Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Dublin: 16°C Friday 19 August 2022

Nancy's is the Donegal pub that's like stepping into your granny's good room

Step into Nancy’s and make yourself at home.

WITH A ROARING fire and trinkets dotted around the bar, Nancy’s in Ardara, Co. Donegal, is as homely and welcoming a pub as you’re ever likely to find.

It’s not so much akin to walking into a pub as it is stepping into your granny’s house. As Jenny McHugh explains, there’s good reason for that.

“What was my Nan’s front room – where she used to sit and watch TV – is now part of the bar,” she says.

Additionally, what McHugh terms as her granny’s “Christmas room” – or her “good room out the back” -  is also now part of the pub. The good china continues to be displayed there.

Fancy a cuppa? ☕️

A post shared by Ashling (@ashlingann) on

The pub has been in the McHugh family for seven generations now. It opened over 200 years ago and is managed by Ann and Charles McHugh. Five of their seven children, including Jenny, help out with the day-to-day management of the pub.

The name above the pub is Chas McHugh, but it became known as Nancy’s after McHugh’s great-great-grandmother.

As she tells it, Nancy married into the McHugh family, but was widowed at a young age. She subsequently took on the pub and managed it for many decades. The pub has proudly bore her name ever since.

Nancy’s Ardara

A post shared by Siobhan Naughton (@siobhanmnaughton) on

It’s a pub that attracts a healthy mixture of tourists and locals. McHugh says Americans and Australians are often especially charmed by the pub’s history.

They stock all the usuals here, but make a special effort to promote local beers and spirits.

“My Dad would like to try to stick to local wherever possible,” says McHugh. “So we’ve got a few beers that are brewed in Donegal on draft and a few other Donegal beers in bottles.” They also stock An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin and Silkie Irish Whiskey, both made in Donegal’s Sliabh Liag Distillery.

This desire to keep it local extends to the food menu.

“My mum started the kitchen and her ethos would have been, ‘Keep it simple, keep it fresh, keep it local,’” says McHugh.

Visitors can indulge in the pub’s seafood offerings as well as traditional pub grub like hearty soups and burgers. (But really it’s all about the seafood.)

Among the pub’s quirkiest touches is a vast collection of whiskey jugs and Toby jugs suspended from the ceiling over the bar.

Turns out you can thank McHugh’s granny for those, too.

“Basically my grandmother was addicted to auctions. Have you ever heard of a job lot at an auction? You arrive early, you look around, and you see a box. Ninety per cent of it could be rubbish but if you fall in love with the thing on the top, you buy the job lot. That’s what she used to do.”


A post shared by Philip Drake (@philipdrake5681) on

A post shared by Samantha Kopac (@samanthakopac) on

For her part, Jenny McHugh reckons it’s these little touches that make Nancy’s such a warm, inviting place to sip a pint and have a chat.

“Since it feels like a house, you can kind of feel like you’re sitting in someone’s living room,” she says. “People just make themselves at home as soon as they come in and it’s nice to bring them into the heart of the thing and involve them in conversations the locals are having around the counter. It’s lovely.”

As lovely as your granny’s good room, you might say.

Few drinks and some good food! 💑

A post shared by Sabrina (@donegalchick) on

Double Take: The estate in Coolock named after the 1969 moon landing>

‘Barristers, baristas and block layers’: The people who paint Dublin’s striking traffic light boxes>

About the author:

Amy O'Connor

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel