The Queen makes surprising visit to Scotland's oldest pub

SHE has given her royal seal of approval to only a tiny number of restaurants in her 90 years.

Her Majesty had dinner and a drink with two companions in the inns public dining area, leaving the pubs regulars stunned. Picture: Scott Louden
Her Majesty had dinner and a drink with two companions in the inns public dining area, leaving the pubs regulars stunned. Picture: Scott Louden

But now one of Edinburgh’s best-known neighbourhood bars has joined one of the world’s most exclusive clubs.

Regulars at The Sheep Heid Inn were left stunned on Friday night when a well-kent face popped through the door – Her Majesty the Queen.

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She spent last week at Holyrood Palace and dropped into Scotland’s oldest pub, a short drive from home across Holyrood Park, following a day at Musselburgh Races.

Other customers could barely believe their eyes when they saw her taking a window seat in the public dining area. She and her companions are understood to have ordered a martini and a half bottle of white wine, along with two portions of lamb and a fillet of seabass. The main meals are advertised at £16.50 each on the pub’s regular menu. It is not known which of the meals the Queen ordered.

The Queen only rarely eats out, other than at private London clubs and hotels. The exclusive Bellamy’s restaurant in Mayfair is believed to be the only restaurant she has eaten at in London, and only on a few occasions with her family.

Pub staff were given around an hour’s notice of the Queen’s visit before being put to the test in a way none expected when they arrived for their shifts. All are thought to have passed with flying colours.

Earlier in the day, the Monarch wore a royal blue suit and hat while she attended Musselburgh Racecourse, to celebrate its 200th birthday. She was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and is understood to have watched the races from inside the racecourse’s VIP hospitality areas.

The Sheep Heid Inn, originally established in 1360, has been linked to the royal family since the 1580s.

One version of how the pub got its name claims that in 1580, King James VI of Scotland gifted the landlord an ornate ram’s head snuff box. It is believed he, and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, stopped by the inn many times to play skittles in the courtyard. As a mark of gratitude he presented the landlord with the unusual gift which remained on site for 300 years before being sold at auction to the Earl of Rosebery.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Bonnie Prince Charlie – as his army was encamped at Duddingston for a month prior to the Battle of Prestonpans – are among the inn’s other famous patrons.

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Last year, US popstar Kelly Clarkson visited the pub, enjoying a beer and “chunky chips” in peace as the majority of locals failed to recognise her.

Local councillor Alex Lunn said: “The Sheep Heid Inn is something the local community are very proud of and a visit from the Queen is another string to add to its bow. I’m sure her majesty enjoyed an excellent meal.”