Why’s it called the Sheep Heid?
Local historians claim that there was an inn licensed on this spot as early as 1360, we are currently attempting to ascertain the truth behind this assertion. What we do know for certain is that not a stone throw away sits the picturesque twelfth century church of Duddingston, and one thing we can be sure of in Scotland is where there were places of worship there was always an enterprising innkeeper offering the faithful nourishment for the soul of a slightly less ecclesiastical nature!The Sheep Heid doesn’t feature too heavily in the history books again until the time of Mary Queen of Scots when it became a stop off point on her regular jaunts between the royal palaces of Craigmillar and Holyrood. This royal patronage was continued by her son James VI whom tradition records presented the innkeeper with a richly embellished ram’s head snuff box in thanks for the good times had playing skittles in the yard at Duddingston.
This head was preserved at the inn until the late 19th century when an impecunious landlord sold it at auction. Thankfully before he did so he had the foresight to have a copy made (albeit with lesser value adornments) which resides behind the bar still (See picture above left).
The original head now resides at Dalmeny House, home of the Earls of Roseberry. Throughout the years that followed countless visitors, famous and not so famous have passed through our doors. Sir Walter Scott, J.W.M. Turner, James Hogg, Christopher North, Sir David Wilkie, Sir Henry Raeburn, Robert Louis Stevenson and Compton MacKenzie are just a few of the myriad of talented individuals known to have spent time in Duddingston, undoubtedly imbibing within the Sheep Heid.
In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stewart set up his military camp in the village on the eve of his most significant victory at the battle of Prestonpans. We can be sure that with an entire army of Jacobite soldiers in the vicinity no inn would have been left unscathed, history unfortunately does not record if the Bonnie Prince relaxed over a game of skittles and pint of Sheep Heid Ale in the beer garden! The tavern at Duddingston has been at the heart of its community for centuries.
The 18th Century Kirk Session records contain numerous instances of the central role played by the pub in local affairs (A Mrs Hunter, Landlady in the late 1710s was never out of trouble with the church authorities for one thing or another!). The Sheep Heid proudly soldiers on into the 21st century embracing social change in its stride (hence the early imposition of a total non-smoking policy two years in advance of the mandatory legislation), weathering every storm and setting standards for others to follow…
So if you haven’t visited us stop whatever you’re doing and come now!