Executive summary: Sheeran's Pub is a quiet spot in the even quieter hamlet of Coolrain, County Laois.
Longer version: Within a few days on either side of the winter solstice, darkness comes early in Ireland, not to mention the pervasive and damp cold that comes along with it. The best thing to do when faced with a cold, dark, damp Irish winter night is to plant oneself in front of a roaring fire and have a drink or two.
Fortunately, just up the road from the family stronghold of Peafield is Sheeran's Pub, now in business for over 200 years. It features friendly barmen, a roaring fire, and regulars, of which the roaring fire is probably the most crucial contributor to a good time.
The place has a thatched roof and feels more like your grandmother's house than a pub, but that's par for the course 'round these parts. People wander in from the darkness periodically, but no one seems to leave.
The peat-burning fireplace is too hot to sit right next to, and some of the nearby seats are unofficially owned by regulars who see no need to relinquish their familiar seats to outsiders, so we skirt the edges of the warmth and avoid international incidents at every opportunity.
Yes, we have that here
The Guinness is dramatically better in Ireland, to the point where I don't see a reason to drink it in the US ever again, but the dark liquid is little more than the enabler for unexpected conversations, new friends, and later bedtimes than planned.
Then again, considering that the room we're staying in at the 300+ year-old farmhouse is cold enough that we can see our breath, perhaps the pub is more of a safe haven than we give it credit for!
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