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8 of the oldest pubs in Scotland - including The White Hart and Clachan Inn

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

Published: March 15, 2023

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 bars claim to be the oldest pubs in Scotland. 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 Scotland) 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.

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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.

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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. 

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.

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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.

The Scotia Bar

(112 Stockwell St, Glasgow G1 4LW)

oldest pubs in Scotland

Picture: Scotia Bar Facebook

The Scotia Bar is immersed in history, as not only is it one of the oldest bars in the city, it’s situated on one of the four original streets in Glasgow.

It was established in 1792 when the Clyde was a thriving waterway, close to the final ferry stage on the river. The bar, which retains many original interior features, remains a popular destination for a nightcap after a long day’s work.

The Scotia is believed to be haunted by spirits from every era of its past. Nonetheless, it remains popular with tourists, musicians and music lovers alike.

The Drovers Inn

(North Loch Lomond, Inverarnan G83 7DX)

Haunted pubs Scotland

The Drovers Inn. Picture: Geograph

Opened in 1705, the Drovers Inn on the northern road past Loch Lomond, remains almost exactly as it did when it was a popular stop-off for weary farmers leading their cattle on the way to market.

The cosy inn is now popular with walkers, and is a common stop along the West Highland Way. 

Coylet Inn, Dunoon

(A815, Coylet, Dunoon PA23 8SG)

This popular inn dates back to the 1650s, when it was a coaching inn.

Located on the shores of Loch Eck, as with most old inns, this one is said to be haunted. Here it's the ghost of the blue boy, which is said to have drowned in the loch.

The Globe Inn, Dumfries

oldest pubs Scotland

Picture: The Globe Inn

Established in 1610, this stylish and historic pub was often frequented by Robert Burns. 

The cosy and welcoming inn now has a bar, restaurant and small museum upstairs, which includes artefacts and original items from Burns' time including etchings that the famous poet wrote onto the windows in his room.

Gone but not forgotten...

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 was thought to 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 were believed to date back to 1515, though it was 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.

The Old College Bar was demolished on June 16 2021 following a fire. Commenting on the loss of the famous pub, Norry Wilson who runs popular online history forum Lost Glasgow, said: “It is a big loss to that wee bit of community on the High Street, because it was the only pub of its kind on that end with generations of locals.

"Even folk that had long ago moved away would still head back in and head for the College Bar, because it was where they came as teenagers or where their mums and dads had drunk.”

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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