Historic bars where you can have a dram this St. Andrews Day
St. Andrews Day is a national holiday in Scotland, celebrated every year on the 30th of November. St Andrew was officially named the patron saint of Scotland in 1320 when The Declaration of Arbroath was signed to declare Scotland’s independence.
The holiday, above all, is a celebration of Scottish culture – and we believe that the festivities are best washed down with some local gin or a dram of whisky! For those coming to visit Auld Reekie Tours at the end of November, here are some of our top choices of Old Town bars to stop in for a drink and get into the celebratory spirit.
The Tolbooth Tavern
This kooky little pub has been used for varied and even strange purposes over the years. Built in 1591, the Tolbooth was where travellers paid a toll to enter the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh from the Canongate, which were separate places at the time.
The most peculiar of all the Tolbooth’s uses was when the Chief Justice to the Abbotts of Holyrood attempted an exorcism in the building during the 16th century. An unfortunate warlock is said to have “expired” under his watch.
Fortunately for us, the standard of service has improved since then! All we need to worry about are its tables and range of exclusive dining experiences getting booked up. The building became a drinking establishment in 1820 and has remained so ever since.
The Ensign Ewart
The Ensign Ewart should be included in any whisky lover’s trip to Edinburgh. The bar of this snug, wainscot-panelled pub is packed with an extensive range of malt whiskies and plenty of traditional ales, all of which the staff can skillfully offer background information and advice on.
Named after Charles Ewart, a Scottish war hero who defeated the French Invincibles at the Battle of Waterloo, the cellars of the pub date back to 1603. If you’re looking for a place full of warmth and character to have a dram, you can’t go wrong with the Ensign.
Deacon Brodie’s Tavern
Deacon Brodie was a duplicitous tradesman who used his knowledge as a working locksmith to rob the shops and homes of Edinburgh’s Old Town during the 18th century. Brodie was famously executed in front of a crowd of 40,000 people for his crimes.
Deacon Brodie’s Tavern was named after him in 1806. Today, this quaint but ornately decorated drinking establishment is an excellent spot to absorb the historic atmosphere of Old Town Edinburgh. It’s situated directly across the road from the Auld Reekie Tours tour starting point at 300 Lawnmarket. Look out for it the next time you come to visit us!
The White Hart Inn
Tucked away in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, The White Hart Inn has catered to its fair share of legendary characters throughout the centuries. Records of the establishment date back to 1516 but the majority of the premises were built in 1740.
Robert Burns is known to have spent a week here in 1791 while seeing his lover, Nancy Macklehouse, and it was this visit that likely inspired him to pen Ae Fond Kiss; while Burke and Hare, Edinburgh’s infamous serial-killing duo, were also patrons of the inn.
One thing to bear in mind: the pub is the oldest in Edinburgh and therefore supposed to be very haunted. Hang on to your whiskies, you might need them to steady the nerves.
The World’s End
Remember I mentioned that the Canongate was once a separate place from Edinburgh? This was because we still had a wall around the city, built after the Battle of Flodden to keep the English out (sorry, English folks, you kept trying to pillage us!).
The remains of the wall were largely demolished as Edinburgh expanded and modernised throughout the centuries. What is now known as The World’s End pub was once the last building that residents would see before leaving Edinburgh – to them, their “end of the world”.
Make sure to book in advance if you want to stop in for a drink, it’s a very popular venue despite its tiny size.
Finally, Whistle Binkies has to make the cut. The pub may only have opened in the 1990s, but its premises are built into the historic vaults beneath the South Bridge just like Auld Reekie Tours.Unsurprisingly, it’s supposed to be just as haunted too.
The Imp and The Watcher are the most famous of its ghosts. The former enjoys smashing glasses and locking staff members in the basement; the latter is a dark and mysterious 18th-century gentleman who once worked as a security guard in the vaults.
Whistle Binkies is a vibrant venue and the perfect place to kick back and celebrate all things Scottish by enjoying music performed live into the small hours of the morning. Just stay vigilant of any restless ghosts knocking your drinks off the table!