A trip back in time at the Waverley

A firm favourite with the AAA team, The Waverley is one of the last independently-owned watering-holes in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

A dying breed, the St Mary’s Street boozer is a throwback to a bygone age, a time-machine ride to an era where bar etiquette was adhered to without complaint – much less insult – for fear of ejection.

Owner Ian Walker may be a mild-mannered, silvery-haired gentleman of pensionable age, but we’ve witnessed him man-handling ex-marines out of the door after tongues were loosened by alcohol.

Number one among the bar’s rules is no swearing. Remember this and you won’t go far wrong. Forget it, and you could be barred indefinitely. You see, for Ian, it’s important to hold the same values today as those that were put in place when the bar first opened in the 1920s.

In the Walker family for generations, both Ian and his brother inherited The Waverley some time in the Sixties and vowed to keep things as they always had been.

“The Waverley soon

earned a reputation

as a bohemian haunt”

Most of all, though, the Walker brothers were keen on up-holding the strict bar rules laid down by their grandfather all those years earlier. And a fine job they made of it, too. It was under the siblings’ ownership in the late the Sixties when The Waverley really became an institution among locals.

Now-legendary folk musicians like Bert Jansch and Dick Gaughan cut their musical teeth playing at the weekly open-mic night in the bar’s upstairs lounge, and The Waverley soon earned a reputation as a bohemian haunt; the older gentlemen who had frequented the bar for years now rubbing shoulders with a younger generation of artists, poets, writers and musicians.

When his brother died in the mid-Eighties, it’s said that Ian became an even bigger stickler for the bar’s antiquarian rules. These days, he doesn’t really run the bar for profit but more in memory of his sibling.

The shabby-chic Whithnail & I-like decor, which features Edinburgh Fringe posters from festivals long gone by, is faded and dusty. The furniture is battered and tattered. And the pints – here it’s Tennent’s Lager,  80 Shilling and Guinness; none of that fancy foreign stuff – are still served in proper dimpled glass mugs.

Oh, and they do free crisps. Just check the best before date.

The Waverley, St Mary’s Street, 0131-556 8855

Main illustration: Ross Thompson

Words: Gary Flockhart