The Guildford Arms is a superb pub and a must see for any visitor to Edinburgh who appreciates good pubs or good beer. You find it by crossing Princes Street in front of the Balmoral Hotel and nipping up the road besides the Burger King diagonally opposite.
The premises started life as a shop in 1841, and by the 1890s housed a hotel in a tenement-style building. In 1898 a conversion produced an opulent public house, which over the century since has seen a number of further, thankfully sympathetic, changes. The decade either side of 1900 are considered to have been a golden age in Scottish pub design, and the Guildford is a relatively rare survivor of this period. The Temperance Movement was strong at the time and a number of far-sighted publicans responded by investing in no-expense spared and extremely grand premises that would move at least some pubs well upmarket from the seedy drinking dens that were all too common at the time.
When it opened in 1898 the Guildford was owned by the Stewart family, who, as D.M. Stewart Ltd continue to run it to this day. They have several other pubs in Edinburgh, including the Abbotsford and the Canon's Gait.
Inside the Guildford you find a magnificent interior of glowing dark wood. Once you've negotiated the revolving front door you are faced by the canopied bar. An especially striking feature of the interior is the Gallery Restaurant, which sits at a mezzanine level above the far end of the ground floor.
A range of real ales are on offer, and this is a pub that cares deeply about the quality of its beer. You'll also find a wide range of malt whiskies on offer.
Food is also a big draw for The Guildford, which offers traditional pub grub downstairs alongside an à la carte menu in its upstairs restaurant. The Guildford is a grown up pub with a very welcoming feel. Popular with shoppers and tourists, it also has its regulars: a combination of local office workers and beer lovers.