Trainspotting pub becomes upmarket whisky bar

Begbie would not be amused by the demise of the Volunteer Arms. Picture: contributed
Begbie would not be amused by the demise of the Volunteer Arms. Picture: contributed
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One of the last Trainspotting landmarks has been lost after an iconic pub underwent a major revamp.

For decades the Volunteer Arms carried a rough ­reputation as one of the city’s “spit and sawdust” pubs.

The Cask & Still on Leith Walk is a far cry from its predecessor. Picture: Contributed

The Cask & Still on Leith Walk is a far cry from its predecessor. Picture: Contributed

But “The Volley” is no more, having gone the same way as the “worst toilet in Scotland” and the “jigsaw” flats.

The bar – immortalised in Irvine Welsh’s novel as the ­primary haunt of Renton, Spud, Sickboy and Begbie – has been reborn as an upmarket gin and whisky emporium.

It’s £70,000 transformation was shown off for the first time on Thursday night with the help of a fine ale sommelier, a fresh batch of gin distilled on-site and prime sushi.

The Cask & Still is a far cry from the traditions of its Leith Walk predecessor, which is namechecked in Trainspotting as the setting where Begbie – played by Robert Carlyle in the film – attacks a fellow punter with a snooker cue.

Ian Pert, of new owners I@G Events, revealed that early morning openings were now a thing of the past.

He said: “We’ve completely refurbished the interior, and have made quite a few changes to the business. One of the ­biggest differences is that, unlike the Volunteer Arms, we don’t plan on opening from 7am.

“We’ll be keeping more ­normal hours from now on.”

Yet with the pub’s rebranding, Leith conservationists fear it represents the disappearance of one of Edinburgh’s last real links to Welsh’s iconic ­bestseller and film adaptation.

The new alehouse makes no reference to its Trainspotting infamy – making it the ­latest casualty in a line of altered ­cultural landmarks.

The bookmakers in Muirhouse’s Pennywell Road, where Renton – played by Ewan McGregor on screen – fishes for drugs is already gone, and flats in West Granton where Tommy dies were demolished years ago. The John Menzies shop in Princes Street, from where Renton begins his sprint from the police in the film’s opening sequence, has also disappeared – replaced by a branch of ­fashion retailer Next.

According to Leith historian John Arthur, these literary ­casualties are merely proof of just how far the area has come over the past several decades.

“The entire area referenced in Trainspotting has been ­gradually changing for quite some time,” he said.

“All of these ‘spit and ­sawdust’ pubs have all become more gentile, because the whole nature of Leith has changed. The Volunteer Arms was really a throwback to ­earlier times.”

nash.riggins@jpress.co.uk