The Sheep Heid Pub - History and Facts | History Hit

The Sheep Heid Pub

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdon

Celeste Neill

28 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About The Sheep Heid Pub

The Sheep Heid is the oldest surviving public house in Scotland and one of the oldest restaurants in the world. Set in the village district of Duddingston in Edinburgh, it dates to 1360 when King James VI and his mother Mary Queen of Scots are said to have been patrons.

History of The Sheep Heid

The local village is located in what is now the city centre, near the royal residence of Holyrood Palace. The pub’s name may be taken from the village once being a well known location for the rearing and slaughter of sheep in medieval times, with local chefs often using the leftover sheep heads, or ‘heids’ as they are known in Scotland, to make a soup called a ‘powsodie’. King James VI of Scotland was a frequent visitor to the pub, as was his mother Mary Queen of Scots, and so fond was he of the venue that in 1580 he presented a gift to the landlord of a snuff box featuring a ram’s head, which may also have inspired the pub’s name.

Other famous patrons during the pub’s history have included the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, the poet Robert Burns, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, who often visited when his army was encamped for many weeks at Duddingston prior to the Battle of Prestonpans. In 2016, Queen Elizabeth II made a surprise visit for lunch after a day spent at a local racetrack.

The Sheep Heid today

The pub is home to Scotland’s oldest surviving bowling alley, also known as playing ‘skittles’, which was built in 1880 and the alley is still in use today and guests can rent an authentic set of nineteenth century skittles. In 2013 the pub won ‘Scottish Pub of the Year’ and guests today can enjoy a pint in the pub garden whilst dining on traditional hearty pub fare.

While you’re in the area, make sure you have a wander around the scenic Holyrood park and take a look at the beautiful Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Getting to The Sheep Heid

From Prince’s Street, and therefore from the city’s train station Edinburgh Waverley, the pub is a scenic 50 minute walk through Edinburgh’s variously Gothic and Georgian streets. A number of buses which take around half an hour will take you to Duddingston Mills, after which it’s a 15 minute walk. Alternatively, it’s a 15 minute drive via London Rd and the A1.

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