Edinburgh Skyline


Theatre Royal Bar

Not long ago, the most grandiose buildings in central Edinburgh were banks but now most of them have been turned into pubs, widening the choice of places to drink in the city. Fortunately many longer established Edinburgh drinking dens have survived as well, and several date back over five hundred years.

The oldest must be the Sheep's Heid at Duddingston on the edge of the Queen's Park. Its records go back to1360 and Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stopped for a drink there. Its name refers to an ornate snuff box carried by Mary's father James V, who was also a Sheep's Heid customer. Another old pub with connections to Mary is the Tolbooth Tavern at the end of the Canongate. A waistcoat belonging to her husband Lord Darnley was displayed in its windows till the 1960's. He left it behind in 1557 in payment of his bar bill.

A more grisly history is remembered at the Last Drop Tavern in the Grassmarket where drinkers used to watch public hangings from its front door.

Another old pub, a favourite hang-out for journalists, is the Deacon Brodie in the Lawnmarket. It is named after an 18th century Edinburgh town councillor who became a housebreaker at night and was hanged for his trouble.

The Scotsman

Another press pub is Jinglin' Geordie's in Fleshmarket Close, opposite what used to be the back door of the Scotsman newspaper, and it was regarded as an extension of the news room. Dating from the late 19th century is The Old Chain Pier which juts out into the river Forth at Granton. It used to be run by a formidable woman called Betty Hobbs who cleared the place at closing time by brandishing a broad sword.

More recently international fame has come to the still rather grotty Oxford Bar in Young Street which novelist Ian Rankin has made into the favourite drinking place of his hero Inspector Rebus.

Phone numbers:

The Sheep's Heid, 43-45 The Causeway, Duddingston. Tel 0131 6566951.
Tolbooth Tavern, 167 Canongate, Tel 0131 5565348
The Last Drop, 74 Grassmarket, Tel 0131 2254851
The Deacon Brodie, 435 Lawnmarket. Tel 0131 2256531
Jinglin' Geordie's, 22 Fleshmarket Close. Tel 0131 225 2803
The Old Chain Pier, 32 Triniy Crescent, Granton. Tel 0131 5521233
The Oxford Bar, 8 Young Street. Tel 0131 5397119

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