Traditional Hearts bar shortlisted in top 5 best rugby bars in UK

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Best known for flying the maroon flag as a Jambo boozer, the Athletic Arms in Gorgie has now gained the backing of fans fonder of the oval ball.

The pub, better known as The Diggers, has beaten off competition from dozens of other clubs and bars across the UK to be shortlisted as one of Britain’s best rugby pubs.

The Athletic Arms or The Differs has been nominated as one of the best rugby bars in the country. Picture; Jon Savage

The Athletic Arms or The Differs has been nominated as one of the best rugby bars in the country. Picture; Jon Savage

The venue is one of five from all over the UK to make it to the finals of Aberdeen Standard Investments Melrose Sevens rugby pub of the year competition.

And just a drop kick away from the national stadium, punters who nominated the Athletic Arms said it was deserving of the accolade because “it gives a warm and friendly welcome whoever you’re supporting, it‘s a short walk to Murrayfield and serves a great pint and award winning pies before and after the game”.

And publican Kevin McGhee said he was over the moon at being shortlisted and thanked his hardworking staff for the success.

“I’m delighted we have been shortlisted and the only pub in Edinburgh.

“We are traditionally a football pub, being close to Tynecastle but it’s brilliant now that rugby fans recognise us as a welcoming pub with reasonable prices.

“We do try very hard to attract both crowds and we love rugby as well. I think people who would traditionally have met in town or at Haymarket were getting tired of the inflated prices. Now people are filtering through Fountainbridge and recognise that we staff according to what is going on and we don’t change our prices.

“We’ve got good drink promotions and whisky deals which appeals to the rugby goers pre and post match.

“It’s a totally different crowd to the football fans but we have no trouble at all and are happy they enjoy coming here.

“Edinburgh Rugby has also moved up to Myreside so we are often busy on match days with that rugby crowd as well.

Now it’s up to the rugby fans themselves to choose the winner from the five British 
hostelries that have made it to the finals in a poll on social media.

Douglas Hardie, president of Melrose Rugby Club said: “Over 12,000 people will descend on the Borders town of Melrose to see Sevens action on April 14, but with television coverage from the BBC, the event is beamed out to rugby fans at home and abroad.

“For rugby fans who aren’t able to travel to the Borders many will savour match day action in bars or pubs. In our quest to find Britain’s top rugby pub, fans have told us that a great range of beer, delicious food, roaring fires, friendly staff and a buzzing atmosphere are among the qualities that make their locals special.

“However, just like the Melrose Sevens, there can only be one winner of Britain’s best rugby pub, and now it’s over to the public to pick their favourite from our shortlist.”

The Diggers is up again Twickenham’s The Cabbage Patch, Merchants Inn, Rugby, The Palmeira in Hove and The Buccleuch Arms Hotel, Moffat. To vote visit www.facebook.com/melrosevens.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk