Last week, whilst scoping the historic city of Edinburgh out for scottydog communications, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and embark on one of Nicholson’s ale trails – all in the name of client research of course! We didn’t even need to rely on our navigation skills to sniff out our route as Nicholson’s has an extremely useful app and ale trail library that we used during our visit so we couldn’t go wrong!
If you’ve never heard or visited a Nicholson’s before, every single one of its pubs are housed in historical buildings which, if you do embark on one of the tours, will take you on a journey through the city’s history. Most will either be a local landmark or be in the vicinity of one, and the interior décor will educate you in that particular site’s historical importance to the area.
Our first stop was, ironically enough, The Last Drop. Located in Grassmarket Edinburgh, The Last Drop does not reference the final sip of your drink, but is actually a rather macabre reference to the last hanging in Grassmarket. We were lucky enough not to encounter the spirit of a small girl in medieval clothes that is said to haunt the bar area, but we did enjoy a refreshing glass of Edinburgh gin & tonic – just the thing to start our ale trail off!
We then moved onto Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar where we found our very own scotty dog! For those that don’t know the legend, Bobby was a Skye Terrier who worked alongside his master as a night watchman (no, we’re not delving into Game of Thrones territory!). When his master died, Bobby refused to leave the site of his grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby kept watch over his master’s grave for 14 years, earning him a place in Edinburgh’s heart, and led to Baroness Burdett-Coutts erecting a statue of Bobby opposite the graveyard.
Despite the brooding Scottish weather, we soldiered on and entered Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. Located in The Royal Mile of Edinburgh, the tavern is named after one of the inspirations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. William Brodie, aka Deacon Brodie, was a well-respected citizen and member of the town council by daytime, but at night, he walked a darker path, consorting with lowlife, gambling and drinking – all past times that were severely looked down upon in the late 1700’s – we’re not sure what they would have thought of an ale-trail!
On to another ghoulish encounter, we headed over to The Mitre Bar, situated a few minutes down The Royal Mile. The site was once owned by the Bishop of St Andrews, and it is the bishop’s headgear, the Mitre, from which the bar now takes its name. Legend has it that the throne belonging to the Bishop of St Andrews is buried underneath the bar area, with some saying his spirit still walks the pub.
The last stop, and last drop on our ale trail led us to The Kenilworth. This pub is a prime example, of what makes each Nicholson’s pubs unique, from its quaint floral display outside, to the intricate mouldings adorning the ceiling. Named after a novel by Sir Walter Scott, the area it sits within was built for the artisans of the New Town and is now home to a number of bars and pubs.
I haven’t mentioned too much about the ales, especially considering that this was an Ale Trail! Our work within the hospitality sector means that we often work with a lot of new bars, pubs and restaurants that are opening, but we very rarely get to experience them as a customer from the other side! One of the great things about Nicholson’s is that they have nine other trails to follow, with one on our very own doorstep here in Birmingham, so we’ll have to have another excursion out to try out their ale selection!