Queen stuns diners with visit to famous Sheep Heid Inn

Queen Elizabeth II stunned diners at the Sheep Heid Inn. Picture:  Andrew Milligan/PA

Queen Elizabeth II stunned diners at the Sheep Heid Inn. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

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SHE has given her royal seal of approval to only a tiny number of restaurants in her 90 years.

But now one of the Capital’s best-known neighbourhood bars has joined one of the world’s most exclusive clubs.

The News can reveal that regulars at The Sheep Heid Inn were left stunned on Friday night when a well-kent face popped through the door – none other than the Queen.

She spent last week at Holyrood Palace and dropped into Scotland’s oldest pub, a short drive from home across Holyrood Park, following a day at Musselburgh Racecourse.

Other customers could barely believe their eyes when they saw Her Majesty taking a window seat in the public dining area.

She and her companions are understood to have ordered a martini and a half bottle of white wine, along with two portions of lamb and a fillet of seabass. The main meals are advertised at £16.50 each on the pub’s regular menu.

It is not known which of the meals the Queen ordered.

The monarch only rarely eats out, other than at private London clubs and hotels. The exclusive Bellamy’s restaurant in Mayfair is believed to be the only restaurant she has eaten at in London, and only on a few occasions with her family.

Pub staff were given around an hour’s notice of the Queen’s visit before being put to the test in a way none expected when they arrived for their shifts. All are thought to have passed with flying colours.

Earlier in the day, the Queen wore a royal blue suit and hat while she attended Musselburgh Racecourse to celebrate its 200th birthday. She was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and is understood to have watched the action from inside the racecourse’s VIP hospitality areas.

The Sheep Heid Inn, established in 1360, has been linked to the royal family since the 1580s.

One version of how the pub got its name claims that in 1580, King James VI of Scotland gifted the landlord an ornate ram’s head snuff box. It is believed he and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, stopped by the inn many times to play skittles in the courtyard.

As a mark of gratitude he presented the landlord with the unusual gift which remained on site for 300 years before being sold at auction to the Earl of Rosebery.

The Queen did not appear to have had time for a quick game in the pub’s historic Skittle Alley before making the short journey back to the palace.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Bonnie Prince Charlie – as his army was encamped at Duddingston for a month prior to the Battle of Prestonpans – are among the inn’s other famous patrons.

Last year, US pop star Kelly Clarkson also visited the pub, enjoying a beer and “chunky chips” in peace as the majority of locals failed to recognise her.

Councillor Alex Lunn said: “The Sheep Heid Inn is something the local community are very proud of and a visit from the Queen is another string to add to its bow. I eat there regularly so I’m sure Her Majesty enjoyed an excellent meal.”

Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the Queen’s visit to the Sheep Heid Inn, other than to say that she had spent the evening “privately”.