If you’re in search of some of the best Irish songs ever, you’ve landed in the right place.
The Irish music scene boasts a wealth of new and old tunes that are well worth a listen.
From lively Irish ballads, like ‘The Rattlin’ Bog’, to famous Irish songs, like ‘Grace’, you’ll find something to make your ears happy below!
The best Irish songs of all time
Each of the popular Irish songs below contains either an artists name or “Various” in brackets.
The name in brackets may not necessarily be the person/band to have written the song in question, but it’s the version that we enjoy the most. Right – dive on in!
1. Linger (The Cranberries)
Released in 1993 by Irish rock band The Cranberries, ‘Linger‘ is a moving love song written by lead vocalist and musician Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018) and band guitarist Noel Anthony Hogan.
With its acoustic arrangement it became the band’s first major hit reaching #3 in Ireland and #14 on the UK pop charts.
It’s one of the more upbeat Irish songs from the band (‘Dreams’ is another) that’s well worth 40 listens.
2. Fisherman’s Blues (The Waterboys)
I played this damn song three hours ago and it’s been bouncing around inside my head ever since… This is up there as one of the best Irish songs ever written.
Recorded by the Waterboys in 1988, the ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ was written by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham to critical reception.
However, it proved them all wrong, rising to #13 in Ireland and #3 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. It appeared in Hollywood blockbuster ‘Good Will Hunting’ and one of the best Irish films out there, ‘Waking Ned’.
3. Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2)
‘Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ was the opening track from U2’s 1983 album titled ‘War’ and it’s one of the most political Irish songs that the band has released to date.
The song describes the horror experienced by a person that observed the Troubles in Northern Ireland, with the main focus being a horrific event that took place in 1972 on a day that we now know as ‘Bloody Sunday‘.
4. The Rocky Road to Dublin (The High Kings)
Originally recorded by the Clancy Brothers (and later the Dubliners) in 1964, this is one of several 19th century Irish ballads with much older roots.
The lyrics were written by D.K.Gavan, “the Galway poet” in the mid 1800s. It describes the adventures of an Irish traveler who’s “off to reap the corn” or seek his fortune.
It tells of his womanising, being robbed and mocked for his accent before heading to Liverpool where his countrymen come to his rescue.
‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ is one of the more popular Irish songs to sing among tourists visiting Ireland, as it tends to be played regularly at trad sessions that cater for tourists.
5. The Fields of Athenry (The Dubliners)
One of the most famous Irish songs of all time, ‘The Fields of Athenry‘ is a folk song telling the story of the Great Famine that changed the lives of many in the 1840s.
It focuses on a fictional character “Michael” living in Athenry, Galway. Caught stealing food to feed his starving family his punishment was deportation to Australia.
Written by Mooney Peter Henry, it was recorded by The Dubliners in 1983.
6. Grace (Various)
Ahhh, ‘Grace’ – this is one of the most famous Irish songs that you’ll come across. It was written in 1985 by Frank and Seán O’Meara, about a woman named Grace Evelyn Gifford Plunkett.
‘Grace’ was an Irish artist and an active Republican. In 1916, she married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett (one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising) in Kilmainham Gaol a couple of hours prior to his execution.
This is one of many sad Irish folk songs that’ll never get old, no matter how many times you hear it.
7. On Raglan Road (Luke Kelly)
If you’ve ever visited Ballsbridge near Dublin, you’ll recognise the setting for “On Raglan road”.
This famous Irish song is based on a poem by poet Patrick Kavanagh and the words were set to the music of “The Dawning of the Day” when Kavanagh met Luke Kelly in a Dublin bar.
This classic is a work of genius, singing about the dark-haired women as it runs from Raglan Road in Ballsbridge to Grafton Street, Dublin (see our Irish love songs guide for more like this).
8. The Lonesome Boatman (The Fuerys)
‘The Lonesome Boatman’ is one of the lesser-known Irish folk songs that’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand to attention.
It debuted on a 1969 album from Finbar and Eddie Furey on an album of the same name. This song is beautiful, but it’s a little haunting also.
This, like many traditional Irish folk songs, features the tin whistle. And it’s played superbly throughout. Bash play above to see what I mean.
9. This Is (Aslan)
You can’t bate Aslan’s ‘Made in Dublin’ album – it’s wedged with songs about Ireland and the band’s life in Dublin.
If you’re not familiar with Aslan, they’ve been around since the early 80s and they released six albums over the years.
They’ve an endless number of great tunes, but ‘This Is‘ tops the bunch.
10. A Song for Ireland (Various)
This is a popular Irish pub song, despite actually being written by English songwriter and folk club founder Phil Colclough and his wife June.
However, the scene it sets is all-Irish! It was inspired by a visit to the unspoilt Dingle Peninsula.
It’s been recorded by many famous Irish musicians including the Dubliners, Luke Kelly and Mary Black and is a moving tribute to Ireland’s natural beauty and musical heritage.
11. Galway Girl (Steve Earle)
Written by Steve Earle and originally recorded with Sharon Shannon, ‘Galway Girl‘ is an iconic piece which rocked the charts back in 2000.
If you’re an Ed Sheeran fan, you’ll have probably heard of a song that he released called ‘Galway Girl’. However, back in 2000, the original ‘Galway Girl’ took the charts by storm.
‘Galway Girl’ was written by Steve Earle and was recorded with the brilliant Sharon Shannon. There’s not much more to say about this one – bang the play button and enjoy.
12. Molly Malone (Various)
‘Molly Malone’ is one of the most famous Irish songs there is and it tells the story of a fishmonger who sold fish on the streets of Dublin.
It’s said that she sold fish on the streets by day and then operated as a part-time prostitute by night. If you’ve ever been to Dublin, the chances are you’ll have visited the Molly Malone statue.
13. Ride On (Christy Moore)
Originally written by Cork musician Jimmy MacCarthy, ‘Ride On‘ came to fame through a recording by Irish folk songs master Christy Moore.
The song about the lonely life on the road was the title track of Moore’s 1984 album and features haunting acoustics.
14. The Auld Triangle (Various)
‘The Auld Triangle’ was first performed in 1954 in a play by Brendan Behan called ‘The Quare Fellow’.
It was made famous by the Dubliners towards the end of the 1960s.
Behan’s play was a story about life in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison.
The triangle in the song’s title refers to the metal triangle in the prison that was used to wake the inmates each morning.
15. Come Out, Ye Black and Tans (Dominic Behan)
Just to put you in the picture, the Black and Tans mentioned in this song was the nickname for the British constables that served in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence.
The constables were known for their brutality and other unlawful acts including arson, looting, attacks on civilians and unlawful evictions.
One of the better known Irish rebel songs, it was written in 1928 and is attributed to Dublin songwriter Dominic Behan.
16. Zombie (The Cranberries)
‘Zombie’ is one of the most popular Irish songs on YouTube, racking up a staggering 1 billion+ views at the time of writing. That’s a whole lot of listens.
‘Zombie’ was written by an alternative Irish rock band named The Cranberries (one of the best Irish bands, in my opinion!) and revolves around the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington in England and two young victims of the attack.
There’s not much I can say about this one except that it’s powerful and you’ll keep coming back to it time and time again.
17. Whiskey in the Jar (Thin Lizzy)
The iconic ‘Whiskey in the Jar‘ is another of the more famous Irish songs that tends to make the setlist of many music sessions.
Set in the Cork and Kerry mountains, this song tells the story of a highwayman who has been betrayed by his lover. Everyone from Metallica to The Pogues have covered this one.
18. The Rattlin’ Bog (Various)
This is another of the many traditional Irish songs in this guide that tends to lodge itself in my head for a ridiculous amount of time.
‘The Rattlin’ Bog‘ is an Irish folk song that has been covered by many different artists in many different languages. The song was written about a bog near or on the grounds of Collon Monastery in County Louth.
19. Finnegan’s Wake (The Dubliners)
There are few traditional Irish songs to sing as loved as the Irish-American ballad ‘Finnegan’s Wake‘. This song was published first in New York way back in 1864.
This Irish ballad tells the story of a man that’s fond of the liquor named Tim Finnegan. In the song, Finnegan falls off of a ladder and breaks his skull.
Believing that he is dead, friends and relatives hold a wake for him. The wake gets rowdy and Irish whiskey is spilled on his body, causing Finnegan to wake up and join the party.
20. N17 (The Saw Doctors)
If you’re looking for Irish party songs that’ll get people singing along, get ‘N17’ from the Saw Doctors playing sharpish.
‘N17’ is a song about an Irish emigrant that longs to be back in Ireland, driving along the N17 road that connects counties Galway, Mayo and Sligo.
21. Dreams (The Cranberries)
‘Dreams‘ – what an absolute peach of a tune. This is another belter from the Cranberries that still gets played heavily on the radio to this day.
This was actually the band’s debut single and was first released in 1992. It was re-released many times over the years, with an acoustic version featuring some iconic Irish instruments launched in 2017.
22. Down by the Glenside (The Wolfe Tones)
‘Down by the Glenside’ is one of the more popular Irish rebel songs that was written by an Irish Republican and composer named Peadar Kearney (there’s a brilliant Irish music pub in Dublin named after him!)
Kearney was a member of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood), a group that were also known as ‘the Fenians’. Kearney wrote this song about the 1916 Rising as a call to arms, of sorts.
23. Carrickfergus (Van Morrison)
‘Carrickfergus‘ is one of those Irish ballads that tends to confuse people a fair bit. It’s called ‘Carrickfergus’ after a town in Antrim, but the majority of the story is set in Kilkenny.
Regardless of the meaning behind it, this is one of the most popular Irish songs ever written. A clatter of musicians have played this over the years.
It was played at the funeral of John F. Kennedy, Jr and if you ever watched the series ‘Boardwalk Empire’, you’ll recognise it from the final episode.
24. Seven Drunken Nights (Various)
If you’re looking for Irish drinking songs, there’s none more fitting than ‘Seven Drunken Nights’. This is a humorous folk song that’s said to be a variation of a Scottish song.
‘Seven Drunken Nights’ tells the story of a gullible drunk that returns from the pub each night to find evidence of his wife’s affair.
25. Beautiful Day (U2)
I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge U2 fan. However, you can’t deny the fact that they’ve produced some of the most popular Irish songs ever made.
If you’re not familiar with U2, they’re an Irish rock band from Dublin, that was formed back in 1976. ‘Beautiful Day‘ is one of their most successful releases to-date.
26. Postcards (The Blizzards)
If you’re in search of great non traditional Irish songs, look no further than ‘Postcards’. This one was written by The Blizzards, a band from Mullingar in Westmeath.
It’s an Irish rock song that was written at a time when members of the band had lost people close to them.
It’s said that ‘Postcards’ is about a kid sending postcards from heaven, because he didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to his family.
27. The Foggy Dew (Sinead O’Connor)
‘The Foggy Dew‘ is one of my favourite Irish ballads, particularly the version from Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftains. Give it a listen – it’ll give you tingles!
If you’re listening to this song and thinking that it sounds oddly familiar, the chances are you’ll have heard Conor McGreggor walking out to it before a UFC fight.
28. Just Like That (The Coronas)
‘Just Like That’ is an Irish rock song from a Dublin band called ‘The Coronas’. This is my favourite song from these lads, but they’ve plenty more that are well worth listening to.
Give ‘San Diego Song’, ‘Closer to you’ and ‘Find the Water’ a listen the next time you have a minute. If you get a chance to see The Coronas live, do – I’ve seen them several times over the years and they’re brilliant!
29. The Green Fields of France (The Fuerys)
The chances are that you may have seen ‘The Green Fields of France‘ go viral a couple of years back after it was performed beautifully by Finbar Furey and Christy Dignam on the Late Late Show.
This song was written by a chap called Eric Bogle, who was a Scottish folk singer. Bogie said that he wrote ‘The Green Fields of France’ as a response to the widespread anti-Irish sentiment in Great Britain during the 1970s.
30. Runaway (The Corrs)
Yes, yes, yes – of course we’re going to include The Corrs (there’s a bad pun in there somewhere). The chances are you’ll have come across ‘Runaway’ at one point or another.
It was released back in 1995 and hasn’t really dated at all, to be fair. This is an upbeat Irish song that’ll have you bopping your head.
31. Crazy World (Aslan)
Next up is ‘Crazy World‘, another banger from Dublin’s Aslan. This was first released in 1993 and was released on the album ‘Goodbye Charlie Moonhead’.
This song holds a heap of nostalgia for me. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this was on one of the first albums that I ever bought.
32. Quicksand (Hermitage Green)
Hermitage Green have released a clatter of top Irish songs over the last 10 years, the best of which, in my opinion, is ‘Quicksand’.
These lads are an Irish acoustic folk/rock band that hail from Limerick. I’ve seen them a handful of times over the years and they’re nothing short of sensational live.
33. The Rare Old Times (Various)
There’s an awful lot of Irish ballads in this guide that have been covered by the Dubliners at one point or another. This next one, ‘The Rare Ould Times‘ was composed by Pete St. John for the Dublin City Ramblers in the 1970s.
The song revolves around how Dublin had changed, with the lyrics covering the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar and the creation of new flats and office buildings along the quays.
34. The Town I Loved So Well (Various)
“The Town I Loved So Well’ was written by Phil Coulter and the song revolves around his childhood spent in County Derry.
The first few verses are about his early life, while the last delves into the Troubles and how his once quiet hometown became a place plagued with violence.
35. Open Your Eyes (Snow Patrol)
If you’re on the lookout for alternative Irish rock songs to add to your playlist, you’ll find a heap of great ones from Snow Patrol.
One of their best is a song called ‘Open Your Eyes’, from the bands 2006 album titled ‘Eyes Open’.
This became one of the most popular Irish songs in America for a while, after it was featured on the shows ER, The 4400 and Grey’s Anatomy.
Our Irish music playlists
OK, so you’ve had a flick through the various Irish music above – now it’s time for some playlists that you can save and use for the gym, parties or just general listening.
I’ve included both YouTube and Spotify playlists below, in case you prefer using one over the other.
The popular traditional Irish songs playlist
Our first playlist is wedged with the best traditional Irish folks songs. Expect everything from ‘The Foggy Dew’ to ‘Get Out Ye Black And Tans’ in this one.
Some of the best Irish music from the last 30 years
This playlist is full of the best Irish music from the past two decades. Expect everything from old Irish songs to recent releases in this one:
Irish party songs (perfect for St. Patrick’s Day)
The third playlist contains loads of lively Irish music that’s perfect if you’re having a session at home. Expect less traditional and more popular Irish songs in this one:
What classic Irish songs have we missed?
There’s a heap of top Irish songs out there and I’m sure that I’ve (unintentionally) left several of them out in this guide.
So, if you’ve any traditional Irish folk songs that you find yourself playing over and over, or if you’ve some newer Irish party songs that you think we should include, pop your recommendations below!
FAQs about the best Irish songs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some famous Irish songs?’ to ‘What’s some good Irish music for a wedding?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best Irish songs ever?
This is highly debatable. In our opinion, the best traditional Irish songs are 1. Linger (The Cranberries), 2. Fisherman’s Blues (The Waterboys) and 3. Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2).
What are the most famous Irish songs?
There are many famous Irish songs, from The Green Fields of France and Runaway to The Rare Old Times and many more (see above).
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.