Opposite the Balmoral Hotel and next to the National Archives of Scotland, is West Register Street where there are a couple of watering holes worth seeking out.
The Café Royal Circle Bar is well-known and wouldn’t look out of place on the Champs Elysées. Its famous Oyster Bar Restaurant attracts a clientele that prefers to indulge on oysters and a bottle of Dom Perignon rather than a pint of Belhaven and a packet of nuts.
Mind you, there’s nothing to stop anyone having oysters and champagne in the Circle Bar if they prefer.
It’s worth coming into this wonderful Victorian bar just to take a look at the décor alone. Apart from the magnificent bar, which is more elliptical than circular, there are some incredible Royal Doulton tiled murals of famous inventors and even some stained-glass windows that wouldn’t look out of place in St. Giles Cathedral were it not for the fact they represent outdoor pursuits rather than religious themes.
As you might have guessed, all this comes at a cost. It’s certainly not the cheapest bar in town but it has to be said that the range of cask beers is excellent as is the service, even when it’s busy, which it very often is.
If you can come here at a quieter time it will be easier to appreciate this fabulous building, but even though it does have something special about it, I feel more at home in the Guildford Arms next door.
The Guildford Arms is what I call a first-class pub. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just finished shopping, work or sightseeing, this place caters for everyone.
If you’ve popped in for a bite to eat with a glass of wine or swift malt, you’ll be more than well catered for, but if you’ve popped in for a pint of ‘real ale’ you’ll be in here for a week.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’ve enjoyed real ale far too much over the years, and much of it has been done in the sort of pubs that would have probably been shut down years ago, but the Guildford Arms is different.
The building came to life as a shop in 1841 but became a well-respected pub by 1898 and owned by the Stewart family. It’s still run by the same family today and a rare example of its time.
This pub seems to have everything for someone like me – a friendly atmosphere, wonderful surroundings, super food, a good collection of wines and whiskies – and of course that fabulous selection of real ales.
Whichever pub takes your fancy the most, you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re just a stone’s throw from Waverley station. If you can’t make up your mind, then obviously you’ll need to just try both, but don’t blame me if you miss your train.