Fringe Festival Pub Crawl 2: Newington Drinking Trail

Pub crawls offer the chance of stepping outside of your comfort zone to discover a hidden gem, rekindle your love for a forgotten haunt, or perhaps hear if the urban legends are true. No matter the outcome, there is always a sense of satisfaction in having reached the final marker. This summer we have prepared a series of pub crawls that will appeal to locals and tourists alike. Taking both the old with the new, we invite you to take on the weekly challenges we have in store.

Tried and tested, these bars are a mix of old and new, cheap and expensive.

This is not a list of the best bars in Edinburgh and these lists were not made on a whim. Some bars had to be cut. Not necessarily because they weren’t good enough, but more likely because of time and location in relation to the rest of the crawl. So if you find your local does not make an appearance, never fear: it is more likely that it was not suitable for the crawl than some intrinsic problem of its own.

Newington – once a thriving community in the South East side of Central Edinburgh – has now gathered a reputation as a student hub for the nearby University of Edinburgh. As such, many venues cater solely to dewy-eyed freshers rather than local clientele. Do not fear, however, as there are still many local hotspots that haven’t befallen the trap of gentrification. Tried and tested, these bars are a mix of old and new, cheap and expensive.

A few things to point out before we begin

  • The starting point can be reached easily from Princes Street by getting the 29, 30, 31, 33 or 37. Alternatively, you can get the 7, 14 or 49 from Leith Walk.
  • Try to drink responsibly – we want you to enjoy yourself and so do the bar staff! If you need to miss a bar for sake of time or inebriation then don’t feel you have to tick it off the list.
  • The minimum time required not including food stops would be roughly 2-3 hours, so we recommend you begin in the afternoon or early evening. The direction of this crawl takes you to the Old Town by going through Newington.

1. The Cask and Barrel

The first order of the evening, The Cask and Barrel is a traditional Scottish pub that is home to a wide variety of Scottish ales and whisky, with a rotating menu of craft ales. The staff are friendly and always happy to offer recommendations, whilst Sunday nights host live folk music at 7:30pm.

2. Southpour

Southpour is the latest addition to Newington’s bar scene. Standing on the corner of Newington Road, Southpour has evolved slowly, into a more inclusive diner to cater to local tastes. The food is of high quality, as is their cocktail selection, though the latter can be pricey. The same can be said for their beer. Tennent’s, their cheapest lager on tap, comes in at £3.85, whilst Guinness comes in at £4.50. Considering that this is within Edinburgh’s inner ring and during Fringe time, those prices can be expected.

3. The Abbey

What could make the food from Southpour go down even more of a treat? Perhaps a dram of uisge beatha: the water of life. The Abbey across the street is a connoisseur in whisky and has an extensive list of all manner of styles to choose from; smoky, rich, light, tangy or sweet. Whisky aside, however, the most endearing quality of The Abbey is its reasonable prices. If you fancy some food, you will not be disappointed. The portions are as hearty as they are delicious, and are only improved by the cheery atmosphere that reverberates around this classic Newington haunt.

4. The Southern

Just further down South Clerk Street and you’ve hit The Southern. A bar notable for hosting Nirvana in the December of 1991, The Southern’s main strengths reside in their spirits menu and their food menu. True to its name, it specialises in Southern cooking, offering up various burgers, meat and BBQ-styled dishes. Though not as prolific in choice, vegetarians need not fear, however, as their vegetarian options – particularly their halloumi based dishes – are highly recommendable.

5. The Royal Dick (optional)

Though The Royal Dick diverges from the pub crawl’s route, it is still well worth a look. As the former vet school for the University of Edinburgh; The Royal Dick is decorated with medical memorabilia and draped in a tapestry of the city’s rich history of medical science. A pleasant and laidback atmosphere pervades, where the friendly staff are happy to discuss the history of the building. The Summerhall is used as a venue during the festival, mostly for art and music events, so if you are looking to add a show into your crawl then check the Summerhall’s event listings online.

6. Dagda Bar

What is lacks in size it more than makes up for in hospitality. Dagda Bar is a Scottish pub through and through, charming and welcoming to locals and strangers alike. Prices are relatively cheap and there are always a couple of Scottish ales available. The bar runs a popular pub quiz on Tuesdays at 8:30pm, with prizes including money and a draw for £100.

7. Greenmantle

A cosy, warm retreat from the hustle and bustle of Fringe life, Greenmantle is a staple of Newington’s longstanding, historic community bars that has weathered the test of gentrification. Though its menu has changed, the bar still produces its renown buffalo burgers, with meat that is sourced from a farm in Fife. The Goat Burger (goats cheese, onion rings, bacon, BBQ sauce and buffalo meat), and the Chieftain (haggis, cheese and buffalo meat) are highly recommended. The pub hosts a quiz every Monday at 8pm, with a £25 bar voucher to be won and a rollover cash jackpot.

8. The Pear Tree

No trip to Newington would be complete without a nip in The Pear Tree. The most iconic feature of the Pear Tree is its outdoor seating, with one of Edinburgh’s largest beer gardens that frequently shows sporting events. Home to many Fringe shows, the Pear Tree has the capacity to handle large crowds. Though prices have increased over the years, it is nonetheless a memorable place that leaves a lasting impression upon visitors.

9. Teviot Row House

When it’s not masqueraded as ‘The Gilded Balloon’ for the festival, Teviot is the University of Edinburgh’s student union. There are several bars inside this castle including: The Library Bar, New Amphion, The Lounge Bar, The Loft Bar, The Sports Bar and The Underground; the last two are used for Fringe shows, however, so keep in mind that you will also be competing with showgoers for space, not that Teviot is short supply of that. The most popular and by far the most recommended would be The Library Bar. You can also order food at the venue, the Teviot nachos are a favourite amongst students and graduates alike. Despite an increase in drink prices, booze is relatively cheaper than neighbouring venues, though keep in mind that prices may increase with the festival.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now