Over the years, the streets, shops, restaurants and buildings people walk through every day become taken for granted, their stories lost to time. But if you stop to take a closer look, especially in such historic destinations like the United Kingdom, you’re bound to rediscover the tales every brick and stone has to tell. In Edinburgh, Scotland, a pub is never just a pub.
Along the stretch between Jeffrey Street and the Holyrood Palace known as the Royal Mile, colloquially called the Canongate, sits a pub with its foundations dating back centuries called the Tolbooth Tavern. While today it stands as a bar and eatery filled with locals and travelers alike, stopping for a pint and a bite to eat, it has lived many different lives.
The Canongate Tolbooth was constructed in 1591 and served as a toll collection for travelers entering the city. It also served as a police court, council chamber and prison that held many who fought alongside Charles Edward Stuart, best known for his part in the 1745 uprising against the British throne. In the 16th century, Sir Lewis Bellenden, chief Justice to the Abbotts of Holyrood, allegedly exorcised a suspected warlock there. The famous Oliver Cromwell detained Scottish enemies within the Tolbooth’s bounds in the mid-1600s and almost 10 years later, the building’s cells housed Covenanters, devout inmates who protested the king as the Head of the Church. Today, the Canongate Tolbooth operates as a museum telling “the people’s story,” holding the chronicles of everyday life in Edinburgh.
The Tolbooth Tavern, a part of the Canongate Tolbooth structure, was established in 1820, when it was incorporated into the Canongate, making it one of the oldest constructs along the Royal Mile from the Early Modern Period. In 1884, the recognizable clock tower was added, standing out from the masses with the symbol of King David I and Holyrood emblazoned on is façade. Stop by for a drink and to satiate your appetite. Sample the traditional Scottish dish of haggis as you imbibe in a local brew. Keep your eyes and ears open when you visit, as it’s been said spirits other than beer and cocktails haunt the premises.
After exploring the Tolbooth Tavern and Canongate Tolbooth Museum, step into the rest of the Royal Mile, the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. At the head of the street lies Edinburgh Castle, an iconic silhouette and popular visitors’ landmark. Along the north side sits Gladstone’s Land where you can find the Lawnmarket. Other historic buildings like John Knox House, Mary King’s Close and Tweedale Court, among many others, lay waiting for you to explore and discover their stories.