Exploring Edinburgh will have you convinced that somehow you have been transported back to a medieval time. Bursting with cobblestoned streets, charred-rock buildings, and imposing structures crafted in an age gone by, the city holds onto and celebrates its history within every corner.
To truly travel in reverse however, there is no better option than pulling a stool up to a bar that has been serving the city's finest liquids for a century or more. Experience history through the sights, sounds, smells and settings of these ten truly unique Edinburgh pubs, each one with it's own tales to tell.
10 Jolly Judge
Placed just off the Royal Mile in a mysterious laneway and resting snugly in the shadow of the iconic Edinburgh Castle, this public house is right at the heart of Old Town.
A beautiful wooden ceiling shelters visitors wanting to warm their hands in the glow of a log fire and a relaxed atmosphere welcomes those following in the footsteps of locals from previous centuries by having a quiet pint while resting an elbow on the bar.
Perhaps after that pint is coupled with a local whiskey, you will hear sounds of life from the famous castle as you depart for an adventure through the past.
Occupying a 19th century church, Frankenstein brings Mary Shelley’s character to life in this unique pub resting on George IV Bridge, constructed in 1829. It is just a cobblestones throw away from the Royal Mile and its foreboding presence is hard to miss.
Enjoy the horror-themed decor featuring live-action shows, vats of bubbling liquid, black and white movies looping throughout the venue and of course an appearance from Frankenstein’s monster himself. Be on alert though, because you won’t know when.
8 Kinleith Mill
You will need to get out of the town center to sample this absolute gem of a pub. The local watering-hole for the 19th century village of Juniper Green, it is always full of colorful characters who's tales will transport you back to a very different time.
Serving home-cooked food and a huge range of local ales and whiskeys, you will feel like one of the gang as old stories start flowing stronger than the liquor. Just make sure you don’t miss the last bus back to the city unless you want to complete your trip through time by sleeping under the stars.
7 World’s End
When it comes to pubs dripping in history, it is hard to look past the World’s End on Royal Mile. Taking it’s name from the city walls that surrounded Edinburgh in days gone by, the building itself is of huge historical significance.
The gates to the city were placed right outside the door of the pub and brass stones on the road represent the exact location to this day. In the minds of the locals all those years ago, the world beyond those gates did not belong to them, creating the name ‘The World’s End’.
Inside this pub, you will not only find a sense of history, but a sense of true, old-world hospitality that sparks the imagination and brings the past to life.
6 Deacon Brodies
Deacon Brodies Tavern is so central to Edinburgh’s Old Town that you can still smell the smoke from discharged cannons through the ages.
Named for one of the inspirations behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, the tavern is embroiled in the dark side of the city’s history. A skilled carpenter and member of the town council by day, Deacon Brodie was a gambler and drinker by night that turned to crime to settle his debts.
Brodie was hanged for his transgressions in 1788 and legend has it he haunts the pub named in his honor. Is that a chill you felt at the bar despite it being the height of summer? Let’s hope not.
5 Royal Mile Tavern
Pushing through the saloon doors, you may think you have in fact stepped back through the years and found yourself in a different century.
Constructed beside the site of an ancient monastery, the Royal Mile Tavern is dripping in history and one of the best places to visit for an authentic taste of the Old Town.
Keep an eye out for legendary figures such as Mary Queen of Scots, Burke and Hare or Bonnie Prince Charlie while you immerse yourself in the traditional atmosphere of this perfectly Scottish pub.
4 Fiddler’s Arms
For a pint with a side of history, make your way to Grassmarket, nestled below the Castle, and plant yourself in the Fiddler’s Arms.
Originally hosting Edinburgh’s largest horse and cattle markets, the area was also the setting of many public executions in the late 17th century. In fact, the addition of the words ‘until dead’ to the sentence of hanging was a result of the miraculous Maggie Dickson, who survived the noose just yards from the entrance to the Fiddler’s Arms.
Today the area is a bustling meeting place for locals and tourists, but the past never vanished from this corner of the city, and the Fiddler’s Arms is your gateway back.
3 The White Hart Inn
A journey to Grassmarket wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the White Hart Inn, where the earliest records date back to 1516. The name itself comes from an event all the way back in 1128, when King David I set out hunting and was thrown from his steed in pursuit of an enormous white stag. When the angry stag rounded on the King, set to attack, the tale tells of a fiery cross appearing between its antlers before vanishing. His life spared, King David built a shrine to the event and this elderly Edinburgh establishment takes its inspiration from the story.
The Inn was one of the busiest places in the city when public executions were held, and you can now gaze upon the macabre scene from the comfort of your bar stool, thankfully now a mix of markets and performance areas.
2 The Sheep Heid Inn
Established in 1360, the Sheep Heid claims to be the oldest surviving public house in all of Scotland and as soon as you walk through the door, you won’t doubt it. Oozing charm and character from all corners, it was a favorite with monarchs and poets from a time long gone and successfully keeps that magic alive today.
The beautiful outdoor space is an ideal spot for a drink and meal while looking up at Arthur’s Seat or just listening for the rumble of horse and carts that once rolled along Old Church Lane.
1 The King’s Wark
Where better to drink than somewhere that served as the royal residency of King James I? Or a tavern that was once utilized as a plague hospital? Perhaps you would like a pub that comes with a ghostly presence in the basement below a building that has been standing for over 600 years?
The King’s Wark is all this and more. It simply requires a short jaunt from the center of Edinburgh to the wonderful shore of Leith where you can expect the royal treatment at this bar that is as wondrous as it is ancient.