Moran's Pub

Kilcolgan, Co. Galway

Turn off route N18 as indicated by the small signs advertising Moran's - about twelve miles (19 km) out of the city of Galway, just south of Clarinbridge - for a real treat.

Moran's (pronounced More-ans) is a 200-year-old thatched cottage right beside the waters of the Kilcolgan River.

Quite simply, the oysters and salmon you eat here are the best you will ever have - anywhere. Add a few slices of home-made brown bread baked by Mrs Moran, and a pint of swarthy, creamy-headed Guinness from the tap, and you've a meal to remember.

The place is run by Willie Moran, the seventh generation to own the oyster beds that are situated at the mouth of the Kilcolgan River, part of the 700 acres (283 ha) of sea that form the Galway Bay oysterbed. Willie is a cheery host with an easy friendliness and open enthusiasm about his work. "Hookers used to stop here on their way from Connemara," he told me as we delved into Moran's history.

Hookers? I was astonished at the vision of this healthy country spot as a port of call for Connemara girls gone-wrong.

To my relief, he went on to explain that hookers were actually heavy sailing ships built to transport turf. I also learned that during the Famine the weir, or stone wall, was constructed across the river to trap the salmon, giving Moran's its name.

Willie showed me around the old Moran homestead, now "Moran's". It was still recognisably a cottage, with its small bar and wood-burning stove where once the kitchen was, and a cosy little snug that had, appropriately, served generations of Morans as a bedroom. A dining room has been added with a pass-through bar and kitchen counter. The walls are pristine white, the floor brown tile. On the walls are many amusing photos of world luminaries who have come to this simple place. A friend tells me he once met the then-President of Ireland, Charles Haughey, over a plate of salmon at Moran's, which, my friend says, shows at least some expertise and sound judgement on Haughey's part.

Though 140 sides of smoked salmon and 1,000 oysters are consumed daily at the height of the season, the place always seems relaxed and congenial. In the summer, you can take your pint and sit out on the terrace watching the punters and the fishermen at work and perhaps have a plate of Mrs Moran's celestial salmon salad.

If you're having oysters, you can be assured that it's only been an hour since they were raked into baskets and minutes since they were opened. Willie is a champion shucker. At the annual Oyster Festival (14 - 16 September) in Clarinbridge, he opened thirty oysters in one minute thirty seconds. This is not the only startling statistic involving Moran's: a certain Hugh Williams once devoured 158 of Galway's best in an hour and fifty minutes. Understandably perhaps, his name is illegible in the guest book.

With the advent of popularity, the Morans, displaced from their cottage, moved into a modern brick abode nearby. To an outsider, the move might seem sad, but the Morans were perfectly happy to exchange character for convenience.

You can find Moran's in the town of Kilcolgan, Co Galway near to Galway city itself.

From the Appletree Press title: The Irish Pub Guide.
Also from Appletree: Irish Pub Songs.