Edinburgh Best Bar: Harbour Inn| Thomsons| Habana

The Harbour Inn. Picture: comp
The Harbour Inn. Picture: comp
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THE voting is well and truly under way in the hunt for the Best Bar 2014 in Edinburgh and Lothians.

There are just days to go until glasses are raised to the ultimate winner. And which one of our top ten emerges triumphant is up to you.

Cafe Habana. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Cafe Habana. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Perhaps your favourite is renowned for its real ales and entertainment, maybe it’s the fantastic atmosphere and friendly staff, perhaps it’s just the ideal place to relax and catch up with friends.

All those which have made the top ten have been nominated for their own reasons, with one thing in common – their regulars think they are the best in the business. Whether you submitted a nomination or not, now it’s time to help your favourite bar clinch the coveted crown.

Today we look at three of the contenders vying for the top spot.


Fishmarket Square’s Harbour Inn has been tipped for the Best Bar title because of its fierce sense of community heritage.

Overlooking the Firth of Forth, the cosy Newhaven pub is thought to be the oldest nightspot in the neighbourhood.

Formerly the Stone Pier Inn, the site has been occupied by a public house since 1860.

Over 150 years later, manager John Martin reckons the inn has continued to live on through its dedication to customer service.

“At the end of the day, everything comes down to our staff and how they are with our customers,” he said.

“We treat everyone warmly, whether they’re daily regulars or just passing visitors. We do our best to make everyone feel welcome.”

The Harbour Inn is also one of the area’s top venues for free live music, with bi-weekly performances from veterans of the Capital music scene.


OVER on Morrison Street, Thomsons Bar takes a no-frills approach to business.

Named after the celebrated Scottish architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson, the pub’s wooden interior is described by afficianados as “a lumberjack’s paradise”.

The pub is part of the city-based Shilling Group, which oversees five other nightspots across the Capital, including The Golden Rule and Bar Kohl.

But since opening its doors in 2003, manager Lee Thorburn says Thomsons Bar has simply focused on remaining true to its roots as a “traditional” pub.

He said: “You get so many bars now that target certain markets. Everyone tries to have their niche. Thomsons Bar is just a traditional Scottish pub. Great food, ales and customer service are all at the basis of what we do.”


Nestled snugly between CC Blooms and the Edinburgh Playhouse, Cafe Habana has spent the better part of 15 years earning itself a reputation as one of the Capital’s most popular spots for a night out.

According to Darren Glasgow, who manages the top ten nominee, Cafe Habana’s success stems from a steady stream of live entertainment that dazzles and delights.

“We’ve always got something on, be it DJs, cabaret or live music, there’s always something to see,” he said.

Officially an LGBT bar, Cafe Habana was preceded by a series of other popular gay-friendly haunts prior to taking on the cavernous premises on Greenside Lane.

But Glasgow added that, while Cafe Habana is officially a gay bar, the nightspot has an open door policy for any and all revellers in search of “something different”.