DUBLIN -- There are many ways to explore the pub scene in Dublin, ranging from the stay-close-to-the-hotel, find-the-music or listen-to-the-cab-driver approaches.

I opted for the last approach, asking locals whose knowledge of the nuances of pub atmosphere bordered on encyclopedic.

Here are a few worthy of being singled out:

  • Located on the lower level in the Merrion hotel, the Cellar bar is situated under 18th century vaulted ceilings.
  • Patrons can have lunch in the bar, sampling local produce along with smoked salmon, oysters and mussels.

  • O'Donoghues on Merrion Row off St. Stephen's Green is a famous, somewhat tiny pub where locals and tourists can enjoy traditional Irish music over a pint.
  • Doheny & Nesbits on Lower Baggot Street attracts the professional set, especially on weekends.
  • I loved the beautifully ornate ceilings and the friendly atmosphere.

  • The Brazen Head, an 800-year-old establishment built on an ancient Viking inn, is Dublin's oldest pub. It is located on Bridge Street and can be found on the Web at www.brazenhead.com.
  • Johnnie Fox's Pub, located outside of town in the Dublin Mountains at Glencullen -- about a half-hour cab ride from town -- offers an irresistibly corny blend of great seafood, generous drinks and entertainment in the form of a quartet belting out standard Irish ballads.
  • The quartet makes a show of taking requests, which they will play as long as the song is one they were going to play anyway.

    Make no mistake -- this is a tourist magnet, although during my October visit, at least half of the patrons seemed to be locals.

    Also on the entertainment bill is a group of Irish step dancers whose Las Vegas style was a turnoff to our group but seemed to amuse the rest of the audience.

    Groups are welcome, and reservations are recommended. The Web site is at www.johnniefoxs.com.

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