Peace of mind is well worth the pint.
Downtown Galway along main alleyway High Street is a bit of a chameleon, changing seamlessly between breezy tourist walkway during the day to a sometimes raucous, raunchy stream of young people with too much alcohol in their system at night. Sitting inside Murphy’s Bar, you wouldn’t know it, as not only is it nicely removed from the chaos that can exist outside, it looks like it hasn’t changed in about 50 years, anything but a chameleon.
In fact, Murphy’s Bar might be the only “normal” pub along Galway’s main downtown thoroughfare, an area dominated by louder, bigger pubs that sometimes border on night club status during the evening hours. There are pubs just like Murphy’s throughout Ireland in every manner of town, big or small, but to find out in such a highly trafficked area is a welcome change of pace for those of us who just want to sit down and drink a few.
Classic Irish pub façade outside, Murphy’s is stark and plain inside, a dense selection of snugs strewn across two rooms, forming a layout that can be difficult to navigate as the pub fills up with locals and tourists looking for the change of pace only Murphy’s provides. Wood paneling extends halfway up the wall, giving way to the types of images you’d expect to find on an Irish pub wall, ranging from beer sign to historical photo.
The bar itself serves both halves of the space, with long stool seating areas along each side. Around the entire outside of the interior space, small snugs are dotted with short stools that are straight up death on those with back problems but perfect for hunching over a stout with one eye on the darts match undoubtedly on one of the mounted televisions. In fact, on this reviewer’s every visit, televised darts has been a staple, no matter the time of year.
Also true with every visit, the bar seating has been dominated by locals who presumably brave the tourist throngs daily to snag prime seating at their neighborhood pub, location be damned. The kinds of conversations overheard, engaged with and sometimes wished to be forgotten are worth the non-trivial price of the beverage bill.
And the stout that shares the name of the pub, Murphy’s, though it can sometimes feel slanderous within Ireland to say so, holds its own with the pervasively available Guinness and if you’re going to give it an honest shot, this pub feels like the place to do so.
What would typically be a “normal” pub by Irish standards, Murphy’s location gives the pub refuge status amid the insanity that can sometimes engulf downtown Galway. Not a dive bar strictly speaking, Murphy’s is more a traveler’s oasis, and one worth seeking out before, or maybe never, getting more aggressive with the night further down High Street.