John Kavanagh The Gravediggers

Dublin, Leinster

Charmingly weathered and adhering to Irish tradition, The Gravediggers will transport all of its patrons back to 19th century Dublin.

Welcome to The Gravediggers!

John Kavanagh, or ‘The Gravediggers’, to which it is lovingly referred, is a small public house protruding from the wall of Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin. Founded in 1833, the Kavanagh’s business was originally supported by the funerals held at the cemetery; mourners would use it to drown their sorrows and when they left, the gravediggers would then show up for their pints of plain. Today, the pub is owned by the eighth generation of Kavanagh’s but aside from the Kavanagh behind the bar, little else has changed.

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The Gravediggers: A Tale of Tradition

As a staple of a true Irish pub, The Gravediggers is filled with flowing pints and the sounds of good conversation. Music, phone calls, singing, dancing, TVs, and other idle distractions are prohibited. The interior exudes a rustic, old-world charm with dark wood panelling, dimly lit corners, low-ceilings, a cosy fireplace, and original wooden flooring – now stained with centuries of spilt Guinness and spat tobacco. There is also a sectioned-off area, where women once drank separately from men. Today, the area remains more for dramatical historical effect, as anyone is allowed to sit there.

Sign of the Times: Adjustments at The Gravediggers

However, not everything has remained the same over the years. In accordance with the times – through rebellion, famine, economic downturns, civil unrest, and pandemics – Kavanaghs has had to adjust its means of service.

In its early years, The Gravediggers’ close proximity to Glasnevin Cemetery meant that many mourners could pop in to drink away their pain after the service of a loved one. This seems fair enough, but most of the time this was not the order in which business was conducted. Often the pub would be the first destination and the funeral (if they made it there at all) would come second! Consequently, the city cemetery committee enacted a bylaw that meant funerals could only be held in the morning.

Additionally, in 1878 the North-Eastern entrance into Glasnevin was closed. This gate was nearby to The Gravediggers, which after the bylaw and gate closure, took a significant financial hit. To attract new customers (and encourage old ones to commit to a longer commute), the reigning Kavanagh at the time, Joseph, introduced bar games. Subsequent additions featured the grocery of 1920, the 1980s lounge, and the early 2000s food menu. Today, the evenings are governed by an ever-changing tapas menu serving up generous portions of Mediterranean-inspired goodies, whilst lunch times remain steeped in traditional Irish comfort.

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The Perfect Pint of Guinness

Many patrons undoubtedly visit Kavanagh’s for its quirky stories, eerie location, and delicious food menu. However, The Gravediggers is also famous for its perfect pints of Guinness. The pub's well-earned reputation for pouring the best pint of the iconic Irish stout makes it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists. The bartenders, often with decades of experience, understand the art of crafting a velvety-smooth, creamy pint that captures the essence of Ireland's most famous export.

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Ghost Stories and Other Tales

Another aspect of John Kavanagh’s pub that has remained over the years is the tales the barkeepers like to tell about local lore and ghostly interactions. With its proximity to a cemetery and its long history, it's no surprise that The Gravediggers has its share of paranormal tales. Many claim that the pub is haunted by the spirits of those buried next door in Glasnevin. There’s also a regular spirit that has a particular preference for Guinness, whom regulars call ‘the man dressed in tweed’.

Other tales depict the unique ways in which the former gravediggers would order their pints. According to legend (aka the bartenders at Kavanagh’s) there was once a secret hatch that allowed the cemetery employees to sneak in for a cheeky pint, throughout their working day. Others claim that the drinks were actually passed through a hole in the cemetery wall! Or that when their gravedigging shift was done for the day they would rap out a certain knock on the cemetery wall to alert the bartender to their impending visit.


These ghostly legends have only enhanced the pub's mystique and charm so make sure you grab a seat at the bar and befriend the server to hear your own unique tale!

Cultural Significance

In an era where many traditional establishments have succumbed to modernisation, The Gravediggers has proudly preserved its historic charm. The family’s commitment to maintaining the authenticity of the pub places it in a time capsule; allowing the experience to be enjoyed by future generations.

Ensuring that Kavanagh’s remains a true Irish watering hole, is also the reason for its popularity not only locally but outside of Dublin too. The Gravediggers has been featured in numerous books, films, and documentaries, solidifying its status as an iconic Dublin attraction. It has become a symbol of the city's rich cultural heritage, showcasing the enduring appeal of traditional Irish pubs.

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Our Thoughts…

In conclusion, John Kavanagh "The Gravediggers," is a representation of one family's hard work, dedication, and unwavering devotion to their heritage. It's a place where time seems to stand still, and the echoes of the past harmonise with the laughter of the present. With its legendary pints of Guinness and its rich index of ghostly tales, this iconic pub serves as a guardian of tradition, a community cornerstone, and a quintessential Irish experience. It beckons visitors to step through its doors and embark on a journey through time, offering a hauntingly good legacy that lingers in the hearts of all who have had the privilege to savour it.

Want to learn more about Dublin and see some of its secret & hidden sights? Check out our Dublin Treasure Hunts, puzzle-filled urban adventures lead you through city highlights and best-kept secrets. You'll actively engage with your surroundings to unravel the clues sent directly to your phones. Take optional breaks at great cafes & pub stops and enjoy the city's finest.

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What you need to know

John Kavanagh The Gravediggers
1 Prospect Square Dublin D09 County Dublin
53.369434, -6.272100
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