If the Commonwealth Games had been in Edinburgh in 2014, there could easily have been a new sport: circuits of Cafe Royal (singles and mixed doubles). Such is the popularity of this city centre pub at the east end of Princes Street that if you’re lucky enough to have a seat, you can watch endless singletons and couples enter by either the side or the front door, do a complete lap of the pub while looking for a seat before leaving, disgruntled, by the door they entered. Groups often enter by one door, take one look and leave immediately. So, is it worth hanging around by the ornate bar in case a seat becomes available?
It’s taken a few years for me to come round to the idea of the Cask & Barrel on Broughton Street. On paper, I should love it: plenty real ale, a traditional pub feel, and a wide selection of crisps. However, pub-going is not done on paper, as is often said of football too. And this is where the key to my new-found warmth for the Cask & Barrel has come from: The Beautiful Game.
Regent Road is a mystery to me. Well, the road itself isn’t a mystery but the lack of attention it is given is. A beautifully wide street that starts from the east end of Princes Street, it stretches to Abbeyhill and is never busy, either with traffic or pedestrians. It’s a strange one as it offers some fine views of the city, particularly the Old Town and sights such as Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament and Arthur’s Seat. Myself and Mrs Bar Fly enjoy walks along here in all seasons to take in the beauty of the city and quite often our stroll ends with a pint and a hot chocolate in the Regent.
Advertised on its under-construction website as “The best real ale gay pub in Edinburgh”, its boast sounds impressive if it weren’t for the lack of competition it presumably has in this sector. However, gay or not, real ale or not, it is a decent boozer, and the only one I know of that has a pommel horse in the bar.
Abbeyhill is pretty much the opposite side of Edinburgh from Corstorphine and one of the city’s most famous attractions: Edinburgh Zoo. As a lover of animals, you can imagine my excitement a number of years ago when I noticed that a local pub may not have a zoo but it was advertising a “Safari Lounge” in neon writing. What animals would I be treated to?
In I went, heads turned and I was told the safari lounge was closed. Disappointingly, this was clearly a local, drinking man’s pub that had seen better days. Unsurprisingly, it closed down not too long after. Earlier this year, however, in a blaze of orange and brown, it reopened as The Safari Lounge. Surely I couldn’t be disappointed a second time?
Pubs near railway stations can be transient places. A revolving door of those killing time before the train home, a lonely businessmen tucking into a deserved pint or a stag or hen do slowly assembling for the weekend ahead. The Guildford Arms, near Edinburgh’s Waverley station, welcomes all of these groups and even boasts the revolving door. Thankfully, it also treats locals and visitors alike to a taste of a real, well-run Edinburgh pub that is one of my most visited bars in this great city.
Tucked slightly up a side street, opposite the luxury Balmoral Hotel at the east end of Princes Street, the Guildford is the epitome of a proper Scottish ale house. You can enter the main bar off the lane to the side of the pub or through the delightful, if slightly tight, rotating door at the front. Many a day I’ve stood at the island table nearest the door and marvelled at humanity’s inability to operate this revolutionary technology.