10 of the best bars in Edinburgh

With no shortage of watering holes to choose from in the capital, we've picked out ten of the best.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 3:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 3:17 pm
The Bow Bar makes it into our top ten. Picture: Scott Taylor

With almost twice as many licensed premises per square kilometre than Glasgow, according to a report from 2015, Edinburgh is home to some of the best pubs in the country, here are ten of our favourites.

For the old school atmosphere...

THE BOW BAR

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The Canny Man's Pub is one of a kind. Picture: Neil Hanna

(80 W Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2HH, 0131 226 7667)

Named as Pub of the Year for Scotland at the AA Hospitality Awards, this charming little boozer is a no-nonsense old school bar that lies just off the Royal Mile. Expect traditional brass fittings, dark wood bar, bench seating and pub grub with the additional bonus of 310 different varieties of whisky on the gantry and a smashing array of great beers - with a focus on cask ale of course.

Warm and welcoming, the Bow Bar is dog friendly and also has an excellent twice yearly beer festival.

For great craft beer...

Heads & Tales is the place to head for gin. Picture: contributed

THE HANGING BAT

(133 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9AB, 0131 229 0759)

Narrowly beating out the excellent Holyrood 9a and Six Degrees North - which are both definitely worth checking out - The Hanging Bat is our choice for the best place to grab some great craft beer in the capital. The black board behind the bar is place to find an ever changing array of cask and keg beers, some of which have been created in the bar’s own experimental brewing kit, but, should you need a little hand, the friendly staff are always more than happy to offer advice on the various brews. Handily, the Bat also offers measures in thirds, meaning you can try an even greater range of beers.

There’s plenty of craft products available for gin, vodka, whisky and wine lovers too, while their interesting food menu, which features hot dogs, Pork Ribs and pulled pork - all put through their inhouse smoker - will help you refuel after all that beer drinking.

The Canny Man's Pub is one of a kind. Picture: Neil Hanna

For a slice of history...

THE SHEEP HEID INN

(43-45 The Causeway, Edinburgh EH15 3QA, 0131 661 7974)

Squirrelled away in the picturesque Duddingston Village, in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, is perhaps the oldest pub in the capital. The oddly named Sheep Heid Inn is still a great little pub despite having reportedly stood on the same spot, in some form or another, since the 14th century.

Heads & Tales is the place to head for gin. Picture: contributed

A popular haunt for both past and present monarchs, the Inn counts at least two Queens among its famous former patrons and is as popular now as its ever been.

Take a trip to the past with a shot of the traditional skittle alley (apparently built around 1870), enjoy a tipple in the beer garden (weather permitting), or sample something from their hugely popular food menu, whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

When you’re in the Grassmarket...

THE LAST DROP

(74-78 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JR, 0131 225 4851)

As you’d expect with a city like Edinburgh, and in particular the Old Town, the pubs are as rich with history as they are with their drink offerings.

One such bar, with perhaps a slightly more macabre past than most, is the Last Drop; named for the area’s historical significance as the home of public hangings in the capital - which continued well into the 20th century. Housed within a 17th century tenement block, the pub has a cosy ambience and is well known for its excellent service.

During the summer, on the three or four days when the weather is decent (we jest, we obviously mean weeks), there is no better place to be, pint in hand, than in the beer garden that sits out front of this excellent Grassmarket pub.

For some of the best cocktails you’ll find anywhere...

BRAMBLE BAR AND LOUNGE

(16A Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JE, 0131 226 6343)

There are more than a few amazing places to go for a cocktail in the capital - the Last Word Saloon, Panda & Sons and Lucky Liquor Co. to name a few - but there is only one name that will be on anyone’s lips when you ask locals which is the best. Regularly named among the world’s top bars, Bramble, which is secreted away on Queen Street, is well worth seeking out if you’re in the city.

Famed for its mixed drinks menus and vastly experienced mixologists it’s a cocktail fan’s dream venue.

For a dram (or two)...

THE KALEIDOSCOPE BAR - SMWS QUEEN STREET

(28 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JX)

The newly refurbed Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar at the Queen Street venue of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is one of the more distinctive bars on this list, it’s also one of the best places in the city to enjoy a whisky experience.

Now open to the public, the bar offers a constantly changing menu of whisky flavours to taste and explore. With over 200 whiskies on the gantry, and with the expertise of the SMWS bar staff on hand, you’ll have plenty of fun whiling away the afternoon learning about the Society’s innovative approach to whisky tasting.

To enjoy a drink in an amazing setting...

THE DOME

(14 George St, New Town, Edinburgh EH2 2PF)

Harkening back to the opulence and grandeur of the past, The Dome has to be seen to be believed, few bars in the capital are as awe-inspiring, particularly during the festive season.

With a drinks offering to match the setting, the former bank is hugely popular with shoppers, tourist and drinks aficionados alike and features an extensive drinks list to match any taste.

For a bit of live music...

SANDY BELL’S

(25 Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QH, 0131 225 2751)

Fans of live music, cracking atmospheres or just simply great pubs, won’t go wrong with Sandy Bell’s. Small but welcoming, the bar is usually the scene for many a folk session (including more than a few impromptu ones) and is massively popular with people from all walks of life.

So grab a drink, pull up a pew and enjoy some of the best live Scottish music you’ll find in the capital.

For the perfect Gin and Tonic...

HEADS & TALES

(1a Rutland Place, EH1 2AD)

Where could be better to grab a glass of Scotland’s fastest growing spirit, than by going straight to the source and enjoying a Gin and Tonic in a bar that’s housed in a mini-gin distillery.

Described as an “atmospheric underground drinking den”, Heads & Tales is also home to Edinburgh Gin and their two stills, Flora & Caledonia, who take pride of place within the bar. Gin cocktails and G & Ts are the order of the day here, but if you are looking to enjoy a little more in depth gin geekery you can also indulge in a guided tour of the distillery or a gin masterclass.

For something completely different...

CANNY MAN’S

(237 Morningside Road, EH10 4QU)

Edinburgh’s bars are as diverse as the people that live within the city and every so often there is one that comes along that really defies catgorisation and that pretty much sums up The Canny Man’s. A pub like no other, TCM is a family run bar, that’s as filled with curios, knick knacks and weird furniture as it is with spirits - think part museum’s store room, part whisky collector’s dream.

A free house, it dates back to 1871 and was once described as “the best pub in the world”.

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