PUB OF THE YEAR: The Hole in the Wall, Armagh
It's housed in a building that’s nearly 400 years old and used to be a jail.
The bar’s said to be haunted by a friendly ghost called Wilfy.
And it’s home to a parrot called Casper, who is a big hit with regulars and visitors alike.
So it’s safe to say I found The Hole In The Wall pub in Armagh was a place with character and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular
place for a pint.
Just off the busy Market Street in the city, you’ll find this pub is soaked in history.
The Hole In The Wall dates back to 1615 when the building was originally a jail, so it comes as no surprise that around the town its known as the haunted pub.
Spirits — of a ghostly kind rather than the expected whiskey gin and vodka etc — have been seen in the bar.
Owner Joanne McCall told me: “Yes it is known as being haunted and, although I have never witnessed a sighting, members of the staff have.
“It’s strange, very often a customer will come in and say they feel a strong presence in the building, that's happened on many occasions.”
Barmaid Lynn Joyce added: “I've worked here for many years so I'm used to Wilfy (the ghost) shuffling around, he owned the place years ago and he is very friendly also.
“When it was a jail the prisoners would be taken from
the jail to Gallows Hill a short walk away to be hung so maybe a few of them like to come back and visit.”
And it is believed that the name originated from when it was a jail as families and relatives of the prisoners brought
them food and letters and passed them through a hole in the wall.
The small pub, which is due to extend next year as Joanne has bought the building next door, is a friendly place with a relaxed atmosphere.
There is a real sense of homeliness about it and Joanne is very much hands on behind the bar — greeting each customer as they enter.
She added: “We have a visitors book which has been signed by many customers from America and even as far as Australia, in fact we are quite famous over there within the Irish community.
“We find that when people come to the pub from other countries its because someone has recommended it.
“They love the history of the pub, the fact that it’s all the original building and floors and the ghost stories.”
And that’s exactly what I found when I chatted to punters on my visit.
Customer Michael Twigger from Coventry said: “This is my first visit and already Joanne knows everything about me, I will be back for sure. It’s not very often you go to a bar and feel so relaxed in company you have never met before.”
His wife Brenda added: “I love pubs like this rather than a fancy cocktail bar, there is no mistaking you’re in Ireland.”
It’s clear it’s a popular haunt for the locals as in the time we are there I met 20 different customers and the ages ranged from 18 to 90.
William Leister, who has been drinking in the bar for 40 years, before Joanne became landlady, said: “I don't drink anywhere else, this is my second home.
“It’s almost like it’s been passed down generations as my late father-in-law drank here also.
“Since Joanne has taken over she has done wonders and it’s great to see the pub recognised.”
Regular Jenna Robinson added: “It’s the place to start and finish your weekend, even though the young ones want to move on to a nightclub. We start here on a Friday and we are here on a Sunday to finish off the weekend!”
And apart from the food and drink, another main attraction is Casper the parrot. Casper, an African grey parrot, is the pub’s mascot and he’s very popular — he even has his own Facebook page.
Lynn said: “The customers love him but we have to keep an eye on them as they try to feed him crisps and he is getting too fat.”
Well there is no mistaking the loyalty of the customers and the dedication of the staff in this pub and The Hole in the Wall gets a thumbs up from me.