Sheep Heid Re-opening Party

On a wild and windy November night, it was a thought to be going out in the first place far less going across town to its far environs on the night the Christmas lights were due to be switched on. 

We’re talking, praying that the bus connections join up and that the delays are few. So what’s new in Edinburgh, I hear you say? Actually, this particular 42 bus turned up pretty much on time so my journey to Duddingston to the opening of the newly restored Sheep Heid Inn was underway and we were headed through the Capital’s dark outer reaches to see the latest renovation of what is considered to be Scotland’s oldest pub.

As soon as we walked in the door of this renowned establishment, it was clear the expedition across the city had been worthwhile. We were immediately welcomed in to the warm, and shown upstairs where fizz (along with other fine refreshments including their speciality beers!) were  flowing for those Duddingston and Edinburgh neighbours who had joined in the opening celebrations.

There seemed to be a constant round of serving staff with trays of delights that included  amuse bouches of  Cullen skink, whisky and haggis soup, mini bagel with salmon, cream cheese and beetroot , mini burgers, black pudding or mushroom risotto mini fritters, marinated prawns on a stick and for afters,  mini cake squares and ice cream. We felt thoroughly spoilt!

The variety and clearly Scottish theme augurs well for when the Sheep Heid officially opens on Friday 25th November.

The Sheep Heid's new landlord, David Jardine (pictured serving), said: “As well as making changes to the interior to make it an inviting place to enjoy a drink, we are also launching a brand new menu featuring a wide range of traditional, fresh cooked dishes – along with a few modern surprises.” 

He goes on to tell us that, “Guests can look forward to our four-hour slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, our braised beef rib, mushroom and Guinness pie and our black olive and onion tart topped with cumin roasted vegetables – to name just a few. We have also developed some outstanding puddings including the delicious treacle and ginger tart with clotted cream and a raspberry crème brûlèe.”
Because it is a long time since I have been in the Sheep Heid, it is a bit tricky to do a real comparison on the recent changes. All I can really do is describe what I saw.

The layout of the place looks the same i.e. the bar and the skittle alley are in the same spots I recall, but the floor is now covered with a discreet tartan carpet in shades of brown. The walls are done out in a kind of mushroom paint, the overall effect being of a fresh but not an incongruously new look that is homely and pleasing. There are miscellaneous prints throughout including, quite rightly, one of the famous Reverend Walker skating on Duddingston Loch (which of course is not a kick in the shirt away from this pub) and, de rigeur, there are plenty of sheep (or more correctly ram) heids displayed throughout. 

To quote landlord, David Jardine, again,  “The Sheep Heid is a pub with so much history that we have had to be very sensitive with the restoration to ensure that we maintain the charm and character that can be found in every nook and cranny.” 

Indeed, many of the inn’s historic features are once again to be revealed, including the likely eponymous ram’s head snuff box which was gift from King James VI of Scotland.

They are offering an imaginative range of cocktails like Choca Mocha or Punch and Judy, all temptingly illustrated in a customised Winter Drinks Menu. Their wine cellar is described in booklet form with the title in Vino Veritas that looks aged and suitably wine stained and contains some interesting and eclectic quotes. 

As we are as near as not in to the Festive Season, it is good to see the Festive menu at a reasonable £19.95, a Christmas Day feast at £54.95 per person and Boxing Day fare at a more modest £13.95 for 2 and £16.95 for 3 courses. 

Supposedly having been established in 1360, and regarded as the oldest pub in Scotland, the Sheep Heid Inn is said to have been a favourite of past monarchs and poets. Indeed there were a couple of current poets at the opening on Thursday!

Sheep Heid Inn