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Pub Visit - Scotland

Abbotsford 1Thursday 1st May 2014

Bob Thompson

This is yet another New Town house than was built during the golden age of the city’s pub building that lasted through the last two decades of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth centuries. It first opened its doors to Edinburgh’s drinking public in 1887 and like many others of its age was quite opulent compared with other older pubs. This was a time of growth within the temperance movement and pubs were built to offer food and to appeal to women as an alternative to teashops and the like.

It is of course named after the country house of the famous author Sir Walter Scott, whose monument is to be found not very far away on Princes Street. A visit to Abbotsford (the house, that is) is well worth it with the author’s untouched study being a highpoint. And naturally a visit to this pub is equally recommended but for differing reasons as explained below.

Abbotsford 2When it opened it was known as the Abbotsford Arms and was adjacent to the premises of Charles Jenner & Co. who were silk merchants. Their property was destroyed by fire in 1892 and although the Abbotsford came through unscathed the fire was pivotal to the pub’s future.

In 1902 Jenner’s were constructing their new premises and the old pub was demolished with the silk merchants paying for a new pub which was opened the same year.

It was designed by Edinburgh architects P.L. Henderson who already had a proven track record of building some of the city’s notable pubs. These included Deacon Brodie’s (1894), Leslie’s Bar (1896), the Central Bar (1898) and the Mitre (1901). The pub has an island bar carved from Spanish mahogany and there is a Jacobean-style ceiling. I guess that when it was built there was more than one room attached to it.

Abbotsford 3There is a nice mirrored fireplace along one of the street-facing sides along with wood panelling to head height all around the room. The furniture is also all of wood with red stuffed leather bench seating. On one wall there is a very nice advertising mirror for Ballingall’s Pale Ale; a defunct brewery I’d previously not heard of. It was installed in 2007 when the Abbotsford underwent a refurbishment after being taken over by D.M. Stewart Ltd, owners of the magnificent Guildford Arms and other historic Edinburgh pubs.

Abbotsford 4
There are five ever-changing beers and it is worth recording that these are dispensed from traditional Scottish tall fonts. I would assume that the beers are propelled by air pressure to the glass rather than the water pressure that they were designed to work with.

As an aside I would really like to know if there are any fonts still working with the original system. Here there is one hand pump, presumably as a back-up.

When I called in the beers were as follows:
Anarchy (Stannington, Northumberland) Crime Scene American Amber Ale (5.5%)
Tempest (Kelso, Borders) Cresta Session Stout (4.1%)
Highland Brewing (Evie, Orkney) The Duke IPA (5.2%)
Fyne Ales (Cairndow, Argyllshire) Avalanche (4.5%)
Alchemy (Livingston, West Lothian) Starlaw Pale Ale (3.5%).

The pub has a full menu and there is a restaurant on the first floor. Around 50 different malt whiskies are offered. This is a great little pub and is well worth a visit.

Important Information:

The Abbotsford, 3-5 Rose Street, Edinburgh. EH2 2PR. Tel: 0131 225 5276

Open: Monday-Saturday 11.00-23.00; Sunday 12.30-23.30

From the top of Waverley steps out of the station you will find yourself in Princes Street.
Turn left and take the second street on the right which is St David’s Street South.
Turn right at the first opportunity and you will find yourself in pedestrian-only Rose Street.
The pub will visible on the right. It is but a five minute stroll from the Guildford Arms and Café Royal walking round the south side of St Andrews Square.