In one of Edinburgh’s most historic venues, the Tolbooth Tavern is an often missed Royal Mile treasure.
The burghs of Canongate and Edinburgh were formerly two separate administrative regions. The Tolbooth Tavern, easily spotted on the Royal Mile with its beautiful stone facade and clock hanging out above the street, was built in 1591 as the primary council building of Canongate. Of course, today, Canongate has been subsumed by the city of Edinburgh, and a pub has been in place in this building since the 1820s. The iconic architecture is a favourite for tourists and photographers.
With a tiny door and two small windows, it appears that the Tolbooth is not a very big tavern. Appearances are deceiving, as the interior is quite roomy with a main bar and seating area in the front, as well as an upper level of tables in the back. Walls are decorated with antique, old fashioned curtains and various bric-a-brac. The area in the back is popular with groups; the whisky store across the street hosts a monthly whisky tasting.
Many of the same characters can be found in here on any given evening; the friendly bartenders welcome guests, regulars or not. The bar can be somewhat quiet, mostly due to its location so far down the Royal Mile. It should be mentioned, though, that the building is rumoured to be haunted and a resident ghost is reported to make an occasional appearance.
A menu of typical pub grub, including burgers, fish and chips, etc. is available from noon until about 7pm.
The bar has a number of beers on draught, including two real ales: Deuchars IPA and Caledonian 80 (£2.95 a pint). A few bottles of wine and the typical selection of spirits rounds out the selection. Small cups of tea are available for £1.
The Last Word
Enjoy the quiet calm in the Tolbooth Tavern and soak up the history that fills this place – just maybe you’ll have a chance to meet the neighbourhood ghost.