What better way to escape the hustle and bustle of Scotland’s capital city than to visit one of the many fine public houses for a wee dram. There are pubs all over the city with something to suit every taste and pocket. There are traditional boozers, cutting edge micro-brewers, student bars and gastropubs.
Rose Street in the New Town is renowned for its pub crawls and stag nights with 11 different bars to be found along its length, see: Rose Street Apartments. However, there are plenty of quiet venues to while away a few hours with fine food and drink. The Kenilworth is a fine example of a traditional Rose Street pub. Opened in 1904 and named after a Sir Walter Scott novel, the pub offers a great range of food and drink at competitive prices. The pub’s interior is much as it was in 1904 with stained glass, central bar and impressive cornicing, ceiling mouldings and chandeliers. The pub has a rear room where children can dine during the day – which is a bonus for family groups. It is a great place to sit and watch the good people of Edinburgh bustle by. In the evening the pub is often host to stag and hen parties.
Still in the New Town we find The Cafe Royal. Despite the name this is indeed a bar and very good one at that. It is a stunningly beautiful display of Victorian and Baroque style, complete with oval bar, stained glass, mouldings, wood panelling and ceramic murals.
It is akin to time travel, crossing the threshold is like stepping back into the 19th century. The bar is friendly and classy. The seafood menu is excellent and is highly recommended. The bar allows visitors to sample local produce in a beautiful period setting. The bar and building were saved from destruction in 1965 and have been listed since 1970 ensuring the preservation of this gem for future generations.
The Hanging Bat Beer Cafe is in the south west of the city on Lothian Road. It is another bar masquerading as a cafe. The Hanging Bat is a recent addition to the Edinburgh pub scene. Opening in November 2012, this establishment prides itself on the range of beers (6 cask and 14 keg lines to date) and speciality gins it serves. Visitors can opt to sample a tray of 5, 2/3 pints from the extensive range of draught ales, lagers and beers on offer. The friendly and knowledgeable staff make the experience pleasant and the surroundings are modern and comfortable. The beer spigot taps in the bathrooms echo the quirky nature of the venue itself. This is a modern take on the traditional real ale pub. It also boasts and an delicious menu of barbecue meats and pulled pork for all you carnivores out there.
Moving from the very new to the very old takes us out of the city to the village of Duddingston where you’ll find The Sheep Heid Inn – established in 1360, making it one of Scotland’s oldest public houses. It has recently been awarded the AA’s coveted Pub of the Year award for 2013. The Inn is said to have been a favourite haunt of both Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI. It is a little off of the tourist trail but is worth the effort required. One could take a bracing stroll from the Palace of Holyroodhouse up and over Arthur’s Seat itself taking in splendid views of the city before retiring to the Inn. The pub has a lovely beer garden and offers a wide menu. It is a great place to go for Sunday lunch but you may wish to book in advance. The pub also boasts an original skittle alley.
Returning to the Old Town, The White Hart Inn is found in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh. Parts of the Inn date back to 1516. It has several claims to fame: Edinburgh’s oldest pub, victim of a First World War Zeppelin bombing attack and home to a number of resident ghosts. The Grassmarket was also a haunt of infamous ‘grave robbers’ Burke and Hare and this may have been one of their hunting grounds. Live music is presented every night from 9pm. The Grassmarket is host to many different pubs and it a popular spot for drinking an revelry. The Grassmarket also has a good selection of restaurants where you can dine in the shadow of the Castle.
If you decide to visit Edinburgh to see the Winter Festival then you should visit The Dome on George Street. From October the venue is bedecked in Christmas decorations that require to be seen to be believed. The building even smells of Christmas. Beyond its Christmas celebrations the building is a fantastic example of New Town architecture. Originally commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians it was latterly a Bank before being converted into this opulent venue in 1996. The interior of The Dome is a wonder of columns, porticos and stained glass. The Dome offers cocktails, fine food and even a garden cafe. The Dome also provides High Tea in their Georgian Tea room.
Uisge Beatha, “the water of life” from gaelic, otherwise known to you and I as whisky. Many feel that a visit to Scotland requires visitors to sample our nations most famous export. This most Scottish of drink is readily available in every bar in the city but for the aficionado or enthusiastic amateur an Edinburgh whisky trail exists. Featuring 11 of the city’s finest drinking dens. The trail starts at the Abbotsford Bar on Rose Street and spins outs across the city. The Bow Bar in West Bow which features on the trail was the UK’s best Whisky Bar in 2012. These venues offer an enormous range of whisky starting with the cheap and cheerful to rare malts and independent bottlings. The Scotch Whisky Experience on Castlehill has over 330 whiskys for visitors to choose from.
Please do not limit yourself to the suggestions here, as stated Edinburgh has upwards of 700 pubs and whilst not recommending that you try them all we do advocate that you have fun trying “several” at least.
See also: Glasgow Pubs
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