphere. There are a variety of local craft beer options: on my most recent visit, some Trouble, lots of O’Hara’s choices (also in bottles downstairs), including the house pale ale, The White Hag and others, plus a wider selection of ciders than you typically find in most places around town. It can feel a bit hidden, since you don't enter into the main bar right from the street as in so many other pubs, but that can add to the charm as well.

A goat friend downstairs at The Bull & CastleAnd, of course, there’s the aforementioned literary connection and ghost story. Poet James Clarence Mangan, whose bust can be seen watching over St Stephen’s Green, was born in a house on the site of The Bull & Castle, and legend has it that he makes his presence (absence?) known via cold spots and a melancholy atmosphere. Now, why he does this in the current building, which is not in any meaningful way the one in which he was born, merely on the same site, is a question for any passing mediums, but it’s a fun story. Regular visitors to my expanded universe will know we recently interviewed buildings archaeologist Dr James Wright on the Beer Ladies Podcast, and this connection certainly seems like one worth both revisiting for some mythbusting, as well as digging into for more concrete evidence – it’s entirely likely many other interesting stories could be unearthed as well.

While the street-level steakhouse feels more like an ‘occasion’ restaurant, don’t sleep on the bar upstairs; it’s a lovely spot with a lot of interesting history, both in recent events from a craft beer perspective, as well as of the more ‘shrouded in myth’ variety.

Where: 5-7 Lord Edward St, Dublin 2, D02 P634
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 150, 151, 11-ish minute walk
Food: All the good steak, other smaller options in the upstairs bar
Sport: Big events
TVs: Some discreet televisions upstairs
Music: Jazzy downstairs, more chill vibes upstairs
Family-friendliness: All the FX Buckley steak places are great with families
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Lord Edward, The Christchurch Inn, Tailor’s Hall, The Beer Temple/The Oak are all more or less in one direction, with The Thomas House, Love Tempo, Dudley’s, Swift, Arthur's and other Liberties spots (including a certain Guinness Storehouse) in the other; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Local sites of note: Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen's Church, Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle
Haunted: Mangan likes the cold? Sure, why not?
Other notes: The side door going straight upstairs doesn’t always seem to be open, but when it is, it’s a welcome sight
Socials: Instagram

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