Author Ian Rankin fears pub life in Edinburgh may have changed forever

The famous Edinburgh author has given his thoughts on the pub scene in the city.

Published 19th Aug 2020
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

Author Ian Rankin revealed he fears all the fun has been taken out of going to the pub - as his favourite “small old-fashioned bars” are all closed.

These include the Oxford Bar, which features in many of his Rebus series, remains closed despite restrictions being eased in Scotland.

To celebrate turning 60, the author enjoyed a pint outside of the famous Edinburgh bar, where the main character in his books, Detective John Rebus often drinks but, he described it as a 'pretty grim' experience.

'I don't know how they'll get around it if they ever do get round it'

Speaking during an Edinburgh International Book Festival interview, Ian Rankin revealed that ever since he was a teenager, going to the pub has been one of the great joys of his life - but he now fears the fun has gone from it due to distancing restrictions that he fears will be impossible to enforce in pubs such as the Oxford Bar

He said: "It was sore. It still is sore, because the Oxford Bar is still closed. You can't socially distance there. It is tiny. I don't know how they'll get around it if they ever do get round it.

"A lot of my favourite bars in Edinburgh are small, old-fashioned bars. The vast majority of them are still closed.

"Even if you do go to a pub it's just not the same now. You have to book a table, you've got a timed slot, you can't stand at the bar, there's no craic anymore, there's no milling about of lots of people who are going to tell you a joke or give yo pieces of news or information.

"I'm really missing pubs. Ever since I've been a teenager my hobby has been going to the pub. My 60th birthday was right in the middle of lockdown. I picked up a glass and a can of beer.

"My one hour of exercise that day was walking to the Oxford Bar, pouring a glass of beer outside the locked bar, drinking it and walking back again.

"I thought that it would keep more than Covid to keep me away from the Oxford Bar on my 60th birthday. But it was pretty grim."

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Ian Rankin was being interviewed by writer and broadcaster Ruth Wishart ahead of the publication of the new Rebus novel, A Song for the Dark Times, in October.

The event was held a pop-up TV studio created by the book festival in Edinburgh city centre for its programme of online events, which can be watched round the world.

The new novel does not feature the Oxford Bar at all as Rankin decided to take Rebus out of his comfort zone.

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