City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Sheep Heid Inn

Average Rating:
Restaurant Photos
The Sheep Heid Inn restaurant front
Restaurant profile
Edinburgh Area: 
Duddingston, Edinburgh
Serving times: 
Mon to Sat 12:00-22:00; Sun 12:30-21:30
(0131) 661 7974
Restaurant Established: 

The perfect pub, deep in the heart of Duddingston Village East of Holyrood Park.

The Reviews


An Edinburgh institution comes into the gastropub age.

Reviewed by Euan Andrews

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 6:41pm

Nestled in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat just next to Duddingston Loch, The Sheep Heid has long been one of Edinburgh’s prime destination pubs.   Locals and tourists alike would make to this beautiful boozer in the village-like tranquillity of Duddingston in search of fine ales and a shot on their near legendary skittle alley.

Now, a recent makeover has given The Sheep Heid a major paintjob and refurbishment, along with an all new menu. On entering the premises, all seems reassuringly like business as usual. The centre bar is still present, as is the excellent real ale selection, and the flow of bustling customer traffic is as it should be for a Saturday evening. The skittle alley is also still going, thankfully, otherwise questions would likely be asked in the Scottish Parliament.

However, once seated in one of the side rooms, it does become clear that some of The Sheep Heid’s old character has been lost. Where there used to be a small side room and snug in which one could cosy up with a pint and newspaper, there’s now two dining rooms with a somewhat grey decor. Despite the plethora of local maps and prints festooning the wall, it does feel more like a generic gastropub than before.

Still, the atmosphere is convivial and all around us are busy tables filled with patrons tucking into ample portions of typical pub fare such as fish and chips or burgers. They all look very happy with themselves, and the food looks like staple fare well executed. However, M and I have decided to try some more adventurous items from the extensive menu, which also comes accompanied by a list of daily specials.

We both go into shellfish mode to start with. M’s king prawns sautéed in garlic and herbs are seriously big lads with their shells still on, all the better to squeeze that juicy flesh out from within. The sauce they’re presented in could do with a definite extra infusion of garlic, however. Taken from the specials menu, my scallops with pesto mash are absolutely spot on. Scallops are having a moment in the sun just now, being a fairly ubiquitous presence on many a menu and most often presented with pea puree and black pudding. No such large side garnishes are required here, the three plump scallops are perfectly cooked atop the delicious pesto mash with just a few simple micro-greens scattered over them. Terrific.

Mains, however, are slightly curious affairs. As I’ve said, all around us are hungry customers happily sitting down to the likes of burgers, steaks, fried fish and chips etc, all of which look pretty much perfect in themselves. So, perhaps M and I are going slightly off piste in our choices. Taken from the main menu, M has a vegetarian option of a black olive and onion tart with vine tomatoes and onion rings.  It is a huge portion, but somewhat lacking in black olives, most of which seem to have been pushed to the back end of the tart.  Also, while the hoop-like onion rings are quite delectable, simply dropping an entire bunch of vine tomatoes, vine and all, in the centre of the tart doesn’t betray much in the way of finesse from the kitchen.

My own main, once again from the specials, is very much a plate of two halves. My pan fried duck breast is perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and without a hint of toughness, and the chilly jam makes a nicely spicy relish, although I would rather it hadn’t been smothered over the duck. However, the accompanying side dish of “beetroot and celeriac lasagne” is a real oddity. Mainly because it isn’t a lasagne, it’s a gratin. And there’s nothing wrong with a gratin, but a gratin isn’t a lasagne. It’s also a vast gratin which feels somewhat superfluous next to the excellent duck.

Unfortunately, things really get odd with the desserts. M’s raspberry crème brulee is fine enough, but with scarcely a raspberry in sight. My apple strudel, on the other hand, just isn’t. A strudel, that is. A strudel should be beautifully light pastry with a sumptuously sweet filling. A strudel is not, I’m afraid, a rather soggy apple tart, which is what I receive. It’s a real low point, and I really can’t overlook it.

There are, however, many plus sides to the new-look Sheep Heid. The service is delightfully friendly and unobtrusive, and it really is still a wonderful pub. The kind of establishment any rational being would wish as their street-corner local. As for food, they definitely seem to have the basics just right, going by the enthusiasm all around M and I. I also hear they do a hearty Sunday roast. So, perhaps just a little refinement is required in the kitchen. There is excellent cooking going on here, and it doesn’t need to be given fancy names to impress us. If it’s not a lasagne or a strudel, that’s fine, as long as the menu says so. These niggles aside, The Sheep Heid remains second to none.


Good watering hole after a ramble in Holyrood Park

Reviewed by edg

Sunday, January 13, 2008 - 9:13am

It may not look it, but the Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston may be the oldest surviving public house in Scotland, dating possibly from around 1360.

Its name arises from a story handed down that in 1580 King James VI, who played skittles in the yard, gifted an embellished ram's head snuff box to the landlord.

Set on two floors the interior provides a rustic, olde worlde glow, with old photographs, pictures, maps, and suchlike on the walls. It's a pleasant place to rest after walking in Holyrood Park (the Sheep Heid is located at the South East corner of the park) for a pint or for its traditional pub grub.

The Sheep Heid also has an antique wooden skittle alley (much like 10 pin bowling), which the pub owners proudly proclaim is very little changed since it was built on the site of the old stable block in 1882.

There is also a small beer garden, again one of the oldest in Edinburgh, with an open air balcony over-looking it. Between May and September there is a barbecue grill in the beer garden at weekends.