Oldest pub on the Royal Mile to become oyster bar

The White Horse Bar has been serving drinkers in the Royal Mile since the 17th century
The White Horse Bar has been serving drinkers in the Royal Mile since the 17th century
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It has served thirsty drinkers in Edinburgh’s Old Town since the 17th century.

But now the oldest pub on the Royal Mile, which is featuring in the best-selling Outlander book series, is to undergo its most radical makeover - to turn become an oyster bar.

The transformation of the White Horse on the Royal Mile will be unveiled next month.

The transformation of the White Horse on the Royal Mile will be unveiled next month.

Instead of tucking into a pint, punters will be able to pull up a chair at the bar and shuck oysters from across the UK while sipping on a cocktail.

Seven years after the retirement of its long-standing landlady, the White Horse will also be serving up platters of lobsters, crab and scallops.

The transformation of the White Horse, which is said to have suffered a drop in trade since the introduction of the smoking ban, has been announced in the wake of a radical regeneration of part of the Old Town in recent years.

The White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar will feature its own custom-made lobster tank, with crab fries, sesamie tuna and monkfish curry also expected to be on the menu.

The White Horse is being taken over by the Compass Group, which has two of the Old Town’s most fashionable restaurants, Monteiths, off the High Street, and Chop House, on Market Street.

Managing director Mark Fraser said: “We wanted to go back to basics and create a classic and relaxed offering where the ingredients take centre stage.

“Sourcing the very best seafood is crucial for us. Shellfish is often considered a luxury ingredient, and seafood restaurants as formal and expensive. Whilst the focus will always be on the quality of the ingredients we source, we are very excited to introduce a new and relaxed way to enjoy seafood in the capital.”

One of the city’s oldest pubs, the White Horse dates back to 1742 and is on the Canongate section of the Royal Mile, at the head of a close said to have been named after Mary Queen of Scots’ favourite horse.

The White Horse was the scene of the “Stoppit Stravaig” in 1639 when a group of Scottish noblemen gathered at the coaching inn before setting off to negotiate with King Charles I only to b confronted by a mob of angry townsfolk who prevented them from leaving.

Famous residents of the close included William Dick, who would go on to found Edinburgh’s famous Royal School of Veterinary Studies in 1823.

Another was Ned Holt, a notorious showman in Victorian Edinburgh, who ran a fairground booth in the Grassmarket where people could pay to see a living skeleton, a 1000-year-old mummy or a demonstration of him killing rats with his teeth. Holt is best remembered these days for his sketches of street-life in the city, many of which can still be seen in the Museum of Edinburgh just from the pub on the Royal Mile.

The White Horse last underwent a refurbishment in 2010 after landlady Kath Will called it a day after nearly 30 years.

She said at the time: “Our regulars are absolutely devastated, they don’t know where they are going to go or what they are going to do.”

The back room at the pub has been a popular venue for private functions and the White House has been one of the leading “Free Fringe” venues on the Royal Mile.