Where to Find Edinburgh’s 7 Most Historic Drinking Establishments

by | 8 Feb 2024

There are over 385 pubs in the Scottish capital, most serving up historic lore as well as traditional local brews. So it was nothing short of thirsty work trying to whittle over year’s worth of storied watering holes into the best 7. But whittle we did – and for a good cause, as when you next have the chance to visit to this handsome city (as part of Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Scotland tour, perhaps), we’ve already done the research, so you can just drink in the history. Cheers.

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The Sheep Heid Inn


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Arthur’s Seat, the highest point of Holyrood Park, looks out over Edinburgh and we often wonder how the area around the Sheep Heid Inn has changed since its opening in 1360.

Though debated, the Sheep Heid Inn is considered the oldest pub in Edinburgh that’s continuously operated. Once upon a time, sheep were reared on Holyrood Park and slaughtered here in Duddingston, hence the name of the Inn. Everyone from Robert Burns to Queen Elizabeth II have popped in for a tipple which is reason enough to pay a visit.

And while you may not find sheep, you will find Skittle Alley: a small set of bowling lanes you can enjoy while sipping scotch and warming up to the idea of an old fashioned sheep’s head stew.

The Beehive Inn













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We’re not sure if we’re impressed that the Beehive Inn is 400 years old or bewildered that it took just as long for them to build a pub at the base of Edinburgh Castle.

One of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, Beehive Inn opened as a coaching inn in the 15th century so they know a thing or two about hospitality. Robert Burns is said to have had a drink here as well (sure seems like he knows a thing or two about Edinburgh’s oldest pubs, too).

We will admit that being so close to the castle means an influx of tourists, but that shouldn’t steer you away from the Beehive Inn. Even if you hear too many familiar accents from home, the views of Edinburgh Castle from the secret garden terrace are worth rubbing elbows with your countrymen.

Another round: Monks who brew, a brief history of Trappist beer

The White Hart Inn


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The White Hart Inn claims to be the oldest pub in Edinburgh and we’re too scared to dispute it.

Not for fear of the bartenders; they’re a lovely bunch who will welcome you warmly. No, we’re a little hesitant because The White Hart Inn may very well be haunted.

Next door to the Beehive Inn, this busy Grassmarket pub has a cellar reportedly full of the supernatural. Sightings of disembodied legs, shadowy figures, and other strange happenings have befell the staff.

We don’t know about the spooky spirits, but as far as Scottish spirits go, The White Hart Inn has a handful behind the bar as well as a huge selection of traditional Scottish food, including award-winning haggis.

…and yes, they say Burns had a beer here, too.

The White Horse Bar













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There are many reasons to stroll the Royal Mile and the White Horse Bar has two of them.

First, it’s one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, though still slightly “young” with a birthday in 1742. Still, it’s an old stalwart of the iconic street and was the site of the oldest inn on the Royal Mile.

Second, its oysters are so shuckin’ good that you don’t even need to order an ale to enjoy this pub.

Seriously, this traditional Scottish pub has the pints you’re looking for but the oysters are the stars of this show. Every oyster is hand harvested, and though not what you immediately think of when envisioning traditional Scottish food, the White Horse Bar will have you shuckin’ with Scottish whiskies all night long.

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Ye Olde Golf Tavern


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It’s the best 19th hole in Edinburgh and is situated beside the 4th oldest golf course in the world.

Ye Olde Golf Tavern, also known as simply The Golf Tavern, is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs. Right on off the fairways of Bruntsfield Links, this pub won’t judge you by your scorecard, handicap, or mulligans.

Instead, it welcomes you to join other golfers for classic Scottish pub fare like fish and chips, a full Scottish breakfast, and what they believe is the best Yorkshire pudding outside of Yorkshire itself.

The King’s Wark













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You might not be a salty sea dog finding shelter from weeks spent at sea, but you’ll feel just as cozy as one when you walk into the warmth of The King’s Wark.

Right on Leith’s shore, the pub dates back to the 1700s though the foundation was forged in the 1400s when King James I wanted to build a royal residence on the site. Thankfully, we got this traditional Scottish pub instead.

A crackling fire, exposed brick walls, and wooden beams immediately remove the chill of Britain’s climate. More than 200 varieties of whisky/whiskey from around the world will only stoke the fire in your belly. Go on, sip until your veins are warm and settle into a bowl of smoke haddock chowder.

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Cafe Royal



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The youngest on our list of oldest pubs in Edinburgh, Cafe Royal was built in 1861. It’s not exactly the sticky-floored traditional Scottish pub you’d envision, but that’s one reason why it’s so coveted.

Ornate and crafted with grandeur inside and out, Cafe Royal has always been a rather ritzy place. The tile-adorned Victorian bar is the place where a discerning drinker or foodie can order a perfect Bloody Mary, classic fish pie, and a cranachan to say Slàinte Mhath to Edinburgh’s amazing pub scene.

About Nick Dauk
Nick Dauk is a freelance writer primarily writing SEO content for travel, insurance, finance, tech, and start-up companies. From interviews with executives of IBM and HPE to his adventures around the world, Nick's stories are frequently published by leading publications across the United States and Europe.