Edinburgh city guide

A mere slice of the fun to be had in Scotland's capital

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PUBS & BARS:

Bow Bar, Stockbridge Tap and Cloisters Bar

I know this is cheating, because I’ve listed three bars in one, but hear me out. The three pubs are owned by the same people, and they all have a similar vibe: low-key, laid-back establishments with unassuming decor, friendly staff, and an amazing array of cask and keg beers pouring. Bow Bar also has a very impressive selection of whiskies, so it’s great on a cold day.

PHOTO: Bow Bar (Facebook)

Dreadnought

My favourite pub in the world. Run by Toby and Roisin, who are some of the loveliest people you could ever meet, the Dread’ prides itself on having some of the best beers from across the country pouring on cask and keg, and on their no-bullshit-allowed attitude - from the anti-fascist, anti-arsehole stickers throughout the venue, to its Pride Bridge outside, this is the pub you’ll want to spend all your time in. Plus, there are always good dogs, usually including Luna the Resident Pup.

PHOTO: Dreadnought (Instagram)

Salt Horse

The best wee spot for craft beer, with a small bar area, a bottle shop with a couple of draught lines, and a beer garden downstairs. There’s always an impeccable selection of modern beers from all over the world, and they host regular tap takeovers and events. Come for a few thirds, stay for a burger and wings, and get some beers from the fridges to take home. Perfection.

PHOTO: Salt Horse (Facebook)

Hanging Bat

One of Edinburgh’s most famous beer bars, the Hanging Bat always has a whole host of exciting beers pouring, from local offerings to exclusive American beers to beer-nerd-hype-brews from up and down the country. With 20 taps, a big beer fridge, a huge selection of gins and other spirits, and a delicious food menu, this is a bar that is beloved by beer lovers and non-beer-drinkers alike. 

PHOTO: Hanging Bat (website)

Keller Taproom

A relative newcomer to the Edinburgh bar scene since it only opened earlier this year, this cosy venue is great for sinking a few frosty mugs of draught ABK beer (I’ll have a Dunkel please) or its own beer brewed on the small kit in the back. The vibe is excellent too; there’s hop bines strung across the ceiling beams, a mix of cosy armchairs and bier keller-style bench seating, moody lighting, and loads of cool plants (most of which are for sale!).

PHOTO: Keller Taproom (Facebook)

Fierce Bar

Opened in 2019, this is Aberdeen-based Fierce Beer’s Edinburgh outpost. With 20 taps of Fierce brews and guest beers, a mouthwatering menu of BBQ comfort foods from Smoke and Soul, an outdoor patio perfect for people-watching, and a prime location on the city centre’s Rose Street, this is one craft beer destination you do not want to miss.

PHOTO: Fierce Bar (website)

Monty's

A stone’s throw from Haymarket train station, this lovely wee pub is a mixture of modern whisky bar and a classic local’s pub. There are around 100 whiskies, six cask lines, eight keg taps, and a big range of gins, vodkas and rums, so there’s something for everyone - but the main draw really is the beer selection. There’s always something on cask by Two by Two (the gods of hazy cask beer), some local offerings, and exclusive beers from exciting UK breweries you’re unlikely to find elsewhere in Edinburgh. Get a pint and head upstairs to the cosy loft seating area and while away the evening.

PHOTO: Monty's (Facebook)

Cold Town House

Arguably Edinburgh’s most aesthetically beautiful pub, this three-storey venue run by the folks behind Cold Town Brewery is an Instagram influencer’s dream. Nestled at the bottom of the popular Grassmarket area, the outside is covered in a stunning floral arrangement, and the inside is chic and gorgeous, with an on-site microbrewery and an authentic Neapolitan pizza oven. The best bit, though, is the rooftop garden with panoramic views of the city and the castle above, decorated in a cool Après ski theme.

PHOTO: Cold Town House (Facebook)

BREWERIES:

Barney's Beer

Located in Edinburgh’s premium arts and culture venue Summerhall, Barney’s has been brewing a mix of traditional and modern beer styles since 2012. Try its beers at Summerhall’s bar, at the Pitt Street Market in Leith, or at its brand new pub the Bullfinch, which is a joint venture with Pitt Street Market (and is dangerously close to my flat). 

PHOTO: The Royal Dick Bar, Summerhall (Facebook)

Newbarns

Opening a business during a pandemic is by no means an easy task, but Newbarns managed to do it, and do it well. Brewing a delightful range of lagers, pale ales, and a couple of dark beers, Newbarns’ focus is on making accessible, pub-friendly beers that taste good and feel familiar. Its oat lager is outstanding, and I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t have a few pints of its pale ale.  

PHOTO: Newbarns (Facebook)

Bellfield Brewery

Founded by two Coeliac friends who found the lack of tasty gluten-free beers an annoyance, Bellfield brews fantastic beers that can be enjoyed by everyone - not just those with a gluten intolerance. Its taproom always has exciting food vendor pop-ups, and there are regular events taking place - but it’s also just a lovely spot to enjoy a few beers.

PHOTO: Bellfield Brewery (Facebook)

Cross Borders Brewing

Cross Borders make, hands down, some of the best beer in Edinburgh - if not in Scotland. Brewed in leafy Midlothian, its beers are modern takes on traditional styles, such as the IPA, wee heavy, porter and pale ale. The taproom is open regularly, and its bars the Portobello Tap and the Old Eastway Tap are splendid and definitely worth a visit if you’re in town.

PHOTO: Cross Borders (Facebook)

Campervan Brewery

Campervan has been making flavoursome, expertly-crafted beers in the heart of Leith since January 2017. Its taproom is lovely and has an outside bar, and space for regular street food vans, plus it shows hints of founder Paul Gibson’s passions for travel, classic VW campervans and the great outdoors. Its second venue, Lost in Leith, opened in early 2020 just before Covid hit, and managed to stay afloat thanks to support from the local community - which is lucky for us beer lovers, as it’s a gorgeous space! 

PHOTO: Campervan Brewery (website)

Cold Town Beer

Known in Edinburgh for its award-winning pilsner, Cold Town has taken the city by storm since its inception almost four years ago. Operated by Signature Group, who have a series of high-end pubs and bars across Scotland, the aim for Cold Town was to open a brewery with a view to making great-quality beer to pour in Signature’s venues. Its venue Cold Town House in the famous Grassmarket area of Edinburgh is also a hit with locals and visitors, and has its own on-site 8-tank microbrewery.

PHOTO: Cold Town Brewery

WHERE TO EAT:

Gulp Ramen

My favourite eatery in Edinburgh and the one place I have been recommending to anyone and everyone who will listen since it opened in late 2020. The menu changes almost daily, as Gulp is an ingredients-led joint, focusing on creative, seasonal, local produce. The meat broths are simmered with high-quality cuts for 60 hours, and the noodles are all made by hand in-house. For vegans the laksa-style veggie broth is rich and coats your insides, and the toppings usually include a mix of steamed, pickled, roasted and raw seasonal veg, tofu tempura, and nori potato puffs.

PHOTO: Gulp Ramen (@britishbeergirl)

The Palmerston

Only open since midway through 2021, The Palmerston has become a firm favourite with Edinburgh foodies; the interior is charming, as it’s set in an old 19th century building that was formerly home to a bank, and the decor is a mix of old-fashioned bistro-style seating and the long, classic-looking bar. The menu changes daily, based on the ingredients the team can get from the local farmers, growers and fishermen they work closely with, and is creatively crafted (and plated). The drinks list is as expertly-curated as the food. Everyone and their dog raves about the sourdough and butter that you are presented with as soon as you sit down, and the in-house bakery also means sweet treats abound. 

PHOTO: The Palmerston (Instagram)

Tapa

I have been to this restaurant so many times I can’t even count. It’s not your usual tapas place; the food is the chefs’ innovative, modern take on classic tapas, and you’ll want to get everything from the menu. The atmosphere is moody and romantic, with fairy lights and candles, and the wine, cava and sherry list is to die for, featuring only products from Spanish vineyards. Whether you’re going for a late lunch of sangria and a cured meat and cheese sharing platter, or an evening with friends or a date sharing food and sipping delicious wine, you can’t go wrong with Tapa. 

PHOTO: Tapa (website)

Wings

Does what it says on the tin. If you like crispy chicken wings, this is the greatest place you’ll ever visit. There are almost 100 house-made seasoning blends and sauces to coat your wings in, the tables are all individually decorated based on a different geeky franchise or pop culture theme, and there’s a bunch of games consoles downstairs. This hidden gem/Edinburgh institution is so much fun. 

PHOTO: Wings (Facebook)

Disclaimer - this guide is about a quarter of the length I could have made it. I live in the wonderful city of Edinburgh, so if you want any extra/more specific recommendations, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @britishbeergirl 

Cover photo: Adam Wilson | Unsplash

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