Sheep Heid offers touch of magic
Written by Helen Fowler Wednesday, 17 February 2010 14:25
The Sheep Heid in Edinburgh is Scotland's oldest surviving pub. When you consider how many people rave about the place, it's not surprising it has notched up more than 600 years in business.
The pub's origins date back to 1360. Since then, famous visitors have included Mary, Queen of Scots, who reportedly stopped off there while travelling between her palace at Holyrood and Craigmillar Castle (on the outskirts of modern Edinburgh).
Good taste in pubs
Mary's son, the future James I of England, is said to have been another regular at the place. Legend has it he was fond of playing skittles in the yard. Maybe he wasn't one of the country's greatest monarchs, but you can't fault the guy for his taste in pubs.
Many today share the king's fondness for this old-fashioned game. The skittles alley is still very much in evidence today. You can book the skittles alley for an entire evening (£50). Or hire it by the hour (£12.50) during the day.
Skittles, beer and knitting
The first Tuesday of every month sees The Woolpack at the Sheep Heid. This is a free get-together for anyone with an interest in knitting or crochet. You can find out more on their website.
Let me confess, as a keen knitter, I was thrilled to discover about The Woolpack's existence and hope to get along to join them.
At Easter (2-5 April) the pub plays host to the Beer and Cider Festival. This is your chance to enjoy live music, sample some of the 75 beers and ciders on offer and taste award-winning food from the barbeque.
Just a stone's throw away from the pub is the 12th century church of Duddingston, worth an explore, if you have time. There's a picturesque pond just opposite, with wonderful views. This is the pond where Raeburn painted his famous skating minister picture. It's an iconic Edinburgh scene.
The Sheep Heid makes a good stop after a day spent exploring the windswept volcanic outcrops of neighbouring Arthur's Seat. Is there anything more delicious than food and drink consumed after being outdoors all day?
Visiting the Sheep Heid can feel like a day out in the countryside. Urban Edinburgh is hidden behind the hilliness of Arthur's; Seat and easily forgotten on a trip to the pub. In fact, the pub is only a few minutes from central Edinburgh by car.
I know for a fact the Sheep Heid is a real place, because I've been there many times over the years. But sometimes it feels more like a piece of magic that belongs to the pages of a Harry Potter novel. Visit it for yourselves and see what you think. The Sheep Heid , 33 The Causeway, Duddingston, Edinburgh, EH15 3QA, tel: 0131 661 7974
Monday to Thursday 11am to 11pm
Friday to Saturday 11am to midnight
Sunday 12.30pm to 11pm