The Sheep Heid Inn is a delightful, traditional Edinburgh pub located near the foot of Arthur’s Seat in the sleepy little suburb of Duddingston. Records confirm that there has been a public house at the site since 1360, making it arguably the oldest pub in Scotland!
There is some debate regarding the origins of the pub’s name. One possibility is that in medieval times, the sheep that grazed in Holyrood Park used to be taken to Duddingston (then a separate village) to be slaughtered. The choice cuts were then transported to the Fleshmarket in Edinburgh’s Old Town, but the less popular heids ("heads") were left with the locals, who would make such tempting delicacies as powsowdie (sheep’s head soup).
The Sheep Heid Inn's warm and welcoming space — Photo courtesy of The Sheep Heid Inn
An alternative (and rather more romantic) possibility is that the name derives from an ornate snuff box with the head of a ram on its lid that was given to the proprietor of the pub in 1580 by King James VI of Scotland. It's claimed that he (and his mother, the tragic Mary Queen of Scots) used to patronize the pub regularly and enjoyed a game of skittles in the yard.
James and Mary may not have been the only royals to visit this venerable tavern. Jacobite soldiers were billeted in Duddingston Village for a whole month before the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. Perhaps Bonnie Prince Charlie also enjoyed a tankard of ale and a game of skittles. Patrons can still enjoy a game of skittles here, but in a lovingly restored Victorian skittle alley – the oldest of its kind in Scotland.
The Sheep Heid was recently refurbished, but every effort was made to retain its traditional village pub ambience. Polished wooden floors and panels give way to warm olive green and slate grey walls embellished with oil paintings and brass framed mirrors. Glassware twinkles invitingly in the light from a large chandelier, and in winter, the bar basks in the cozy glow of a roaring fire.
In warmer weather, the beer garden is a delightful place to enjoy a drink and a snack. Wrought iron tables and wicker arm chairs are surrounded by hanging baskets and large pots rich with colorful plants. Every summer, they host a beer festival and hold regular live music events in this wonderfully relaxing outdoor space.
At The Sheep Heid Inn, there is a strong commitment to stocking high-quality cask ales, but you'll also find that the wine list is better than average. They recently launched Grapevine, a wine club offering discounts and special offers for members.
Mercifully, there are no sheeps' heids on the menu. Instead, the menu comprises a selection of pub classics and some rather delightful surprises. They do a wonderful Sunday Roast, but book ahead as it is very popular!