Looking for a cool historic Edinburgh pub crawl full of the oldest pubs in the city during your visit? We’ve got you covered in our thirst-quenching guide to the most interesting oldest pubs in Edinburgh, Scotland!
The city of Edinburgh is full of so much history, beauty, and interesting stories from the past. So, if you’re a lover of good ale, Scottish whisky, gin, or spirit of your choice we’ve combined all those things in this historic pub crawl so you can enjoy the history, beauty, interesting stories, and of course drinks as you make your way through the city!
You’ll find that many of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh are found in Grassmarket which lies directly below Edinburgh Castle and is where the gallows used to be. Surprise, surprise, there are some spooky supernatural tales from these pubs as well given that so many lives were taken here as well as tales of criminals and even the royalty tied into these fine watering holes.
Another hotbed for some of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh is along the Royal Mile where you’ll find an endless supply of gorgeous architecture and charming cobbled lanes.
So prepare for an unforgettable history lesson in our Edinburgh pub crawl featuring some of the oldest pubs in the city.
Oldest Pubs in Edinburgh
Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar
Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar is located on Candlemakers’ Row in the heart of Edinburgh and is one of the most visited and photographed bars in all of Scotland. This is a must on your historic Edinburgh pub crawl.
Greyfriars Bobby sits on the ground floor of a series of Georgian homes that are connected to the legendary Candlemakers’ Hall, which was originally built in 1722.
The name of the bar was chosen in honor of a legendary Skye Terrier named Bobby, and a really good boy. Bobby was the dog of a Night Watchman of the Edinburgh City Police who was called John Gray.
Bobby worked with Gray on his patrol and for two years, both man and dog were inseparable, because he was the best boy.
This is where this story gets a bit sad, but then a bit happy. On February 15, 1858, Bobby’s owner passed away from tuberculosis. He was taken to Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, aka the cemetery, which is located directly behind the bar, and buried there.
Upon his burial, Bobby went to Gray’s graveside and refused to leave his side for 14 years. It didn’t take long for the local citizens to realize that he wished to stay by his master’s side forever and started bringing food to him there or would invite him in for some kibble at neighboring businesses.
When the legendary good boy Bobby passed and joined is master after 14 loyal years, the bar named themself after this legendary dog to honor his loyalty and dedication.
Hopefully, we didn’t make you tear up as that one is a real tear-jerker but also a really sweet story about man’s best friend. Besides being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Edinburgh this is an awesome stop on the historic Edinburgh pub crawl.
Inside the bar feels cozy and there’s dining here as well with traditional pub food. They have a great selection of whisky and gin, which is what we sampled.
If you feel inspired by Greyfriar’s Bobby story they do sell memorabilia here to take home as a souvenir.
Also, be sure to go check out the statue out front to honor Bobby!
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The White Hart Inn
Next stop on our historic Edinburgh pub crawl is one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh. Located on Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, The White Hart Inn is believed to be the oldest pub in Edinburgh and the most haunted pub in Edinburgh!
The White Hart Inn is over 500 years old as historical records state that the White Hart Inn was built in 1516.
Rumors say that this historic Edinburgh pub crawl pick was given its name in honor of a supernatural event that supposedly happened in 1128. The Scottish King David I was hunting a humongous white stag and was thrown from his horse in the middle of the chase.
The stag turned upon the king and the king prayed to God to be saved. Allegedly, the king was saved by a fiery cross which made the stag disappear.
The king built a shrine on the site of the place of his salvation and later on the White Hart Inn was named in memory of the event.
The stories about White Hart Inn’s being haunted stem from the number of public executions that were carried out right on Grassmarket just outside this historic pub.
Some people also claim that over the centuries, the White Hart has offered hospitality so good, that some of their patrons would refuse to leave, in life and even in death.
Two of the most famous patrons in history to grace their presence and quench their thirst here were Edinburgh’s notorious bodysnatchers, William Burke and William Hare. In 1828, Burke and Hare would convince patrons of the oldest pub in Edinburgh to their hotel where they would murder them and sell their bodies to the city’s medical school, creepy.
If you look at the beams inside the White Hart Inn you will spot two chilling faces carved, they are said to be the faces of Burke and Hare.
What I found particularly funny is when I went to the women’s restroom I was sitting there and reading the history of the bar, no I didn’t take my phone so I don’t have a photo (should have went back to get one), anyway there was a sign at eye level when you’re sitting telling you the history of the oldest pub in Edinburgh.
At the end of the history, the sign mention’s White Hart Inn’s hauntings and said that there is said to be a man that shows up in the women’s loo. I cackled at that because I am pretty sure that was just a joke, but seriously when you’re a few drinks deep in your Edinburgh pub crawl watch out for spirits when you’re on the toilet!
The White Hart Inn also serves up food, we did have a snack here, and obviously a full bar with beer, Scottish whisky, gin, plus other spirits – both the liquid and dead ones!
The World’s End Bar
Another one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh and our next stop on our historic Edinburgh pub crawl is The World’s End Bar located on the Royal Mile.
This pub sticks to its traditional roots and style, making locals and tourists feel totally welcome when they walk through the doors. The innumerable banknotes that line the space above the bar show just how many international guests have come through the doors of this pub.
The name of this stop on our Edinburgh pub crawl comes from the city walls that were once part of the city’s protection policy.
The walls were constructed to protect Edinburgh in the 16th-century after the Scots were defeated by the English in the Battle of Flodden.
Forming a part of the wall, the gates to the city were built just outside this historic Edinburgh pub crawl location. The spot where the gates were built was known as The World’s End because the people of Edinburgh considered everything outside those gates to be from another world.
And like most of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, The World’s End has their own superstitions and spooky folklores. Be sure not to move the man’s photo in the bar, or your world might end! EEK!
Take a break from the adorable cobbled streets of sightseeing for a whisky, gin, spirit, or local beer. There’s also a food menu here as well.
Deacon Brodies Tavern
Situated in the core of the city’s Royal Mile and our next stop on our historic pub crawl in Edinburgh is the famous Deacon Brodies Tavern.
Set only a few meters from Edinburgh Castle and founded in 1806, this elegant looking and historic pub is named after one of Edinburgh’s most famous citizens, William Brodie.
Brodie was a member of the Guild of Wrights, a group of exceptionally skilled carpenters, Brodie served as a deacon to the group.
Not only that, but he was also a member of the town council and was highly respected in the community.
Although he appeared to be a good citizen in the daytime, he also functioned as a burglar at night who liked to spend the money he stole on gambling and women.
He was caught in 1788 and after being tried and found guilty of burglary, murder, and more, was hanged on the very gallows he designed.
His story became legendary and the double life he lead was said to inspire local author, Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was published nearly 100 years after the actual events took place.
This is always a lively stop on your historic Edinburgh pub crawl as its close to alot of the popular tourist attractions and as mentioned before, this bar has become legendary.
We personally loved the decor inside the pub, there’s a great selection of beer, pub food, spirits, and of course whisky and gin here as well. Since there’s a large dining area on the second floor, this is a great place to also grab a bite to eat on your historic Edinburgh pub crawl.
The Doric Tavern
Next up on our pick for best historic Edinburgh pub crawl stops! The Doric Tavern is a gastropub with the building itself dating back to the 17th century, and the gastropub dating back to the 18th century.
It’s not the oldest pub in Edinburgh, but it is believed to be the oldest gastropub in the city. The downstairs is where you can find the historic, quaint pub serving up traditional ales, spirits, and their impressive wine selection and upstairs is where you can find the gastropub with an impressive Scottish menu.
Lovers of delicious cuisine can find the Doric beside Waverly Station, on the outskirts of Edinburgh’s Old Town on Market Street.
The bar on the first level has a warm, inviting feeling to it as well as a traditional tavern vibe. We enjoyed the historic decor and it was the perfect place for a drink on our Edinburgh pub crawl.
They say you save the best for last, and that’s what we did. Our favorite stop on our historic Edinburgh pub crawl, well maybe tied with Greyfriar’s Bobby because who doesn’t love a good dog story, is Tolbooth Tavern.
Situated on the Royal Mile, the Tolbooth Tavern is a historic pub that serves the great ales, beers, and whisky as well as some of the most delicious Scottish meals, we ate here and the food was legitimately one of our favorite meals in Edinburgh.
This historic Edinburgh pub crawl stop is also known as the old Canongate Tolbooth, which was built in 1591. The Canongate Tolbooth functioned as Edinburgh’s administrative center, providing a courthouse, a tollhouse, as well as a place for the council of Edinburgh to meet. It also held a prison in which Covenanters were held in the 1600s.
A key figure in the Tolbooth Tavern’s history was Lewis Bellenden; the Justice-Clerk and baron for the Burgh who commissioned the Canongate, the eastern length of the historic Royal Mile that was considered outside the city’s walls (this is further past The World’s End as mentioned earlier, which is where the city walls used to end).
To enter the Burgh, travelers had to pay a toll.
It was said that Bellenden once performed an exorcism on a supposed warlock. The warlock was said to have been so shaken up by this experience that he died not long afterward.
Another bit of history that took place here was in 1654 when Oliver Cromwell’s guard detained Scottish people who were accused of crimes against the state. However, the prisoners were able to escape using strips of cloth, think Rapunzel style, from the upper floor to the ground.
To make things spooky, this historic Edinburgh pub crawl stop is said to also be haunted by an old jailer and his assistant who died in prison in the 1700s as a result of the escape of prisoners whom they were in charge of.
You can’t help but fall in love with the gorgeous stone exterior of the Tolbooth Tavern, it’s picturesque bell tower is one of its unique features.
Located in the same building is also the People’s Story Museum if you’re feeling inquisitive during your historic Edinburgh pub crawl!
The Beehive Inn
Another great stop in Grassmarket, aka the old gallows below the castle on our historic Edinburgh pub crawl is The Beehive Inn. This is another one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh dating back to the 15th century originally as a coaching inn.
With famous patrons in its history like Robert Burns, a famous and legendary Scottish poet.
There are historic details inside this incredible old pub including the door that looks a little out of place inside the pub. This was the door from a cell in the Calton Jail where famous criminals like William Burke (mentioned earlier as one of the trouble makers at The White Hart Inn nearby in Grassmarket) to Eugene Chantrelle, the George Street prisoner.
Stop in for its traditional Scottish food and whisky, gin, beer, or spirit of your choice.
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