Address :
33 High St,
BT21 0AH

This is, without question, the oldest Inn in all Ireland.

It dates back to 161 1, and is one of the most famous bars in the country, on account of its age and history. Grace Neill herself was born in 1818 and died in 1916, at the great age of 98.
In the 19th century, the inns and alehouses of Donaghadee were the meeting places of smugglers and horse thieves, and there is little doubt that many of their plans and campaigns were plotted under the roof of this very old tavern.

It is the only one of those ancient inns still standing.

Most of the beams in the old bar are believed to have been ship’s timbers, and the wooden counter in the front lounge bar goes back many, many years. In the early 1 7th century, smuggling was rife, not only between Galloway and County Down, but also between Isle of Man and Down, up to the middle of the 19th century.

The inn’s main trade was with passengers wanting to take passage to Portpatrick, because Donaghadee was then the terminal for this short sea passage, but this ferry service ceased operation in 1856.
Among the many visitors to Grace Neill’s was Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, who stayed here on his way to Warrenpoint to study Irish shipbuilding.

There’s a little upstairs room still called the Emperor’s Room in his honour. An old custom of the time was for the landlady and her maids to kiss visitors on their arrival, and the hostess and her workers must have enjoyed the ceremony 51 in the case of Peter, who was 6 feet 7 inches tall, broad and strong, and very handsome.

Keats paid a fleeting visit to the pub in the early 19th century, but disliked what he saw of the north of Ireland and hastened back to Scotland. Other distinguished visitors include Thackeray, and Dan O’Connell (uncrowned King of Ireland).

In the 17th century the Marquis de Vere wrote of the taverns of Donaghadee: “They serve good fare and excellent ale. The inns are packed to capacity with people waiting to take passage to Scotland.
After dark, however, it is best to keep to the warmth and safety of the inns!!” Today, Grace Neill’s retains all the charm and privacy of its past without any of its perils.

The only hint of violence lies in the series of pictures of different kinds of guns – revolvers, signal pistols and so on. The quaint little back room snugs are just the place to plan your next illegal parking or TV licence evasion