25 Essential Songs for an Irish Road Trip
Some countries are just meant to be seen from the road and Ireland is definitely one of them. When Brandon and I hit the road for 12 days on the Emerald Isle we picked up a few music CD’s at a souvenir shop before starting our journey. During our trip we listened to the same 60 songs over and over again and even sang a handful of them in various pubs along the way. By the end of our vacation we were in love with traditional Irish folk music.
When we returned home I continued to listen to Irish music, adding more and more songs to my playlist. I currently have over 150 songs (some are different versions of the same song) and have picked my 25 favorite ones for this ultimate Irish road trip playlist.
1. “Black Velvet Band” (any band)
If you have plans to attend a trad session while in Ireland (and you SHOULD have plans) then “Black Velvet Band” is a song that you’re likely to hear. This is a traditional Irish folk song so there’s plenty of versions but I prefer Cu Chulainn. In fact many of the songs listed in this post can be found on their album Cream of Irish Folk: 40 Great Irish Drinking Songs. The Dubliners also have a pretty popular version of this song.
2. “Botany Bay” (any band)
This is another great traditional song with many versions ranging from folk to hard rock. I have two versions, one from Blaggards and another from Makem and Clancy. The title of the song refers to an area of Australia where exiled British (and Irish) prisoners were sent.
3. “Captain Kidd” by Great Big Sea
I fell in love with Great Big Sea after we returned from Ireland so we didn’t have a chance to bring these guys along with us on our road trip. They’re actually a Canadian band but their songs have a distinctly Irish/Scottish flare. In “Captain Kidd” you can hear the mellow beat of the bodhrán, one of my favorite Irish musical instruments.
4. “Chandelier Shop” by Jollybeggarmen
Not a tune for kids! “Chandelier Shop” isn’t really a song at all but more of a harmonized story and while it doesn’t have explicit lyrics the storyline isn’t exactly family-friendly. It tells of a man who visits the chandelier shop in town to buy some candles only to find the chandelier’s wife in bed with another man. Brandon and I discovered this song on a CD we purchased in Ireland 20 Favourite Irish Pub Songs Volume 1. For the record we never heard this song in any of the pubs we visited!
5. “Fields of Athenry” (any band)
While “Botany Bay” is a more upbeat tune there are other folk songs such as “The Fields of Athenry” that also refer to the famous Botany Bay. This is quite a sad song and not great for all road trips but it’s a song that’s often played in trad sessions so familiarize yourself with the lyrics if you want to sing along. There are many versions of this song but we have the one that came on Cu Chulainn’s Cream of Irish Folk album. Below is one from The Dubliners.
6. “Finnegan’s Wake” (any band)
“Finnegan’s Wake” is a hilarious story-song about a man named Tim Finnegan who fell off a ladder, cracked his skull and was thought to be dead. His friends organized a wake where too much whiskey resulted in a huge brawl. This is a great song to sing along to and we have a few versions, of course one being Cu Chulainn. Below is our favorite version, mostly for the hilarious commentary that’s added to the song.
7. “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle
“Galway Girl” was originally written by American singer and song writer Steve Earle but plenty of Irish artists have recorded their version of this popular song. You probably won’t find this song in any pub trad session but it’s a great song for jamming in the car.
8. “Galway Races” (any band)
This is another traditional Irish folk song that we like and has been sung by many bands. Our favorite is by The Dubliners but a good punk version is done by The Pogues.
9. “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly
I fell in love with Flogging Molly when I first met Brandon and they make a lot of great road trip songs. This is one of my favorite Irish road trip songs and is on almost all of my other road trip playlists as well. For the movie buffs out there this is one of the songs featured in the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You.
10. “I Miss My Home” by Gaelic Storm
Gaelic Storm is another great Celtic band I discovered when I returned home from Ireland. Movie buffs might recognize them as the band who played “An Irish Party in Third Class” featured in the blockbuster movie Titanic. Their song “I Miss My Home” is an excellent upbeat song that’s perfect for road-tripping.
11. “I’ll Tell Me Ma” by The Young Dubliners
This is another song you might hear in a pub and there’s lots of versions but you should check out my favorite which is by The Young Dubliners.
12. “The Irish Rover” (any band)
This upbeat and silly song is about a mythical ship called the Irish Rover that sailed from Ireland to America. Cu Chulainn sings this in their Cream of Irish Folk album but Dropkick Murphys performs a great rock version if you’re looking for something a little less folksy.
13. “Kiss Me I’m Irish” by Gaelic Storm
“Kiss Me I’m Irish” is one of those songs I would LOVE to sing at a kareoke bar while holding a pint of Guinness. Listen to the song and you’ll know why.
14. “Molly Malone” by The Dubliners
“Molly Malone” is one of the most well-known songs out there. You can visit the famous Molly Malone statue in Dublin and picture this imaginary woman pushing her wheelbarrow of fish through the streets. I had memorized this song before our trip to Ireland but unfortunately never heard it in any trad session we attended. We did hear it playing at Disney’s Epcot, though, in the World Showcase United Kingdom. Ah, it brought back so many wonderful memories of Ireland!
15. “Moore Street Girls” by The Elders
The Elders are an American band from Kansas City, MO but their music sounds truly Irish. Their song “Moore Street Girls” is one of my favorites and is about the lively street market on Moore Street in Dublin.
16. “N17” by The Saw Doctors
When it comes to Irish road trip songs “N17” is THE ONE. It’s like Ireland’s version of “Route 66” and though it’s pretty old it’s still a great tune. The N17 runs from County Galway to County Sligo so while you’re listening to this song you might want to drive a portion of the road for which it’s named after.
17. “The Night Pat Murphy Died” by Great Big Sea
This is another hilarious song about what can happen when you drink too much. By the way, why does so much drinking happen at funerals?
18. “Nancy Whiskey” by Gaelic Storm
This is a mostly instrumental song but features a lot of the unique Irish instruments such as the bodhrán and Deger pipes.
19. “One More Day Above the Roses” by Gaelic Storm
Another excellent road trip (and kareoke!) song about being thankful for every day you’re given. Ever since my dad died I haven’t been able to sing this song without choking up. Gaelic Storm doesn’t have an official video for this song but the one below that’s advertising the release of their album is funny as hell!
20. “Rambling Rover” (any band)
Yet another Irish folk song that I love. I only have one version by Cu Chulainn but there’s plenty of other bands that play it as well. Some have a pretty slow tempo so pick an upbeat version for your road trip, like this one played by Fiddler’s Green.
21. “The Rattlin’ Bog” by Seamus Kennedy
This a song your kids might recognize about a limb on a tree and a tree in a hole, etc, only it’s the Irish version. I like Seamus Kennedy’s “Rattlin’ Bog” best because he seriously picks up the tempo at the end and it’s a challenge just to finish the song. Brandon can almost sing it but I always get out of breath.
22. “The Sunnyside of the Street” by The Pogues
If you like Irish rock bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly then you’ll love The Pogues. Their song “The Sunnyside of the Street” is one of my favorites. NOT to be confused with Frank Sinatra’s song of the same title!
23. “Us of Lesser Gods” by Flogging Molly
Whether you add the original or acoustic version to your playlist this is a definite must-have for any Irish road trip.
24. “Whiskey In The Jar” by Dublin City Ramblers
Any version of “Whiskey In The Jar” EXCEPT those by Metallica or Celtic Thunder are good choices. This is a song that’s frequently played in pubs but you’ll only hear the traditional version which is much different than the rock versions.
25. “The Wild Rover” (any band)
Another great song that you might hear in a pub trad session and it’s helpful to learn the lyrics so you can sing along. I have three versions of this song by The High Kings, Dublin City Ramblers and Cu Chulainn. The High Kings is my favorite one.