Edinburgh – It’s Been Too Long

I’ve been wracking my brain. I’ve been trying to figure out the span of years between this and my previous visit to Edinburgh, the most beautiful of the cities of these islands. And I have an actual date.

June 8th. 1985. Almost 35 years ago.

Shame on me.

But Edinburgh had its revenge. We travelled up on the weekend of Storm Dennis.

But not even the wind and rain could put this beautiful city in the shade. It shines whatever.

We (myself and TLO) travelled up on Valentines Day – not down to planning on my part – to be met at Waverley Station by Jock (more later) and Steve who guided us to our lovely Air BnB.

Not long afterwards, walkies. This was a a short stay. And there were bars and pubs to visit….

Six Degrees N. (24, Howe Street, EH3 6TG)

Just a six or seven minute walk from the apartment, we found ourselves here. An early peak.

Have enjoyed each beer I’ve had from this Aberdeen based brewery. Met some of the team at Leeds International a few years back and immediately asked them for a beer for #ISBF3. Delicious.

We stayed here for quite a bit. It was that good a place. Exceptional in fact.

Long main bar room (I think there was an upstairs – or downstairs – that we didn’t explore) clean furnishings, 30 lines minimum. With both a large chunk of their own beer augmented by some excellent guests.

And some ace artwork….

That said, I had nothing but 6 Degrees beer. All excellent. A delicious crisp Pilsner and what may have been my beer of the weekend. Hop Harvest. A massively hopped Wet Hop beer, Belgian esters, but beautifully fruity and bitter.

In the most beautiful glassware. Because, well, Audrey Hepburn…

I could have (danced) stayed all night (if you don’t love “My Fair Lady” you have no soul …..), but we had to explore. And we had a bit of a walk to do…

The Oxford Bar (8, Young Street, EH2 4JB)

Fans of Ian Rankin’s “Inspector Rebus” novels will recognise this pub. I’m a fan. And I was desperate to visit this pub.

It didn’t disappoint. It’s a classic boozer.

Atmospheric. Two rooms. The bar felt homely, like a parlour.

The beer was more than decent too. We just missed the Jarl by Fyne, but the Harveistoun “Bitter & Twisted” was a fine (no pun intended – funnies aren’t my style…..) substitute. I’d forgotten what a solid pint it was.

That thing where you just feel privileged. At the same time as just….. snug. The place felt like an immaculately maintained time capsule. A stunning pub. Of a kind that no longer exists in Manchester.

If a “pub crush” were a thing. I’m smitten.

Real fire, friendly bar staff, good beer. Friends.

What else do you want? A walk….. From Young Street, right onto Castle Street and a right onto Rose Street.

Fierce Bar (167, Rose Street, EH2 4LS)

I like purple. So that was a good start. (Did I mention that I’m dyeing my hair purple before #ISBF7?)

The shock here was the size. This place it wee. But packed quite a few beer lines into that small space!

I make that 20 lines.

Like I said, quite tiny Micro Tap, but plenty seating for the size and certainly some exceptional quality beer to go at.

I’ve had a bit of a Pilsner thing going on at the moment and was curious if theirs was as good as the one I’d had in 6 Degrees earlier. It was. Light, crisp, fresh. Lovely.

A Kernel Foeder Beer cemented the fact that this bar was most certainly worth the walk.

It was Kernel. Therefore delicious. Is all.

The stop here was brief, it had been a long day travelling etc. And the aim was to get back to Fierce. Sadly we didn’t….. 😪

Next morning dawned windswept and brisk.

Down to some fabulous research by the reliably smart Karkli Sherpa, we had a little cafe lined up for a substantial breakfast. The jackpot was hit when it became apparent that the location was no accident.

It was – quite literally – feet away from two of the most beautiful pubs I’ve been to.

Cafe Royal (19, W Register Street, EH3 2AA)

Breath. Taking.

Simply stunning. They could have served me infected swill and it would have been drunk gladly. I was just awestruck.

A huge, beautiful room, wrapped around a central circular bar. There may have been another room, but I was too busy with the architectural eye candy.

The beer was decent, if unremarkable, but to miss this most gorgeous edifice would have been nothing short of a sensory crime.

It was a quick (and, being fair, decent pint) before a sharp exit all of 2 yards. Yes. You read that right.

The Guildford Arms (1, W Register Street, EH2 2AA)

And another classical beauty.

Tom Ray (Mourne Mountains Brewery) was over meeting some of his fellow Heriot Watt alumni and it was lovely to bump into him.

And this.

Simply, another stunning pub. Rightly subject of several recommendations to visit.

Beautiful room wrapped around the bar with further space at the far end (reserved for eating on this Saturday lunch) and that intriguing balcony area.

The Jarl matched the surroundings. Beautiful, refreshing and loaded with Nelson Sauvin. One of the great Session Pales.

Again, just the one in here, it would have been so easy to spend hours drinking in all the beautiful detail and decor.

We had a bus to catch just around the corner in Princes Street. The Number 1 I’m told.

To Leith.

Stewart Brewing Dockside Tap (38 Bernard Street, Leith, EH6 6PR)

I freely admit, I did no planning for this trip. I placed myself in the hands of others for this weekend. And it turned out alright indeed. This one – with its walk from the bus stop – was down to John.

Another tiny place – almost a Pico pub – which opened up to the rear with a second room which was quite quirky (in a good way). There’s something I’ve always loved about Dockside places. Call it a “professional interest”.

10 beer lines with a varied selection from big to small. For me, a tasty hoppy pale. An excellent Grisette was had too. This certainly wasn’t the kind of boozer near docks from back in the day!

Friendly little place this, with a warm welcome that crams a lot into its small space. Well worth the visit.

Now, another walk…….

Campervan Brewery Taproom (Bonnington Business Centre, 112, Jane Street, EH6 5HG)

Until Friday evening, I don’t think I’d heard of Campervan. Then I tried a Sour at 6 Degrees. And was impressed.

They’d done a lot of tidying….

I fell hard for this place. The little touches, the details, were everywhere…..

Had a few in here. The Leith Pils was delicious. Refreshing and crisp, it hit the spot after the walk from the Dockside. The “Leith Juice” and the IPA were both impressive too.

Judging by the noises from my band of friends, they were impressed too.

Plenty of seating. The tunes in the background were ace. A superb brewtap setup all round.

With Pilot close by too, as well as Stewart, Leith has got something in the water.

You’ll certainly be seeing more of Campervan….

Walkies…… (left along Bonnington Rd and right onto Anderson Place – continuing onto S Fort Street) we end up at….

Dreadnought (72, N Fort Street, Leith, EH6 4HL)

With views of Leith Docks, this place was ticking my boxes from the get go. But walking in sealed it.

Brilliant and friendly service, funny too (had some fun with our Mr Joyce!), the beer was excellent too with an exceptional Pilot Mochaccino Stout. With exceptional cask from the likes of Brass Castle (there’s a family connection apparently!), Cromarty and Marble allied to the keg selection, this warm and quirky single room bar attracted the glitterati…

The bar snacks attracted some Canine attention too…

Loved the mini keg bar too….

It’s a lovely little place this, a belting micro pub. It just feels right. Justly popular with a wide age demographic, this place was another high point amongst high points.

A peach.

In the words of the hallowed Clare Grogan “Love to stay…….”, but the gravity of the big city drew us back….

The Hanging Bat (133, Lothian Road, EH3 9AB)

Don’t shoot me, but I think that the 16 bus took its almost to the door all the way from Leith….

The evening was for the Old Town. The Hanging Bat being an unknown quantity for me, having never visited.

With an elevated mezzanine section facing the bar, we found spots to sit and chow. (An excellent Smoked Beef Stew)

Justly popular bar. Was nice to see up to 6 cask lines alongside the exceptional keg list (Tiny Rebel launch taking over a number).

Comfortably busy, we found seats in different areas and snaffled some food and beer – in my case, a rather lovely Fyne DDH Pale.

Concentrating far too much on filling my groaning belly, pictures were at a premium here.

Modern without being stark, coming back here would be no hardship, but we were looking for something more “Old Town” at this stage. And – following a roughly 7 minute walk – were soon to find it.

The Bow Bar (80 West Bow, EH1 2HH)


Busy, but again, not uncomfortably so. Isn’t this how we want pubs to be?

A range of beers to try, I went for a very tasty “Odyssey” from Fallen Brewing and settled in to this single roomed beauty that looks hundreds of years old, but seems to have been open since 1987!

Having not had a beer in Scotland for the previous 30 or so years, it was nice to see beer served via the traditional Scottish Air Pressure fonts.

Indeed, the last dedicated bar it would seem! These were certainly more common last time I came – a generation ago…..

It’s all too easy to go into bars and pubs in a Capital City like Edinburgh and rarely hear a local sounding voice. This was Scottish. From the moment I walked in it felt almost like a local, maybe it is. And that appeals to my soul.

For all that it’s only 30 odd years old, this felt “lived in”, used. And all the better for it. A thorough recommendation.

And with transport options next door….

The final stop – for some of us – came next. And handily took us back down – and I MEAN down – towards Waverley Station and Princes Street

The Halfway House (24, Fleshmarket Close, EH1 1BX)

You get an idea of the descent from The Old Town towards the New.

Described as “a compact local”. Succinct. And accurate. A tiny single roomed place which packs a lot into a small space.

3 cask beers here, with the keg offering best described as “traditional” with a simply magnificent font head for the Tennants Lager

By this time, it was late, my head was fuzzy.. I had a nice Stout. And noticed that they did some interesting food. Hell knows where, this place is tiny!

We retreated back to the accommodation. To contemplate the possibility of not actually getting home in the morning. I may have cracked open a bottle….

However, despite Storm Dennis doing his worst, we made it (although Steve had a “fun” journey back to Sheffield!).

Edinburgh. We scratched your surface. It was a highly enjoyable scratch. It is safe to say that you have some simply stunning pubs and exceptional modern bars.

More importantly, we did it with friends. And shared an exceptional weekend.. Thank you Steve, Jock (“Are you taking the piss”?), Caroline & John. Loved every minute.

Will we be back? Oh hell yes. Like I said, we merely scratched the surface. And I get the strong impression there is an awful lot more to discover.

It may not be blessed with trillions of breweries, but it really is one hell of a beer city. Go try it yourselves!