The Ensign Ewart, Edinburgh

By | June 14, 2013

Ensign Ewart, Edinburgh

The Ensign Ewart hit the headlines in May 2013 when its staff refused to serve sailors in uniform following a parade along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.

The pub and the company which runs it – Punch Taverns – were quite rightly condemned from many quarters for their hardline policy, particularly as it happened when public support for British servicemen was riding high.

We are told that these are tough economic times. So why isn’t the hard-earned money of these sailors good enough for Punch Taverns?

The incident happened the day after I popped to this historic pub and what follows is an honest account of my experience.

To kick-off, the Ensign Ewart is perfectly placed to capitalise on the thousands of tourists who visit Edinbugh Castle every year.

Just a short walk from down the Royal Mile from the Castle gates, this pub is the first watering hole to tempt the thirsty hoards through its doors. However, if my visit is anything to go by, they’d be better off going to the next pub.

I was really looking forward to visiting the Ensign and it should have been an interesting experience. After all, it is steeped in history, dating back to the 17th century and has the interior to prove it.

With so many people walking right past its doors I was surprised to find the pub empty, but at least getting to the bar wouldn’t be a problem.

I managed to get the barmaid’s attention by giving a little cough as I waited to be served, she reluctantly put her mobile phone down to pour me a pint of Flying Scotsman ale (4%).

As I walk over to a table I couldn’t help but feel this was an unloved pub.

Maybe I just arrived at a bad time, but while Deacon Brodie’s Tavern just down the road was doing a roaring trade, serving food and drink to punters from far and wide, the Ensign was empty.

Inquisitive people would poke their heads around the door, see me sat at the table and decide it wasn’t for them. And who can blame them. If I saw me in a pub then I’d head for the hills too. Braver tourists would actually step inside, ask if food was being served, before disappointedly walking away – to Deacon Brodies, no doubt.

I don’t mind one bit sitting in an empty pub but I do mind being subjected to the drivel being spouted by the presenters of a tacky commercial radio station which was being played over the speakers. I’m not a fan of radio in pubs.

I don’t want to be on too much of a downer, however. The interior is undeniably charming. The walls are lined with pictures and illustrations of bygone battles as well as swords, horns, tankards, horse brass, rifles, saws, keys and yards of ale.

It’s a pub of real character but a crying shame there were no characters in there to enjoy it.

I just hope the next time a bunch of sailors walk through its doors they’ll be made to feel welcome, this pub certainly needs them.


ADDRESS: 521 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 2PE.

ATMOSPHERE: * Was as good as a bloke sitting with a newspaper can make it.

DECOR: **** Nice old wooden door with stained glass. It was cosy, with all manner of oddments pinned to the walls. There’s a lovely old fireplace at back. The dark orange lighting lends itself perfectly to the Ensign Ewarts cosy feel.

SELECTION: ** Flying Scotsman, Black Sheep and Deuchars IPA.

PRICE: ** £3.70 for Flying Scotsman.

SERVICE: ** The barmaid almost broke into a smile as she served me. Well, it was more of a grimace if I’m perfectly honest.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS: Like most historic pubs, the Ensign Ewart is reputedly haunted. A Ghostley Piper is said to have got lost in the myriad of tunnels which run under the Royal Mile. What a stroke of luck he landed up in a pub, it could have been a nail salon.