A historical pub crawl around Edinburgh

The Cafe Royal is just one of many Edinburgh bars with historical connections
The Cafe Royal is just one of many Edinburgh bars with historical connections

Pay a visit to some of Edinburgh's oldest bars on this historical pub crawl

There's a lot to learn about Edinburgh's heritage, even if you've lived there your whole life.

Combine education with beer on this fascinating historical pub crawl, which stops at some of the city's oldest and most interesting bars.

Cafe Royal

Start on West Register Street, close to Waverley Station, but hidden from the main shopping thoroughfare of Princes Street.

One of the city's most visually unique and striking pubs, the Cafe Royal opened on 8 July 1863.

Designed by Edinburgh architect, Robert Paterson, the now listed building is notable for its stained glass windows and period features, such as ornate cornicing.

Visit: 19 West Register Street, EH2 2AA - caferoyaledinburgh.co.uk

The Abbotsford

Cross St Andrew Square and walk a little way along Rose Street, until you reach The Abbotsford.

While it might not look like much from the outside, this is a beautifully preserved Edwardian pub.

Its original island bar (carved from Spanish mahogany wood) is still in pride of place. Don't forget to look up as you enjoy your drink to admire the stunning Jacobean ceiling.

Visit: 3-5 Rose Street, EH2 2PR - theabbotsford.com

The Doric

Make the five minute walk across Waverley Bridge and reward yourself with another pint at The Doric.

Although refurbished in 2009, this pub was first opened in the 17th century, and its decor sticks as close to its period roots as possible.

Line your stomach with a homemade pie and enjoy a cask conditioned ale, or maybe even a dram of whisky.

Visit: 15-16 Market Street, EH1 1DE - the-doric.com

Deacon Brodie's Tavern

A brisk - but admittedly steep - walk up Cockburn Street and along the High Street will take you to Deacon Brodie's Tavern, on the corner of Bank Street and the Royal Mile.

Although not as old or as traditional as some of the others on this list (the bar is owned by chain Nicholson's Pubs), Deacon Brodie's is worth a visit to learn more about its namesake.

Born in 1741, disgraced Edinburgh resident William Brodie was a deacon of the Guild of Wrights by day, and a burglar by night. In 1788, he was hanged for his crimes, not far from where the tavern now stands.

Robert Louis Stevenson famously based his novella, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, on Brodie's story.

Visit: 435 Lawnmarket, EH1 2NT - nicholsonspubs.co.uk

Jolly Judge

Just around the corner from Deacon Brodie's, you'll find the small but perfectly formed Jolly Judge, tucked out of sight of the Royal Mile.

Popular with lawyers in the 1970s, this cosy bar hasn't changed much in the last 40-odd years, and is usually bustling.

Bag a seat near the roaring open fire in the winter months, or venture outside to the courtyard beer garden if it's sunny.

Visit: 7 James Court, 493 Lawnmarket, EH1 2PB - jollyjudge.co.uk

The Bow Bar

Leave the Royal Mile and head down onto charming Victoria Street (just two minutes away) where you'll find The Bow Bar.

You might be fooled into thinking this very traditionally presented and no frills pub has been around for generations, but it actually only opened in the early 1990s.

Its surroundings, though, are steeped in history - from the quirky buildings on Victoria Street itself, to the nearby Grassmarket.

This was reportedly the first pub to serve Deuchars IPA, but they also serve plenty of craft beer and many varieties of whisky.

Visit: 80 West Bow, EH1 2HH - thebowbar.co.uk

The White Hart Inn

Continue on to the Grassmarket, where finding a pub won't be an issue.

The White Hart Inn, though, claims to be Edinburgh's oldest watering hole, and is well worth a visit.

Parts of the building reportedly date back to 1516 and 1740 respectively.

The story goes that the pub was named after a 1128 legend that King David I encountered a white stag while hunting in what is now Holyrood Park.

Visit: 34 Grassmarket, EH1 2JU - whitehart-edinburgh.co.uk

Blue Blazer

Wander for around five minutes along the West Port, and you'll find the Blue Blazer neatly tucked in on the corner of Spittal Street and Bread Street.

Built in 1867 (and known as the Clan Alpine Arms at one point in its life), this TARDIS-like pub has a surprising amount of space beyond its cosy main bar area.

There's information on the pub's history available at the bar, so you can learn more as you sip a pint or a dram.

Visit: 2 Spittal Street, EH3 9DX - theblueblazer.co.uk


Formerly known as the All Saints Parsonage, Cloisters Bar, is less than 10 minutes walk away from the Blue Blazer.

Opened as a pub in 1995, this historical space is unique on the outside and welcoming on the inside, with dark wooden furniture, a stove to warm yourself by, and craft beers galore.

Visit: 26 Brougham Street, EH3 9JH - cloistersbar.com


Retrace your steps, then turn left and walk for a few minutes up Home and then Leven Street to find Edinburgh institution, Bennet's Bar in Tollcross.

Close to the King's Theatre, the pub has been in operation since 1839, and has seen its fair share of fascinating historical and cultural events over the years.

The original bar and gantry are still in place, and looking as good as they did when the place opened nearly 180 years ago.

Visit: 8 Leven Street, EH3 9LG - bennetsbaredinburgh.co.uk

The Cameo Cinema Bar

Finish your crawl just across the road at the comfortable Cameo Bar, attached to The Cameo cinema on Home Street.

Opened as the King's Cinema in 1914, the Cameo has been in operation ever since, and its bar celebrates the cinema's history.

If you're feeling up to it, you could even take your choice of drink into a film screening.

Visit: 38 Home Street, EH3 9LZ - picturehouses.com