Tuesday, August 12, 2008

literary booze: Sheep's Heid

the oldest pub in Scotland is the Sheep's Heid, in a village called Duddingston just outside Edinburgh. it's a fifteen-minute drive, but it's way more traditional to take the walking trail out of town, around the large rocky outcropping known as Arthur's Seat, strolling through the heather to reach the pub. this is the route that Robert Louis Stevenson used to take, to get to the pub, as did Sir Walter Scott...and who knows, maybe Robert Burns, too, since the pub seems to have been around since 1360, and Burns wasn't a man to stay away from a good pub...

yesterday, the weather was half-way decent (almost no rain at all) & the views during the walk were spectacular. lots of rabbits racing around, so it was a good thing the pub is known for its haggis, not for its roast rabbit. along with the famed haggis, the pub has many sheep-related doodahs, including a stuffed sheephead with double horns (very weird looking), myriad cast metal sheep, a few sheep paintings, and a replica of the famous original "sheep's heid", which was actually a sheep-head snuffbox, presented to the pub by James VI after he'd had a particularly good time playing skittles in the backyard.

the skittles alley is still there, but the sheep's heid snuffbox is only a replica--the inn's landlord had to sell the darn thing in the late 1800s to pay his bills. fortunately, the haggis is still marvellous, the bar oozes atmosphere, and there's lots of beer, so we settled into a table near the lovely horseshoe-shaped bar and talked about Stevenson's travels. for a man of ill health, he certainly got around, to France, across the US, to Hawaii, to Samoa... he wrote "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

tonight, at midnight, I'm going to see a theatrical presentation of Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...it's a pouring dark evening out there, so it couldn't be more appropriate! (no wonder Stevenson wanted to travel!)

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