Auld Reekie

Drinking in Edinburgh's Culture

Written by Alistair Bancroft

Scotland TravelJanuary 9th, 2018

In Edinburgh the humble pub is more than just a place to drink, these establishments are to many the focal point of the community, central to the sense of place and identity; rooted deeply in the heart of Scottish culture.

Yet, whilst the Scottish capital is blessed with a plethora of establishments to enjoy a few (too many) drinks, the traditional Scottish pub is becoming something of an endangered species, as one by one they face greater competition from the modern mass market trendy bars, and “deluxe pubs” seemingly popping up like flies.

These establishments are all very well, and certainly have there place in this student capital, however they can never offer as comparable atmosphere that can be experienced in such classic setting as from a quintessentially Scottish pub - serving up some of the finest real ale and whiskies, overflowing with charm, character and pure banter, devoid of the finery and embellishments of the modern pub, whilst retaining tangible links to Edinburgh's historical past.

The following recommendations have survived the centuries, and continue to relive the charms of Edinburgh’s past, present, and future.

Sandy Bell's

Sandy Bell's is one of the great folk music venues in Edinburgh, known by musicians and lovers of traditional music worldwide. Local musicians have been keeping the spirit of traditional music alive here for over half a century.

Sandy Bells 25 Forrest Road Edinburgh EH1 2QH

The Royal Oak

The Royal Oak is an honest, frill-free hub for local Scottish Folk music.  Internationally famous for the warm atmosphere, friendly clientele and old worldly charm that brings people back time and time again, the Royal Oak represents Edinburgh’s ever-diminishing traditional face, stripped of canned bagpipes, faux chandeliers and obscure cocktail ingredients.

The Royal Oak 1 Infirmary Street Edinburgh EH1 1LT

The Bow Bar

Perched halfway up a steep cobbled street just below the castle The Bow Bar is a no-frills, trinket-free, compact local pub, emphasising on local cask beers and single malts.  With a no-music policy and close knit small tables and bench seating, people come to enjoy conversation, and to try a few of the over 300 single malts, 50 bottled beers, 8 casked ales and 6 keg beers available at any one time.

The Bow Bar 80 West Bow Edinburgh EH1 2HH

The World's End

The pub is billed as one of the 'old style', pulling in tourists who walk the cobbled street to quench their thirst with a perfectly poured Belhaven beer. Above the bar, scores of foreign banknotes give a nod and a wink to the broad, international clientele who have drunk there.

The Worlds End 2-8 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1TB

Captains Bar

Captain's Bar proclaims itself to be one of the most authentic-feeling, traditional pubs in Edinburgh.

Captains Bar 4 South College Street Edinburgh EH8 9AA

The Black Cat

Tucked away from the busy thoroughfares and situated right in the middle of Edinburgh's most stunning attractions, the Black Cat aims to provide for Edinburgh’s locals and visitors alike, creating a relaxed place to meet and enjoy an extensive hand-picked selection of Scotland's finest whiskies and local beers.  Expect to hear traditional Scottish live folk music on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays.

The Black Cat 168 Rose Street Edinburgh EH2 4BA

The Waverley Bar

Open since the 60's, and still retaining much of the decor of the era, The Waverley Bar is a pub with real classic character and something of an Edinburgh institution.  The upstairs room hosts folk sessions on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons, as well as Fringe shows in August.

The Waverley Bar 3-5 Saint Marys Street Edinburgh EH1 1TA

The Cumberland Bar

Nestled in the residential streets of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town, The Cumberland Bar is a welcoming wood panelled old-school gastropub, boasting an open fire and secluded beer garden, a rarity in Old Town Edinburgh.

The Cumberland Bar 1-3 Cumberland Street Edinburgh EH3 6RT