The History of Donnelly’s Barna
Food & Drink//Galway History

The History of Donnelly’s Barna

Donnelly's of Barna has been a local favourite for generations! It has now been given a new lease of life with a snazzy refurbishment, but you can still sense the colourful history behind this famous building that is being kept alive by its current owners. Let us enlighten you...

In the early 1800’s, Barna wasn't quite the bustling seaside village it is now. There were just two humble, single-story, thatched buildings at the cross roads, where Donnelly's and The Twelve stand today. In 1892, almost 150 years ago, the Donnelly family began running a public house in one of the buildings. Across the road from Donnelly's was an animal pound which was heavily used in years gone by. It was called the “pig-pound” and it was here that the Pig Fairs were held four times a year, big days for the pub!

Donnellys Today

The current two-storey house replaced the one-storey thatched building around 1900 and still stands today. The present restaurant was where the cows were milked and housed over the winter. Hay was stored in the loft overhead, the exact same loft that you can dine in today - though it is much more comfortable now! After being upgraded to a two-storey house, it wasn't long before Donnelly's had a dramatic brush with Irish history.

There was a fruitless attempt by the Black and Tans to burn down the building in 1922. It was a popular meeting point but the Donnelly family also had a small holding of land and Turbary rights (the right to cut turf) which made them a target for the English Army in Ireland. A bomb was hurled through the top storey window but fortunately, it failed to ignite. The stables at the rear of the building were burned down, however, on the same night that the Coastguard Station and the Twelve Pins were set ablaze. The Donnelly family were forced to vacate the house from October until March 1922 while repairs were carried out. It wasn't all completely repaired though; bullet holes, blasted into the building during the attempted arson, can still be seen at the front of the bar today!

Donnellys Loft


In 1989, Mr Thomas Donnelly and his wife Kathleen retired from business and sold the premises to the current owners, who have extended and refurbished a number of times over the years. The Donnelly family graciously allowed their name be kept over the door where it sat proudly for the previous 100 years. The first pint on the re-opening night was pulled by Mr Donnelly in 1989. A picture of this moment hangs over the pier road bar today.

Nowadays, Donnelly's is the only traditional bar in Barna and they serve delicious seafood, bar food and drinks. They use only the freshest of locally-sourced ingredients. Chef Tom has created a menu inspired by freshly caught Connemara seafood, local meats and seasonally inspired sides with a strong emphasis on tradition and taste. Food is served daily from 12:30pm and all customers have their choice of dining in the quintessentially Irish front bar, the bright nautically inspired sunroom, or in one of the hidden ‘snugs’. There are even a couple of al fresco tables in their patio, full of colourful flowers! Regardless of where you eat, you are guaranteed a delicious meal and great atmosphere, and of course the help of the friendly Donnelly’s Team.

Donnellys Back

So if you want to dine inside a little piece of Galway history, book your table now right HERE.

Feature photo courtesy of Donnelly's of Barna's facebook page.