Edinburgh has over 700 pubs that cater for all tastes and budgets and whilst I can wine and dine in the best of them, sometimes you just want a decent and affordable pint in a pub with no airs and graces.
Some of the pubs in the lower echelons take this to a whole new level with Hi-Viz jackets, baseball caps, football tops and jogging pants being part and parcel of the expected attire for patrons. These pubs can usually be found near a betting shop, a couple of takeaways and a newsagent to take care of the needs of their customers.
You can expect to see at least one mobility scooter parked outside adorned with Nationalist stickers to illustrate the Scottishness of the user and their Government sponsored drinking pastime, with a collection of smokers around it passing the time of day in between placing bets and supping pints.
So, having set the scene to what you can expect, here are my 5 pubs that I have tried and tested and are not for the faint hearted!
The Grey Horse
Where: 200 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 5DT
When: 11:00 – 23:00 (00:00 Friday and Saturday, 10:30pm Sunday)
Ground Zero as it’s affectionately known as was established in 1893. This is a popular pub down from the Commonwealth Pool that serves those that live nearby in Craigmillar, which has no pubs and is one of the poorest and roughest areas in Edinburgh.
It gets its nickname from the terrorist attacks in New York on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 which obliterated the Twin Towers and caused absolute carnage. Carnage is a word that aptly describes scenes here from time to time and bouncers are hired to man the doors on Ladies Day at Musselburgh Races a few miles away.
Anyone that isn’t a regular is automatically assumed to be an undercover copper and I was once warmly greeted by someone asking if I wanted some cocaine.
Karaoke nights are usually lively affairs every Saturday night with the Police often attending to assist the doormen with the melees.
Tennants and Stella is the drink of choice here. There is a kebab shop next door, a Chinese takeaway and an Indian takeaway either side of the pub that are popular and are open during pub hours.
Where: 77 Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9JG
When: 09:00 – 23:00 (00:00 Saturday)
The Grapes is probably the cheapest pub in Edinburgh that doesn’t belong to the Wetherspoons chain and is legendary as being the roughest pub in the city centre.
Their claim to fame is barring a lottery winner from nearby Liberton. He was already barred from the Grapes of Wrath and they wouldn’t make any exceptions after he won the lottery. Once you’re barred here, you’re barred for life!
You will always find at least one mobility scooter parked outside here with a collection of individuals who have given up on life smoking, spitting phlegm and blethering around it. It is surprisingly quite friendly and isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests.
My drink of choice here is McEwan’s 80/- and you can expect a perfect, creamy pint with change from £3.
You can expect a low maintenance décor with a lino floor, fluorescent tubes, TV, jukebox, cheap beer and a bit of craic.
There are plenty of takeaways, a taxi rank and a bus stop close by for the necessities once you’ve filled your boots here.
Where: 1 West Preston Street, Edinburgh EH8 9PX
When: 11:00 – 00:00 (01:00 Friday and Saturday)
Drouthy’s is the cheapest pub of all around this part of Edinburgh with a pint of McEwan’s 80/- coming in at about £2.60 a pint. It’s a popular local boozer and is what you would call an old man’s pub during the day, although it turns in to a noisy and rough menagerie with loud music blaring at night and youngsters knocking the shots back with abandon.
You can expect comfy seats and booths with cushions, wooden floors, Sky Sports and free pies from the local butchers at half time on a Saturday when the football is on. The pies are amazing and so is the beer. I am a man of simple tastes!
I quite like the pub during the day and it is dog friendly, so you will find dogs with their owners having a pint and blethering away. The staff are friendly, the toilets are clean and it’s a no-nonsense pub.
There is a chippy just around the corner on Causewayside and various takeaways on Clerk Street one block away to soak up all of that cheap ale. The staff will even call a taxi for you so you don’t have to bother trying to find one.
Tam o Shanter
Where: 39 Great Junction Street, Leith EH6 5HX
When: 07:00 – 23:00 (08:00 – 00:00 Saturday and 11:00 – 00:00 Sunday)
The Tam o Shanter is worth a mention here as I found this pub by chance on a wander one Tuesday afternoon and it was like stepping in to the twilight zone.
This pub is dedicated to Ken Buchanan MBE (a famous boxer and local legend) and the walls are adorned with memorabilia dedicated to him. This is his local watering hole and he was proudly stood at the bar in his finest suit and waistcoat supping rum whilst the locals were all drunkenly singing and clapping like seals to Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ at 2.30pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
Another unique feature here is that this pub opens earlier during the week than it does on a weekend. The fact that there is a demand for drink at 7am on a Monday morning indicates that the clientele are early risers and can’t even wait for a Wetherspoons to open for their first pint of the day.
You can expect no frills here, a standard selection of draught beers including Tennants and McEwan’s 80/-, a jukebox, TV and a lively atmosphere during the day.
It’s not a pub I would frequent at night but it’s fine for a cheap and decent beer at less than £3 a pint during the day. There are dozens of takeaways around here, it’s on the main bus routes and getting a taxi wouldn’t be a problem.
Bunch O Roses
Where: 79 Restalrig Road South, Edinburgh EH7 6JD
When: 11:00 – 23:00 every day
The Bunch O Roses is a true local’s pub that acquired its name because a bunch of roses was placed in the window to indicate that the bosses from the nearby railway yard were in having a drink.
This was my local when I first arrived in Edinburgh as I was renting just around the corner for a few months.
It has been a pub since 1780 and is in the Restalrig / Craigentinny / Lochend area of the city. Not the best area but not the worst.
It’s fondly known as The Bunch O Radgies due to the clientele that is slightly unhinged but harmless.
A unique feature here is that they host pigeon auctions each Monday night (or they did when I was drinking there in 2014). You can buy pigeons and watch them take test drives around the pub whilst you’re having a pint. Where else can you do that?
It’s a friendly pub run by a great landlord who knows how to run a good pub. I have never seen any trouble here, although it can get a bit lively when the locals get tanked up and start chanting and throwing their limbs around to the jukebox.
You can expect a clean and basic pub with a pool table, jukebox, TV and the usual selection of draught beers with plenty of seating areas. Toasties were £1 at that time and it’s about £3 a pint.
There are a few corner shops nearby although takeaways are about 10 mins walk away. You can get food delivered though and you can eat in the pub. The staff will call a taxi for you if you need one.
These are my 5 favourite dives. You can read my 5 favourite pubs that I can recommend to anyone here