Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities I’ve ever traveled to. Just walking around, you can feel the history all around you. There’s just something about sitting in a pub that’s older than the United States by almost 200 years. When my friend David told me he would be speaking at a design conference there this summer, I decided to write a small guide.
Most of my blog posts have just been overall recaps of my visits to Edinburgh. In this post I’ll dive into 5 of my favorite spots in Old Town Edinburgh, where I spent most of my time, to grab a drink and some delicious food.
The White Hart Inn
Nestled in along Grassmarket Square, The White Hart Inn is small but full of character and history. It’s (probably) Edinburgh’s oldest pub, dating back to 1516 and it’s also said to be Edinburgh’s most haunted pub.
Notorious serial killers William Burke and William Hare reportedly used the pub as a place to find their victims. After killing them, they’d sell the bodies to Doctor Robert Knox. Bodies for dissection in the 1800s were in low supply and with the University of Edinburgh nearby, one could make a fortune if you had bodies to sell. More on the murders here.
But beyond the history, there’s a reason why I love the The White Hart Inn so much: their mac and cheese. Made with Orkney cheddar, it’s creamy while not being too rich and beyond that, it’s just a simple dish but it’s my favorite and must have every time I visit Edinburgh.
There’s also a wide selection of spirits, and a number of scotch whisky flights to choose from. I may have tricked my mom into trying some Islay whisky, after she’d been sipping on whisky from Jura, which is somewhat sweet and not very harsh. Islay is notorious for it’s smoky, peaty whisky (which honestly makes me choke and breathe fire. It’s not my favorite.) My mother was not pleased when she took that sip.
All of the dishes I’ve had at the White Hart Inn have been good. There was even a weekend breakfast when I was there in 2015 but I’m not sure if that was due to the Rugby World Cup that was on at the time. It continues to be my favorite stop for some whisky and a bite to eat in Edinburgh.
Arcade Bar, Haggis & Whisky House
My brother, who lived in Edinburgh for a year, recommended we check out this Whisky & Haggis House for dinner one evening. It has a more upscale and new feeling, but old collides with the new as the old brick walls add to ambiance of the interior.
They have over a 100 whiskies available but if you’re feeling too overwhelmed to possibly choose something from that list, they have a whisky of the month that you can order.
Being in Scotland, and having tried haggis before, my brother and I both ordered a haggis dish. I ordered Robert Burn’s Famous Haggis with mashed turnip, potatoes and haggis, which came out beautifully presented on the plate in 3 precise layers. I also added whisky sauce to mine (and you can even add bacon.) It was honestly just a bit too much food for me but it was delicious & the best haggis I’ve tried in Scotland.
According to their website, they also serve breakfast which I’m very disappointed I didn’t know. I would have definitely gone back for that.
Deacon’s House Cafe
Nestled back in Brodie’s Close is the Deacon’s House Cafe. The ground floor of the cafe was originally Deacon (William) Brodie’s workshop. William Brodie was a tradesman who made cabinets and installed and repaired locks. He used his job to scope out security and habits of his clients. He would then make copies of keys using wax impressions and “break” into the homes to steal money. Deacon Brodie’s double life actually inspired the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The ceiling in the kitchen dates back to 1420, and that part of the building was a brewhouse for an abbey which once occupied the site.
The Cafe is extremely cozy and has a very warm vibe. The staff was very nice. You order up at the register and they bring you your food. They had an assortment of items you’d find in a normal cafe like bagels and muffins, but also full breakfast.
I kind of have a thing for a full Scottish breakfast and the closest item on the menu is called the Full Deacon: haggis-pork sausage, bacon (but not like what the USA has, even better), eggs and baked beans. Baked beans with breakfast: ah-mazing.
If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat while in Edinburgh, the Piemaker is the perfect spot. Located on Southbridge, near Cow gate bridge, it’s a small shop, but it’s full of delicious savoury pies. The Steak & Ale pub special was my & Ryan’s favorite. Served up hot, it’s the perfect snack to warm you right up on a gloomy day…or anytime really. Ryan and I returned to this spot a few times on our trip.
It’s also cheap in addition to quick, everything on the menu is under £3. If you’re not a meat-eater, fear not, they also have vegan and vegetarian items on the menu.
The Tolbooth Tavern is at the far end of the Royal Mile, away from the Castle and near Holyrood House. The building was constructed in 1591 and was the courthouse, jail and meeting place of the town council.
While we only popped in for drinks, reviews online are favorable for the food. We stopped in after walking around the Royal Mile, in and out of the different closes, and were cold as it had just started to drizzle. The pub has a great ambiance, like the White Hart Inn, it feels old and has retained it’s character. We warmed right up with our drinks. It’s also another reportedly haunted pub. According to their website, a suspected warlock was exercised in the building and was so terrorized by the experience that he died of fright.
While researching the histories of these places and looking at a map of Edinburgh, I’ve marked many more spots I missed when I was there. There is so much to discover, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the city. There are still so many spots in New Town and the West End that I haven’t been to that are on my list.
Stay tuned for my next guide, attractions & spots to visit in Edinburgh the first time around.
erik esparzaJanuary 15, 2018 at 11:10 am
Sign me up I’m going. It was been years since I have been to the old country. Great post and great info. Thank you for the share!
Elizabeth Stamm WeitzJanuary 15, 2018 at 12:02 pm
Oh wow! Thank you for sharing some of the history to these places. It was interesting seeing the photo of the White Hart Inn and paring it with its haunted history…just didn’t seem to line up with the cute atmosphere. Great post!
NataJanuary 15, 2018 at 12:02 pm
I’m in! Would love to tour each of these places. You’ve given me some great idea and insider info. Thanks. BTW, I think I would start with the Piemaker!
Alyssa Carole BoumaJanuary 15, 2018 at 3:15 pm
this is such a great guide for where to eat in edinburgh! i’ve never been there but I’m dying to go! thanks for sharing.
Sarah Michele PhotographyJanuary 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm
Ive never been to Edinburgh, but it looks charming. Clearly, I need to go and try the great food, and visit the tourist areas.
MeghanJanuary 15, 2018 at 7:23 pm
I haven’t been to Edinburgh in years but this is a great guide for when I go back. And I love all the stories associated with such old places!
imagesbyediJanuary 15, 2018 at 9:04 pm
Love to travel! Great tour guide where to eat when I will visit Edinburgh! Thank you for the great tips! 🙂
Archana PinnapureddyJanuary 16, 2018 at 7:12 am
We haven’t been to the UK in years, but this post makes us want to visit Edinburgh. Thanks for the tips.
Brittany SlaughterJanuary 16, 2018 at 7:34 am
I love this post so much, thanks for sharing your favorite eateries in Edinburgh. Will have to check them out if I ever make it out there
Kristin DuncanJanuary 16, 2018 at 8:42 am
So many awesome places! I had the chance to visit Edinburgh a few years ago, but we did not stay as long as we should have. Great suggestions!
StephanieJanuary 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm
I have been twice but feel like there is so much more to explore!
Francisca GarretonJanuary 16, 2018 at 11:24 am
what a great traveling guide! I would love to get back to Europe sometime soon! So many great places to visit!
StephanieJanuary 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm
Almost too much to visit, I wish I could move there!
Shanna JohnsonJanuary 16, 2018 at 1:05 pm
So many awesome places to eat in edinburgh! Excellent review- I totally want to go to the haunted pub now!
Kimberly SmithJanuary 16, 2018 at 2:57 pm
I’d absolutely love to visit edinburgh and stuff my face with all of these foods! The tolbooth Tavern looks absolutely gorgeous, I love the look of the castle it has.
StephanieJanuary 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm
All of Old Town looks like that, it’s absolutely amazing.
Sarah Katherine DavisJanuary 16, 2018 at 3:22 pm
I have never been to Edinburgh, but it is absolutely on my bucket list! I can’t wait to try out some of these restaurants when I finally get to visit!
StephanieJanuary 16, 2018 at 5:18 pm
It is one of my favorite cities. Scotland in general is a lovely country!
KaytlinJanuary 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm
This makes me want to visit Edinburgh more than ever! What a great list of places to eat there, I totally love to eat in fun restaurants wherever we go so this is SUCH a fun list to have! Thanks for the awesome tips!
HafsahJanuary 16, 2018 at 8:50 pm
The architecture on the Tolbooth Tavern is incredible! I love old cities like Edinburgh… so much more history. This is an awesome post, I cant wait to see more! ♡
Erin WittJanuary 16, 2018 at 9:04 pm
I am such a foodie, so I absolutely loved reading this! Sounds like you are having a great time, and I will definitely keep this blog in mind when I visit Edinburgh!
Jennifer M OutlawJanuary 17, 2018 at 10:10 am
If I am ever in Edinburgh I am definitely going to the haunted pub! How cool is that? I love to go to places that have such an interesting story behind them. Thanks for the great tips.