Pub Crawl: Top 5 in Edinburgh and Glasgow

You picked your favourite pubs for the Survey, but how well did you choose? We sent two of our finest men out to find out – these are their harrowing true stories

Feature by Peter Simpson and Ben Donaldson | 02 Jan 2012


It's about 7pm on a Tuesday evening. We all have work on Wednesday, and two of our number are in at 9am. Yet here we are, hitting the pubs in the name of journalism. Owing to our circumstances, this is intended to be a strictly scientific endeavour. One pint per location, the same drink or similar each time, we'll take enough time to savour the ambience and check the nick of the toilets, then move on. Professional.

First up is Cloisters on Brougham St, which wins points for sitting yards from your host's front door. Those who traipsed up from Leith don't think this is worth mentioning, but I've got the pen so it's going in. We head to the bar, and are met by taps with decorated porcelain handles. This is good, as is one of us tripping over a chess table on the way across. Chess means civility, decorum and class. The man with the bruised shin disagrees, and is over-ruled. The pub itself is the opposite of the TARDIS, smaller inside than it appears (probably due to the dark wood everywhere), and filled with a nice mix of locals, students, and beardy CAMRA types in sweaters.

We look at our itinerary, abandon the notion of travelling across town only to come back again, and hit the Blue Blazer, in the shadow of the 'pubic triangle'. We debate whether we can mention said triangle, and decide that we can. There are hanging baskets outside, and a fire inside that would take the moustaches right off the art students in front of it. No posh handles on the taps this time, and a couple of the group are tempted by the rum list before being pulled back into line. They are forced to have a pint and a sit-down, which, as you can imagine, goes down terribly. The pub expertly straddles lively and homely, and there's a huge barrel in the middle of the floor. Better than a chess table, we reckon. More inclusive.

As is the way with these things, the winner has to be saved until last, so it's a mile-long walk to Frederick St for the Queens Arms. We arrive cold and disappointed that there are no actual arms on display. The last place had a barrel, we sigh. Luckily, it's warm inside, and we manage to grab a booth in a little nook by the bar. There are a lot of young people here, we surmise. It turns out that by 'young people' we mean grown men several years older than the lot of us. We fear we may have spent too long in those old man pubs.

No sooner are we comfy than duty drives us the best part of a mile to Holyrood 9A. Questions as to its location are met with manly derision, and a hopeful assertion that it's 'over this way'. Luckily, it is 'that way', and mutiny is staved off. It's a good looking bugger, all high ceilings and shininess. There are plenty of beers to choose from, and everyone seems happy. We're happy, and fairly knackered after shifting the best part of two miles in the cold. One of us wonders out loud whether we'll still be able to get food from the complicated burger menu, and we nearly crack.

We don't, though, and are soon off to our final port of call. The Bow Bar, at the foot of Victoria St. Small, wooden, and a little bit like a ship's galley. No music, so we can hear each other hurl abuse and complain about wet and cold feet. We hover by the bar, and hover, and hover, eventually grabbing a seat by the window. We spy polo-shirted hordes headed for the Cowgate, and for a moment we pity them. Then we slump into the wooden seats, and send our injured comrade to the bar on his one good leg. After all, you can't say we haven't earned it. [Peter Simpson]


We haven't read theirs yet, but we bet our chums in Edinburgh will have over-intellectualised their crawl, and spent the whole time carping on about the joys of a mahogany bar stool. Well, lads, it's just a bit of wood, it's not that important. We are going to keep this snappy. Ready to go for a pub crawl? Then let's go!

19:30: The Belle, Great Western Rd

We arrive. Well, I arrive. I have a pint, and it's pretty tasty. There are a reasonable number of chairs, and no-one has spat at me or tried to sell me a dog. A good start.


The rest of them finally show up, forcing me to choose between frog-marching them down the road to Brewdog, or staying for another. This is a pub crawl, so I grab another and start flicking the useless gits with beer mats.


My hands are covered in bits of paper and the floor looks like there's just been a wedding sponsored by Belhaven Best. They get the message, so we'll head off.

21:00: Brewdog, Argyle St

Beer for Punks, eh? Well look who's too cool for school, with your Pop-Up Pirate and your stuffed animals? Well, let's try some of that 'Punk IPA', eh? Punk, eh? Oh wow, this is actually not bad. Jeez, that's got a kick. Yes, I'll have another one of those.


Why am I still so bad at Buckaroo? It's just putting stuff on a horse!

22:00: Blackfriars, Bell St

We're in town, with more ales than I knew existed and a fruit machine instead of classic children's games. We pass the time reliving childhood defeat and working out which of the many beards are leftovers from Movember that the owners have been too lazy to shave off.

23:00: Horseshoe Bar, Drury St

We're on the move again. The Horseshoe is shaped like it's named, and there are horses everywhere. Not live horses, but it's still a little off-putting. Things are a bit too tweedy for us, so it's off to...

23:30: Nice N Sleazy, Sauchiehall St

Sleazy's! It's loud, it's roasting, and yet everyone seems to still be wearing hats. Take them off people, it'll make things a lot easier. We're happy here, as surviving Sauchiehall St always makes this place feel like the end of a level of Left 4 Dead. We've dodged the zombies, and our reward is a pint of Fosters with a White Russian chaser. And I think this our last stop...


Can I get three pints and three White Russians? Cheers! [Ben Donaldson]