It'll be rammed in here when we serve up the sheep heid
• B-EWE-TIFUL: DJ Johnston-Smith will offer sheep's head broth, a re-creation the original menu. Pictures:IAN GEORGESON
IT MAY not be most people's first choice to put on a menu for a celebratory meal.
But serving up a sheep's head is the most natural choice for Scotland's oldest continuously run pub as it celebrates 650 years in business.
The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston dates back to 1360 and manager DJ Johnston-Smith is determined to revisit as much of its history as possible during its anniversary year.
Chef Andrew Leslie has come up with a menu which would have been served up to customers frequenting the pub back in the 1890s – sheep's head broth followed by a main course of the head itself.
The meal was so renowned at the turn of the century that Victorian housekeeping guru Mrs Beeton even name-checked it in one of her famous books.
Mr Johnston-Smith said: "We have a couple of menu cards from celebrations in 1890 which include sheep's head broth.
"In the first edition of Mrs Beeton's cookery book, she specified that people would come to Duddingston especially for the sheep head broth.
"Lots of the old folk who used to come here in the 1960s and 70s say there was always a pot of sheep's head broth stewing away behind. I'm not entirely sure I want to eat it myself though!"
The landlord also hopes that to mark this special anniversary, the original sheep's head will make a special return to the pub.
It is said that James VI stopped off frequently at the pub – which is half way between the royal residences of Craigmillar Castle and Holyrood Palace – to play skittles and as a mark of gratitude to the landlord, he presented him with the head, which remained on site for 300 years before being sold at auction to the Earl of Rosebery. It is now kept in Dalmeny House – although the pub has a 19th-century copy behind its bar.
The landlord added: "The pub has such an iconic status.
"The pub has always been the hub of the village and people have such cherished memories of it."
Mr Johnston-Smith is putting together an exhibition in the pub towards the end of the year featuring memories and photographs from past customers and staff. He has started a history society along with some locals and is collecting people's stories on a tape recorder.
He also hopes to re-publish At The Sign of the Sheep Heid, a book which first came out in 1921, featuring the discussions of the regulars at the time. The celebration of the pub's history in Duddingston will also be marked by a ghost tour, which is set to take place in October.
And Mr Johnston-Smith, who has had the pub for the past six years, has had a sheep costume especially made so he can go out on the streets of Edinburgh to "remind" people of existence, tucked away in the village of Duddingston.
Craigentinny and Duddingston councillor Ewan Aitken, who has put forward a motion to the council asking it to celebrate The Sheep Heid's 650 years in business, said: "It's an astonishing record and really adds something to that sense of a village life in a city."