Discover the Scotia Bar
“This isnae jist a pub. Issa a way of life.”
With a lineage dating back to its establishment in 1792, the cherished Scotia Bar on Stockwell Street lays claim to the title: Glasgow's oldest pub. Recently honoured as one of Britain's best 100 bars, The Scotia is clearly more than a pub; it is considered the beating heart of Glasgow itself. An institution synonymous with radical politics, music, poetry, art, all with a dash of Glaswegian humour.
As patrons enter the tavern, they step into a realm where among others artists such as Billy Connolly, and Right Down The Line singer Gerry Rafferty, have come to drink before them. The walls ring with the echoes of a hundred excitable tales, from horse-involved wedding receptions to pie-eating competitions, as regulars proudly convey to new drinkers the history and wisdom of their charming old pub.
“It can be a mad house. It’s a weird place, it’s always been a place for outcasts, for musicians, for creative people, writers, poets, musicians.”
Over the years The Scotia Bar has placed itself on the Glaswegian stage as a place where between sips, minds expand amidst discussions of music, poetry, and politics. Throughout the year the pub runs music, poetry, and short-story competitions. Stan Laurel, William Mcllvaney, Woody Guthrie, James Kelman, and Jimmy Reid are just a few of the illustrious names that have graced its tables and added to the locals’ free-flowing tales.
The Origins of The Scotia Bar
“And, I walked into The Scotia, and what I loved most about it, is it was exactly the same as it’s always been, you know what I mean? … You walk around and see a lot of changes, but when you come in here, it’s exactly the same.”
Positioned close to the River Clyde, The Scotia Bar was originally opened in the late 18th century as a watering hole for passing sailors and the merchant navy.
“Occasionally returning to the UK with a few leftover foreign currency notes in our pockets… and we used to give them to the barman to clip up above the bar.”
As a testament to the days when it was frequented predominantly by seamen on shore-leave, The Scotia still has foreign banknotes fastened above the bar, and it has become part of the pub's identity and tradition to leave them.
“I cannot remember which were mine, perhaps a few banknotes of expired currencies, from Argentina, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan…”
Inside The Scotia Bar
Even though times have changed The Scotia remains a relic of the past, where stepping inside the oldest pub in Glasgow feels like stepping onto an old ship. This can be attributed to its low ceilings, worn wooden beams, faded photographs, snugs, brass taps, vintage memorabilia, and outdated brass match-strikers adorning the front of the L-shaped bar. But it's also this old-fashioned decor that makes for an especially cosy pub, especially when the weather is at its worst.
As Glasgow evolves around it, The Scotia Bar remains a steadfast guardian of tradition. Its enduring legacy is a testament to the resilience of places that become more than just businesses; they become integral parts of a community's identity. In a city that pulsates with energy, The Scotia Bar is a quiet anchor, linking the traditions of the oldest pub in Scotland with the ever-changing present.
The Scotia Bar: For the Music Lovers
Beyond its cosy corners, historical traditions, and liquid offerings, The Scotia Bar has always been a hip and happening place for musicians and music lovers.
“The best thing ah saw was the first time Billy Connolly brought Gerry Rafferty. The three of us were in the back room. Gerry sang Paperback Writer and the hair on the back of ma neck stood up.”
Since the 60s and 70s live music performances from the likes of John Martyn, The Dubliners, Tom Paxton, and The Incredible String Band have occurred at The Scotia. Each time the artists would drop in for spontaneous sessions and play for free.
With the promise of live jams several times a week the atmosphere bursts with camaraderie and celebration. Therefore, The Scotia Bar is not just a pub; it's a stage for local talent and a gathering place for those seeking the soul-stirring power of live performance.
‘Regular Regulars’: The People of The Scotia
“As a female, it's never threatening here at all… even when there's lots of people in here who are completely p*ssed.”
The true soul of The Scotia Bar lies in its patrons — a diverse tapestry of regulars, ‘regular regulars’, and wandering tourists. It is a safe haven of tolerance where everyone is welcome, protected, and accepted for who they are.
Everyone is also invited to listen to a tale or two from the ‘regular regulars’ as the L-shaped bar becomes a storyteller's podium. Historic tales of the city – with The Scotia at the heart of most – are shared over a pint or a dram, bringing the past into the present. In these exchanges, friendships are forged, and the spirit of The Scotia Bar lives on.
“The Scotia is a fascinating kaleidoscope of influences… People here are interested in issues of poverty, human rights, and racism. There's a love of culture and a great spirit of fun.”
It's this willingness to accept a diverse social mix that has also been the key to The Scotia’s enduring success. Alongside the attention to detail from the staff of course! The workers here will know everyone by name, who will be arriving when, to pour the local’s drink of choice before being asked, and who wants a straw in their short and ice in their wine.
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