We take a look at some of the contenders for the crown of "Scotland's oldest pub".

Lying at the heart of many a Scottish community, the local pub was often a lodestone for communication and revelry and its no wonder that so many have survived throughout the centuries to remain a tangible links to the past.

With histories that are often disputed (due to a lack of proof and the sheer age of many of the buildings involved) many pubs claim to be “Scotland’s oldest” here are some of the strongest contenders.

The Sheep Heid Inn

(43-45 The Causeway, Edinburgh EH15 3QA)

Oldest pubs

Picture: TSPL

Considered to be the oldest pub in the capital (if not the country) there is said to have been a drinking establishment here – in one form or another since – since around 1360.

Though the present building is only a relatively spritely 300 or so years old, the pub is steeped in rich history with past famous patrons aplenty – including two queens with over four centuries between their reigns, Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II, the pub is famous for its warm welcome, its charming interior and of course the hugely popular Victorian skittles lane.

The White Hart

(34 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2JU)

Exterior of The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh, June 1983. Picture: TSPL

Another that seeks to the claim the title of “Edinburgh’s oldest pub”, is The White Hart which is said to date back to 1516 – well parts of it anyway – and while the remainder of the modern pub is said to have been built in 1740, there’s no doubting its rich heritage.

Now thought to be one of the most haunted pubs in the city – well you’d expect some spirits behind the bar that aren’t just for drinking after such a long existence – The White Hart’s name goes even further back to an incident in 1128 when King David I is said to have encountered a white stag while hunting in what is now Holyrood Park.

The Clachan Inn

(The Clachan Inn, Drymen Square, Drymen, G63 0BL)

Situated in the beautiful village of Drymen – found on both the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way – you’ll find what is said to be oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland dating back to 1734.

And while this is said to be the official date on the licence, the building is believed to have served drink even further back than that with it said that Rob Roy MacGregor’s sister was once the landlady.

The pub, the name of which means “a building of stone” – a big deal in older times when many buildings were mostly made of turf – even had its own still at one time and would have made its own uisge beatha. 

Old College Bar Glasgow

(219 High St, Glasgow G1 1PP)

Oldest pubs

Picture: Postldf\Wikimedia

Like Edinburgh, there are more than a few pubs that claim the title of “Glasgow’s oldest” but in the Old College Bar we have what may be the genuine article – a plaque above the door proclaims it as “Glasgow’s oldest public house. Ancient staging post and hostelry”.

Parts of the building are believed to date back to 1515, though it has been subject to more than a few extensions since that time.

Its name is a reminder the University of Glasgow was based in the High Street until 1870, before the institution moved to the West End.

A plan to demolish the well-loved bar, which is unlisted, and several adjoining buildings, was submitted to the council in 2014, however earlier this year it was saved when construction bosses agreed to alter their plans to retain the pub on the site.

Ma Cameron’s

(6-8 Little Belmont St, Aberdeen AB10 1JG)

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

Refreshingly, there seems to be little argument over the fact that Ma Cameron’s, a former coaching inn in Aberdeen, is the oldest in the city of Aberdeen.

Well again, with the addition that only parts of the bar truly date back to its origins, in this case the snug bar at the front of the building which is said to be over 300 years old.

Named for it’s now famous matron, the eponymous Ma Cameron, the pub is also said to be one of the most haunted in Scotland.

 

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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