The Scotia Bar – Glasgow, Scotland - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

The Scotia Bar

Glasgow's oldest pub has a proud literary tradition and possibly a ghost or two. 

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The Scotia Bar, which was built in 1792, claims to be the oldest surviving pub in Glasgow. The pub’s age is apparent from the wood beams of the low ceiling, the match strikers screwed to the front of the L-shaped bar, and the brass taps. Built on one of the city’s four original streets when the River Clyde was a major shipping thoroughfare, it served sailors, merchants, dock workers, and passengers. It was also popular with performers from the Metropole Theatre next door, which led to the bar’s long association with the performing arts.

The Metropole Theatre was located at 116 Stockwell St. In 1906, when Arthur Jefferson took over management of the Metropole, his teenage son Arthur Stanley Jefferson was pressed into working at the box office and collecting tickets. Jefferson fell in love with show business, changed his name to Stan Laurel, and achieved world renown as one half of the comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy. The Metropole building has since been torn down, but in 2022 a blue plaque commemorating Stan Laurel’s showbiz beginnings was unveiled at The Scotia Bar. 

During the 1960s and ’70s, the pub was a haven for folk singers, poets, and other performers. Singer Gerry Rafferty and comedian Sir Billy Connolly got their start playing at The Scotia with their band The Humblebums. Later, stories from The Scotia Bar would become a fixture in Connolly’s standup routine. 

A few of the former patrons and employees are rumored to haunt the pub. Reported sightings include a woman in a white wimple who sits at the bar or in the snug, the Green Lady (a barmaid in a green velvet dress who walks up and down the length of the pub), and the ghost of a manager who hanged himself in the pub’s cellar. There have also been claims of the ghost of a young boy playing in the doorway, thought to be the spirit of the former owner’s son.

The bar, which celebrated its 230th birthday in 2022, still serves as a gathering place for the arts. Writers James Kelman and William McIlvaney are said to be regulars and the bar hosts live music several nights a week as well as a monthly writers’ meeting and a yearly Scotia Poet Laureate competition.

Know Before You Go

The Belhaven Scotia Bar is open Monday through Sunday, noon to midnight. 

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February 9, 2023

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