Eight of Scotland’s oldest pubs – but which has the strongest claim?


Having a pint with friends down the pub has been something Scots have been doing for centuries.

The local pub can be found at the heart of many a Scottish community, so it’ll come as no surprise that many have been around for a long, long time.

But which are the country’s oldest? Many of them have histories which are often disputed – due to either a lack of proof or even newer additions adding to the original site (Trigger’s Broom anyone?) – but can any rightfully claim the title?

Here are some of the strongest contenders you’ll find from around Scotland.

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The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh

(Said to date back to the 1360s)

Said to be the oldest pub in Scotland, King James VI and his mother Mary Queen of Scots once propped up the bar.
Said to be the oldest pub in Scotland, King James VI and his mother Mary Queen of Scots once propped up the bar.

Widely considered to be the strongest contender for the oldest in the country, there is said to have been a drinking establishment here – in one form or another – since around the 1360s.

Though the current building is only 300 or so years old, the bar here has been propped up by no less than two queens spanning across four centuries, the first, Mary Queen of Scots, and the second, Queen Elizabeth II.

It’s now famous for its charming interior, pub grub and hugely popular Victorian skittles lane.

The Drovers Inn, Argyll

(Open 1705)

One of Scotland’s most famous pubs, The Drovers Inn lies on the northern shore of Loch Lomond.

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First opened in the early 18th century, it was previously used by the Highland drovers who used to drive their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets.

The White Hart, Edinburgh

(Said to date back to 1516)

White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh
White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh

Claiming to be the oldest pub in Edinburgh, the White Hart has parts of its building that are said to date back to 1516, with the modern pub said to have been built in 1740.

Also one of the most haunted in the capital, you’ll find plenty of spirits in this bar.

The White Hart’s name dates all the way back to an incident in 1128 when King David I is said to have encountered a white stag while hunting in what is now Holyrood Park.

Ma Cameron’s, Aberdeen

(The snug bar is said to date back 300 years)

Ma Cameron’s in Aberdeen is considered to be the oldest bar in Aberdeen.

The former coaching inn in Aberdeen, and in particular the snug bar at the front of the building, is said to be over 300 years old.

Named for its now-famous matron, the eponymous Ma Cameron, the pub is also said to be one of the most haunted in Scotland.

The Clachan Inn, Drymen

(Dates back to 1734)

The Clachan Inn
The Clachan Inn

Located close to Loch Lomond at Drymen, The Clachan Inn claims to have the longest-running license in the UK, dating back to 1734.

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A favorite with walkers on the West Highland Way, it even has links to Rob Roy MacGregor – with one of his sisters said to be the inn’s first licensee.

Coylet Inn, Dunoon

(Open in the 1650s)

Located on the shores of Loch Eck, this popular inn dates back to the 1650s when it was used as a coaching inn.

The inn is said to be one of the most haunted in Scotland and is haunted by the ghost of a young child, known as the Blue Boy, who is said to have drowned in the loch with his spirit supposedly haunting Bedroom 4 at the inn.

The Globe Inn, Dumfries

(Established in 1610)

The Globe Inn in Dumfries
The Globe Inn in Dumfries

Everything about this warm and welcoming pub hints at its age, lying just off Dumfries’ High Street down a cobbled close this drinking establishment dates back to around 1610 and was said to be Robert Burns’ “favourite Howff”.

Now sporting his portrait outside the bar, it features a cozy bar, top restaurant and even a museum.

The Scotia Bar, Glasgow

(Open 1792)

The Scotia bar on Stockwell Street is one of the oldest pubs in the city.
The Scotia bar on Stockwell Street is one of the oldest pubs in the city.

Considered to be one of the oldest pubs in Glasgow, the Scotia has been around in some form since the 1790s.

It competes with The Saracen’s Head (some version of which has existed on the Gallowgate since 1755), Sloans (1797) and the now sadly lost Old College Bar on the High Street for the title of the city’s oldest.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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