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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 17 August, 2018
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'Like walking into a rural Irish house': The Dublin Mountains hideout that is Johnnie Fox's

You’ll find a Singer sewing machine, a vintage phone box – and a great pint.

Outside Johnnie Fox's, high in the Dublin Mountains.
Outside Johnnie Fox's, high in the Dublin Mountains.
Image: Instagram/thewallnh

SITUATED IN THE Dublin Mountains, Johnnie Fox’s may just be one of the most photographed pubs in Ireland. A quick trawl through Instagram and you’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of photos taken by visitors from all over the world.

Kaitlin McMahon works as the pub’s business development manager and says it’s the first thing tourists do when they come to visit.

“The minute the bus comes in, there’s a queue of them trying to get a photograph under the Johnnie Fox’s sign,” she remarks.

And with good reason – this mountainside pub is among the most iconic spots in the country.

Famed for being the highest pub in Ireland, Johnnie Fox’s has been on the go in Glencullen since 1798, making it 230 years old this year. The pub was originally run by the Fox family, but was taken over by the McMahon family in the late 1980s.

But while it may have changed hands, it certainly hasn’t changed inside.

“I always describe it as walking into a nineteenth century rural Irish home, but with a twenty-first century standard of food and drink,” says McMahon. “It’s like a living museum.”

The pub is covered from head to toe in antiques. Everywhere you look, there’s old crockery, signs, photographs and bric-a-brac, most of which has been donated to the pub.

“Very few were bought at auction. A lot of the antiques have been given by people all over Ireland, who want a home for them. Like their grandmother’s Singer machine that she loved very much – they don’t want to throw it out, they don’t want to sell it, they want it to be somewhere.”

Among the notable artefacts in the pub’s possession is a cast iron famine pot, which used to feed over 800 people every day. There’s also an old phone box outside, which is basically crying out for photo opportunities.

Additionally, the pub runs two mini-museums out of spaces that were formerly used as pig sheds.

They now house antique farming implements and are open to the public.

foxs Source: Johnnie Fox's/Instagram

Over time, the pub has attracted all sorts of illustrious guests, chief among them foreign dignitaries and royalty. McMahon recalls a time when Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F Kennedy, visited the pub without a reservation. On another occasion, Condoleezza Rice showed up without calling ahead.

A few years ago, the Deputy Prime Minister of China showed up with 250 guests to attend the pub’s famed Irish dancing show, accompanied by armed bodyguards and a motorcade comprised of twenty vehicles.

“That was huge,” says McMahon, still overwhelmed by the mere thought of it.

Johnnie Fox’s is situated a little out of the way meaning many customers rely on the pub’s shuttle bus service. The bus leaves the city centre every evening and brings customers home after last orders, stopping off in hotels along the way.

These bus journeys can help set the tone for the evening, as McMahon explains about a musician who had asked repeatedly to play there but had no way of getting there:

He was an older man and he was just so talented. Sometimes we got other musicians to collect him but they were like, “We love playing with him, but it’s a bit of hassle.” So I thought about it and said, “Why doesn’t he take our bus up?”

He followed her advice and took the bus to the pub with a host of other visitors, who treated them to storytelling the whole way to the pub.

By the time they’re coming off the bus, they’re all already high as a kite. They haven’t even had a drink yet and they’re all like one big family. These are people who got on at different stops. You see them all at the end of the night all knowing each other’s names. It’s great.

And a night of craic was surely had.

#irishcoffee in #ireland🇮🇪

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As regards food and drink, the pub prides itself on serving high-end menu. It’s primarily known for specialising in seafood – its seafood platter for four is especially popular among Chinese visitors, says McMahon.

But it serves a wide array of other food such as ribs, duck, lamb shank – it’s not exactly just ham and cheese toasties.

:)

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The pub is also known for its hooley, a traditional Irish dancing show. It’s the longest running Irish dancing show in the country and has travelled the globe, often at the behest of customers who have visited the pub.

McMahon recalls a recent instance when the dance troupe and band were flown over to China and put up for four nights after an influential customer had seen them perform. It might seem a little out of the ordinary, but such requests aren’t unusual for the pub.

Every single day, you just don’t have a clue what’ll come in, who will come in through the door or what question someone will have to ask. You just have weird things every day – something new, something unusual. It’s not a normal kind of job.

And it’s not a normal kind of pub. It’s basically a pilgrimage site.

Source: Johnnie Fox's Pub/YouTube

“You’ll have a room of 120 people and you’ll have twelve to fifteen countries,” says McMahon. “You’ve got Brazilians, Americans, English, Canadians.”

That’s what I find really cool. That so many people from different countries would turn up at a mountain in the middle of nowhere to this pub.

Here’s to 230 more years, eh?

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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