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McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  9,923 ratings  ·  478 reviews
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 that has your name on i ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published March 3rd 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  9,923 ratings  ·  478 reviews

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Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melki by: Robert Heley
Ireland, I remark, is a country with so many stories to tell.

'Yes,' he says. 'And some of them are true.'

In his travels, Pete McCarthy held one rule - . . . never pass a bar that has your name on it.

And in this enjoyable trip to the Emerald Isle, he did not pass many bars.

And there's a pub - no name displayed, but almost certainly called McCarthy's. Unfortunately, it's shut. This is a difficult concept to grasp. I've never found a pub closed in Ireland before, and I'm not sure how to cope.

His it
Oct 20, 2008 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 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 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. ...more
Dec 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016nemgyerek
“The barman-shopkeeper was in his sixties, and a cardigan.” (p.35)

And so it goes on. A laugh out loud account of Pete McCarthy’s physical and spiritual journey through the West of Ireland. I just loved it. I feel my words won’t do him any justice, so I let him speak a bit more:

"‘Specially grown for flavour’, claim the supermarket’s Dutch tomatoes. Well, what other reason is there for growing tomatoes? Speed? Comfort? An ability to glow in the dark?" (p.34)

I love this kind of humour. Then, a stra
Ken Magee
Nov 09, 2011 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 "
Ken Magee
Jan 22, 2016 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
Aug 21, 2008 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
John Nasaye
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Other than a few cracked ribs, I came out on the other end of this book with one anecdote about traveling: sometimes, it’s good just to get creatively lost. A sense of purpose occasionally has its place when travelling, but for the most part, it’s seriously overrated.
McCarthy chronicles his journey through his native Ireland, where he spent a bit of his early life, and his early education from the Christian Brothers who used “the carrot and stick method of education, but without the carrot.”
He f
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
Joel Kimmel
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book while in Ireland for three weeks and it provided a lot of insight into the country, its history, and the state of tourism there, all while being very enjoyable. Lots of good laughs too.
Kasa Cotugno
Although I read this years ago, I remember its warmth and humor. Never walk by a bar that bears your name.
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First published in 2000, the book sold nearly a million copies leading to McCarthy winning Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2002.
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
This book was a lot of fun. I didn't know much about Ireland, other than that it was green and pretty and associated with a lot of drinking and friendly it was really interesting learning a little bit more about it, and getting a visual for what the people, culture, and land are like.
the premise of the book is that the author, Pete McCarthy, never goes past a pub with his name on it: Pete's, P. McCarthy's, McCarthy's, etc. so he spends a lot of time in pubs in the book, meeting inter
Elizabeth Quinn
Sep 02, 2009 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
Karen Sawyer
Mar 10, 2008 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
Jun 04, 2011 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. ...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.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-bookshelf
Loved this one. Just a fantastic read, parts of which stay with you for a long, long time - it's years since I read it - and you find yourself quoting lines that make no sense to anybody who hasn't had the pleasure of Pete McCarthy's book. A wonderfully engaging book that delivers humour, not some strange words-on-paper version of a stand-up comedy routine. ...more
Sourojit Das
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read a few books on travel in Britain recently, and I'd say this one warmed the cockles of my heart. Written in the same tone as some Bill Bryson, but definitely more entertaining. Every non-teetotaler needs to give this one a read. ...more
Rich Meyrick
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simply marvellous!
Jon Nikrich
Some amusing tales and a handful of very funny stories. My favorite line is "I like reading in a pub rather than a library or a study, as it's generally much easier to get a drink." ...more
Patrick Barry
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A man born in England to an English father and an Irish mother seeks a sense of belonging he has not found in Britain. So he spends a season in Ireland to see whether he has a sense of belonging there or whether he is just a victim of the ruthless marketing of sentimental Irishness. He find plenty of sentimental Irishness in Erie, but much, much more. It is a funny book written by a writer of travelogues. McCarthy's insights and reporting thrust you into the middle of the Irish Tiger, when the c ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
What a disappointment!! The build up to this book was big...."a wonderfully funny journey"..."...unrelentingly funny...".....& "Bryson without the boring bits". Well I like Bryson so I expected to enjoy this but those expectations were soon dashed.

Okay, I guess it was amusing enough at times but certainly not the hysterically funny read the blurb would have me believe. I only managed the occasional mental wry smile (though maybe my lips did twitch once) Which sadly means that according to one of
Jan 09, 2013 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
Morticia Adams
Jan 14, 2011 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
Apr 30, 2014 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
Jan 03, 2009 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 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 Americans
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