Picking one pub to sit at the top of the pile in a country that is famous for its pubs is a pretty daunting task.
We Irish are known for our wonderful hospitality, our big creamy pints, good food and live music. And everybody has their favourite Irish pub – but today I want to tell you about one that sits heads and shoulders above the rest.
This isn't just the best pub in Ireland, but the best Irish pub in the world – and if you haven't been lucky enough to visit you'd better start making plans to visit the Cooley Peninsula.
Fitzpatrick's is in Louth and about a five-minute drive off the main M1 motorway between Dublin and Belfast. It took me 43 minutes to drive here from Dublin, which is as long as it often takes to get across the city itself, and which means it is well worth the day trip.
When I come here I team it up with a walk along some of the local beaches in Carlingford or hiking one of the many accessible hills on the trails in the area. For those unfamiliar with this little corner of the world it's right up there with Dingle or Connemara in terms of spectacular scenery, but much lighter on tourists and crowds.
The car park was full of both Northern- and Southern-reg cars with very few from Louth itself. People travel here especially for the experience and it isn't hard to see why.
The pub itself is a cross between Bloom Festival, an old Irish pub and Dublin Zoo... all with a top-quality restaurant thrown in.
You're blinded by the amazing trees, flowers, sign posts and quirky artefacts sticking out of every spare inch of space, while the decor is absolutely bonkers. But it works and makes you smile instantly.
We were here for Sunday lunch and the place was absolutely rammed. Hardly a surprise when the three-course lunch cost €24.95 and featured a main course of gorgeous salmon with lobster claw, with enough side dishes to feed a rugby team.
They have a huge focus on seafood here and it's as good as any you'll get in the country.
And the other focus?
Huge portions, and thus, huge smiles on all the customers' faces.
I had my dogs with me which is always a worry – but there was no need to rush here because they've thought of everything. A sign directed us to the kennels where the dogs could be left for hours with plenty of water and room to run around.
Right beside the kennels is the petting farm which is an absolute godsend for parents trying to entertain children. There are goats, ponies, a donkey, ducks and peacocks and it is a great way to pass time.
As if the good food, amazing service, petting farm, kennels, gardens and decor weren't enough, Fitzpatrick's is first and foremost a great place to have a few pints. The screens are all set up for sports watchers but there are also plenty of private nooks and corners for those seeking conversation over their drinks.
Outside a terrace makes the perfect beer garden for when the sun shines, and there's even a little teepee with seats around it and a hidden TV for the ultimate outdoor experience.
And when I say they've thought of absolutely everything here I really am not joking.
From children to the elderly through to dogs and heavy drinkers they really have every box ticked.
The only downside is the distance from most places and the fact that somebody will have to drive, but that's something that you'll simply have to figure out. The place is so good I'd book a whole weekend away in the area and the highlight would be a day sitting in here eating and drinking.
You probably have your own favourite Irish pub but I'll wager it won't come close to Fitzpatricks.
It's Irish without being kitsch. It's old-school but with superb service and attention to detail.
It's a world-class gastro pub before anybody had even heard of that word. But most of all it is colourful, welcoming and most of all fun.
Everything a great pub should be.