The legendary Sandy Bell’s pub is probably one of the most well-known places in Scotland to hear, or indeed, take part in, regular folk music sessions.
There has been a pub on this site since the 1920s — before that it was a local shop — and traditional music sessions have been held here since 1942.
The bar really became established as a folk music institution in the 60s; the landlord at the time was a great lover of traditional and folk music. Due to licensing laws, pubs had to shut in the afternoons, so the lunchtime music sessions would relocate to a nearby flat and continue until the bar reopened at teatime. These so-called ‘kitchen ceilidhs’ would also continue after last orders.
The sessions attract talented musicians from all over the world, and many famous faces have played in the back room, including Barbara Dickson, Dougie MacLean, Gerry Rafferty and Phil Cunningham, to name but a few. The well-known band Jock Tamson’s Bairns were also formed from regular session attendees.
There is music every evening, during the day at weekends and during the festival. The sessions are loosely organised into music categories, but there are no real rules so you never know what you’ll get. Their sessions page gives a hint of what you might get.
There is no jukebox, TV or even any speakers! It’s all about live, unamplified music here. Legend has it that a landlord tried to install a slot machine in the 80s, and it only lasted a day, with the regulars insisting that either it went or they would!
There are plenty of local beers and real ales to keep you refreshed and an extensive range of malt whisky from every corner of Scotland and around the world. If you fancy a bite to eat, homemade pies, toasties and soup are also available.
It’s not a huge space and is incredibly popular. Be prepared to squeeze in and you’ll be rewarded with some fine folk music.
Address: 25 Forrest Road, EH1 2QH
Phone: +44 131 225 2751