Sheep Heid Inn

Edinburgh, Scotland

The Sheep Heid Inn is one of Edinburgh's oldest pubs complete with one particularly unusual feature.

Sheep Heid Inn 1
- Byronv2

Exploring the Sheep Heid Inn

In Edinburgh there are three establishments that claim to be the oldest pubs in the capital city, but one of these gems shines brighter than the rest: the Sheep Heid Inn. Situated in Duddingston village, near Holyrood Palace, this historic inn has been open since 1360.

Over the years the inn has been frequented by literary greats, rebels like Bonnie Prince Charles and his army, and even royalty. Robert Louis Stevenson, the acclaimed novelist born in Edinburgh, and Robert Burns, Scotland's beloved poet, were known to visit the inn for a pint and a bite. In recent years, Queen Elizabeth II surprised regulars when she spontaneously popped in for lunch in 2016.

Sheep Heid Inn 1
- @andrewghayes

What is the Sheep Heid Inn’s Unique Feature?

The inn also features one particularly unusual commodity that makes it stand out from other establishments in the area; its old-fashioned bowling alley dating back to 1880. Skittles Lane as it is referred to is believed to be the last of its kind in Scotland and there are even accounts of King James VI and his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, engaging in games of skittles in the courtyard.

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- mrpbps

Over the years the feature has attracted prestigious groups like the Royal Company of Archers and the City Sheriffs but today anyone can enjoy a round of skittles either informally or by booking the alley for a private session.

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- Tom Parnell

Why is it Named the Sheep Heid Inn?

There are several theories as to the origin of the Sheep Heid Inn's name. Here are two of them:

Theory One

One theory traces it back to the mediaeval and early modern practice of rearing sheep in Holyrood Park, adjacent to Duddingston, where they were slaughtered before being taken to the Fleshmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town.

The locals of Duddingston gained renown for their culinary prowess in crafting dishes from sheep heads, notably sheep heid broth ("powsowdie") and singed sheep heid. This culinary tradition was so ingrained that until the late 19th century, sheep skulls were even repurposed as cobbles for village pathways.

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- Andrew Bowden

Theory Two

Alternatively, another theory stems from a royal gift given to the inn in 1580 by King James VI of Scotland. King James VI presented an ornate ram's head snuff box to the landlord as a token of gratitude. The unusual gift remained onsite for three centuries before being sold at auction to the Earl of Rosebery, though a 19th-century replica was later affixed to the pub's bar.

Given its royal connection and the pub's location as a favoured stop between royal residences, this tale offers a compelling explanation for the inn's name.

Sheep Heid Inn
- Edinburgh Blog

Visiting the Sheep Heid Inn

The Sheep Heid Inn is easily accessible for any occasion. Ample car parking facilities cater to those driving, while Edinburgh's central location ensures accessibility via major train stations such as Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket. For travellers by road, numerous road links and local bus services connect the city to Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Recognised for its charm and hospitality, The Sheep Heid Inn was honoured with the prestigious title of 'Scottish Pub of the Year' in 2013.

Sheep Heid Inn
- Byronv2

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- Bob Shand

Sheep Heid Inn Questions