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McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  7,884 Ratings  ·  352 Reviews
The #1 Irish Bestseller

Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother's homeland. In McCarthy's Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, "never pass a bar
Paperback, 338 pages
Published March 3rd 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 20, 2008 Terry rated it it was amazing
I was really sad to learn that Pete McCarthy had died. I really felt I was going to spend the rest of my life armchair traveling with him and laugh myself silly. The only book EVER to have me laughing out loud whilst sitting having a quiet drink. Apart from the humour you take the journey alongside him like a mate. Eat your heart out Bill Bryson. RIP Pete McCarthy
Sep 02, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
As a former travel writer for a magazine, you would think I would read more travel writing. But I don't... I never find myself as invested in the characters within nonfiction as I do with fiction, so I've stayed away.

While studying for two months in Ireland and staying weekends with my family in County Cavan, I picked up this book. I regularly laughed out loud at his stories, and the uncanny truths he presented about Ireland and its people were astounding... it was an unlikely supplement to the
Tony Kearney
Mar 31, 2009 Tony Kearney rated it it was amazing
I went to see my doctor today. He examined me and then told me that I may have two cracked ribs and a problem with my lower back. I told him that both my knees were painful, and my jaw ached. He asked me if I had been playing extreme sports, like boxing, or if I had taken a nasty fall. I told him neither of these. Then I thought for a minute and told him, but I have been reading McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy.....and laughed 'til it hurt.
Ken Magee
Nov 13, 2011 Ken Magee rated it it was amazing
Every author needs inspiration and Pete McCarthy inspired me. McCarthy's Bar is a fantastically gentle and funny book; it grabs you from the first page. It documents his travels along the west coast of Ireland reminding those who have been what a wonderful journey that is, and making those that have not been reach for their travel brochures.

He was a successful travel writer and broadcaster and travelled the world with a programme called Travelog on Channel 4. Pete loved his time there and said "
Oct 01, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it
So here's a book that my wife recommended which was also read and enjoyed by her parents - and not just because of an affinity created by the fact that the McCaffrey family often has their name misheard, mispronounced and mistranscribed as McCarthy. More likely it's simply that they've all been to and loved Ireland, and this book is a funny, self-deprecating travelogue covering most of the island. It also introduced me to a fundamental rule of travel: if you encounter a bar with your own name ov ...more
Ken Magee
Jan 22, 2016 Ken Magee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every author needs inspiration and Pete McCarthy inspired me. McCarthy's Bar is a fantastically gentle and funny book; it grabs you from the first page. It documents his travels along the west coast of Ireland reminding those who have been what a wonderful journey that is, and making those that have not been reach for their travel brochures.

He was a successful travel writer and broadcaster and travelled the world with a programme called Travelog on Channel 4. Pete loved his time there and said
Nov 03, 2012 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gran-bretagna
Non sono mai stata in Irlanda e sinceramente non è mai stata una meta da considerare tra i miei viaggi: io sono più "mediterranea" e amo poco i paesi nordici. Però devo dire che, grazie alla simpatia e allo humour dell'autore e alla bellezza dei paesaggi descritti nel libro, un pensierino sto cominciando a farlo su un probabile viaggio in Irlanda.E' stato bello condividere con l'autore il suo viaggio alla ricerca delle proprie radici familiari e la scoperta di far parte di un "clan".
Jun 04, 2011 Sharon rated it it was ok
Just one of McCarthy's travel rules was "never pass a bar that has your name on it". The author was raised in England but visited his Mother's homeland, Ireland each year. As an adult, he felt more Irish then English so he traveled through Ireland looking to validate his "Irishness". The book has some laugh out loud moments and gives some wonderful insights to the Irish people, it goes on too long on the mundane.
Aug 01, 2014 Michael rated it liked it
The author, Pete McCarthy was born in England to an Irish mother and an English father and in this book he records his trip in Ireland from Cork in the south of Ireland through to the west and then up north to Donegal. He is observant, intelligent and enjoys meeting people, many of whom have the surname of McCarthy. He has a wry sense of humour. In recording his trip you do not know if he makes greater attempts to engage with others in order to encounter something different in the hopes of enhan ...more
Morticia Adams
Jan 27, 2011 Morticia Adams rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Not the best travelogue I’ve read on Ireland (Mark McCrum’s The Craic is much better, and owes less to Bill Bryson), but it has some entertaining moments and is engagingly written. There is some smashing of stereotypes (the Irish prefer pop music to diddly diddly), but others are reinforced (the Irish like going to the pub). You can enjoy reading it whilst acknowledging that it’s nothing special.

The central premise of the book is ostensibly McCarthy’s search to discover whether his profound att
Elizabeth Quinn
Sep 02, 2009 Elizabeth Quinn rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book in a shop in Roundstone during a trip to Ireland in May 2008. McCarthy, who died in 2004, was the son of an English father and Irish mother who spent many boyhood vacations in Ireland and returned as a man and well-known British travel writer with the 8th rule of travel firmly in place: "Never pass by a bar that has your name on it." So it's basically a pub-crawl, a very funny and very insightful pub crawl through the west of Ireland as the roar of the Celtic tiger began t ...more
Feb 02, 2013 Georgie rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up
I picked up this book expecting it to be about the author travelling around Ireland and visiting various bars with the name 'McCarthy' and learning about Ireland and the Irish. Which it is to an extent, but the further I got into the book, the more it became more like the autobiography of a period in his life when he just happened to be in Ireland. He doesn't make any of the places he visits or people he meets leap off the page, and although his observations/jokes are funny, a lot of them are ra ...more
This was a wildly entertaining book. A lot of people here have complained that McCarthy is "too English" for this to be a good book about Ireland but I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. I'm not Irish (unless you count ancestry like just about everyone else in America does) so this is a witty, charming look at Ireland from an outsider's point of view. Sure he has immediate family there and had been over the sea many times, but it still felt like this was the first journey and I could use thi ...more
McCarthy is a lonely / sad British man with a distaste for Americans, which resulted in my rolling my eyes a few times through the narrative, but overall it was a solidly humorous account of his solo travels across Ireland. He visited tiny towns and tourist traps and drank impressive quantities of stout, and overall provided the reader with a feel for what it might be like to see Ireland and meet its people.
Jan 03, 2009 Discoverylover marked it as to-read
"Pete McCarthy's tale of his hilarious trip around Ireland has gained thousands of fans all over the world. Pete was born in Warrington to an Irish mother and an English father and spent happy summer holidays in Cork. Years later, reflecting on the many places he has visited as a travel broadcaster, Pete admits that he feels more at home in Ireland than anywhere. To find out whether this is due to rose-coloured spectacles or to a deeper tie with the country of his ancestors, Pete sets off on a t ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Annalee rated it it was ok
This has been on my shelf gathering dust for yonks so I thought I'd finally give it a go.

It is ok, it's amusing and in places laugh-out-loud funny. McCarthy takes us with him on a seeingly random journey around bits of Ireland in the early 'noughties' (the year 2000 to be exact), his main objective is to drink in all the bars named McCarthy. He meets some eccentric characters who are the mainstay of the book, it is the nosy, blunt speaking B&B landladies and the guiless wanna-be-Irish Americ
Mar 15, 2011 Faith rated it did not like it
I finally gave up on it about halfway through. There were lots of funny parts, and I enjoyed reading those, but I'd had enough of the "Tourism is horrible, except when I'M the tourist" attitude. Maybe I'm biased because I have a degree in tourism, but I'm so over people (not just this author) who complain about how tourism has ruined the supposedly-untouched place they used to love to visit. NEWS FLASH: YOU ARE A TOURIST, TOO. What makes it okay for you to travel there and not anyone else? There ...more
Jun 18, 2015 CHARLES J MURPHY rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good humor and interesting insight into Irish people

A fun and easy read and a fun exercise in the geography of Ireland. The style is comical while some of the insights are actually deeper than they may first appear.
Aug 15, 2010 Barbra rated it really liked it
I loved this book - it was laughing-out-loud funny and a really good travel book about Ireland. It's observant, thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable.

Back Cover Blurb:
Never Pass a Bar That Has Your Name On It, says the eighth rule of travel: a very rewarding rule if your name is McCarthy and you're wandering through the west of Ireland. As he meanders from Cork to Donegal, Pete encounters many McCarthy's bars in which he explores his confused Irish-Anglo identity with colourful, friendly an
Karen Sawyer
Mar 10, 2008 Karen Sawyer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Ireland or who intends to travel there
An essential companion when travelling in Ireland. This is one of my all-time favourite books. I took this book with me to read the first time I went on holiday to Ireland (in a camper van with my husband, 4 kids and a dog). It's exceptionally funny, very sweet, and has loads of very interesting facts and info to boot. No better guide to travelling in Ireland will you find. Last summer, I took this to Ireland to re-read, and was moved to write to the author to thank him for writing this book - o ...more
May 10, 2009 Denise rated it it was amazing
Such a fun book to read. A nonfiction about his adventure through Ireland looking for his roots (his Mother was Irish) and the hilarious stories of the locals and tourist. It serves as a somewhat travel guide. Somewhat because at times he would not tell you where he was for fear the areas would become immensely popular and spoiled. My favorite chapter was the ferry ride from Wales to Ireland. I've been on that ferry, his description brought back a flood of suppressed memories! I'm sorry the auth ...more
Jun 09, 2009 Lauren rated it it was amazing
A hilarious rambling journey around the country, with various mishaps and strange encounters along the way, as the author tries to make a connection with his childhood, and drink in every bar he finds called McCarthy's. Pints are downed, tourists are mocked, and scenery is admired in this road trip. Which also includes a 3-day fast in which the author does "stations" of the ruins of monastic cells, barefoot, at St. Patrick's Purgatory in Lough Derg. It's funny but it's also reflective, and it's ...more
Brooke Hynch
Oct 01, 2014 Brooke Hynch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I came across this story as a result of a 4 week holiday in Ireland. Regaling my impromptu audience at an impromptu breakfast one morning about the glorious characters and circumstances that I had found myself in during my holiday in Ireland. A new found friend recommended that I read this book and said he thought I’d get a kick out of it.
So I did…and I did ;)

This book draws on the experiences of Peter McCarthy as he makes his ways slowly, via every McCarthy’s Bar that he passes along his journe
C.M. Subasic
Sep 18, 2014 C.M. Subasic rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing, brilliant
This book was given to me by a 93-year-old pub owner in Tralee, Ireland. It was my fourth day in Ireland. The pub was only open from 5-8 and it was in the back of a tea shop. They only served two types of beer in this pub: Guinness and Guinness. A prickly sort, he didn't serve anyone who showed up at his bar.

I came into the bar knowing of his reputation and approached cautiously. "Who are you," he asked, looking at me askance. There was distrust in his glance. He looked as though he was chewing
Sep 01, 2011 J_K_B rated it it was amazing
Another book which I re-read each year. Includes an 'equal opportunities' gang of urchins on the ferry over to Ireland, a fearsome B&B landlady, the price of Singapore noodles in every town in Ireland, mountain-dwelling new-age travellers and a battered Volvo car with a crow shoved up the exhaust pipe. Only an Englishman of Irish extraction could view and understand the Irish with an objective empathy. Love it, love it, love it. Going to pick it off the shelf now.
Rogue Reader
Apr 26, 2014 Rogue Reader rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel-ireland
A drinkers guide to Ireland, and the larger world where the bar is named McCarthy or a variant. Said to be a #1 Irish bestseller, and I guess I can see why. The travel narrative is interesting, using literary works to describe and compare against contemporary sights and sounds of a city or ancient ruin. The focus on drinking, people that drink, places to drink and the excesses of drink is a repetitive trope that becomes tedious. One wonders how McCarthy was able to get up in the morning and do a ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Ethan rated it it was amazing
McCarthy's Bar is Pete McCarthy's travelogue of spending 6 months exploring west Ireland. One of his rules of travel, is never pass by a bar with your name on it. As you can imagine traveling through west Ireland, he stops at lot of Pete's Pubs, McCarthy's Pubs, MacCarthy's Bar, etc... Pete McCarthy is a wonderful travel guide, his style is very reminiscent of Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors and travel writers. McCarthy has a dry wit, with a hint of curmudgeon about him and his reaction ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. So much so I'm reading this and his other book again after a break of just a few months.

Loved it so much, it's been enough for me to take a new path in my own writing. After book 4 in the Henry Blythe series is released next year, I'll be trying out the humourous travel writing for at least two, maybe three, books.

We share a similar sense of humour which, of course, helps. Maybe it's down to the era we both grew from - the 'alternative comedy' scene of London in the 1980's.

Andrea Seaver
McCarthy's bar is a great read. Part travelogue, part memoir, part social commentary. Pete McCarthy has some interesting travel rules, chiefly: Never pass a bar with your name on it without going in for a pint, which leads to some lively and interesting evenings. But it isn't all pubs and bar brawls, far from it. McCarthy is taking a spin around a rapidly changing 2000 era Ireland. One that is booming, and trying hard to balance this with a need to respect and preserve it's ancient sites, cultur ...more
Tejas Janet
Feb 26, 2014 Tejas Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: around-the-world
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Pete McCarthy's wit and observations had me laughing out loud. He pokes fun of people left and right, himself most of all, and manages to convey something deeper, too, without making this a obvious goal. Would give this 4.5 stars.
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“I like reading in a pub rather than a library or study, as it's generally much easier to get a drink.” 30 likes
“I reckon if I can't spend the day sleeping, the next best thing is to spend it reading and drinking.” 15 likes
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