Athletic Arms [Diggers]

Edinburgh & The Lothians - Edinburgh

A historic pub interior of regional importance

Listed Status: C

1-3 Angle Park Terrace
Edinburgh
EH11 2JX

Tel: (0131) 337 3822

Website http://athleticarms.com

Real Ale: Yes

Public Transport: Near Bus Stop

Bus: Yes

View on: Whatpub

Though some regard the Diggers as a shadow of its former self, the basic layout is largely unchanged since Scottish & Newcastle bought it in the 1990s. The main changes have been a new bar counter and top and removal of the partitions which formed the separate jug bar and private bar. A solid wooden screen has also gone from the top of the bar counter, along with three tall fonts. Original features include the back gantry of sturdy, well-carved wood, the small, oak island gantry and the screened Publican's Office area. Away to the right, separated by a glazed screen, is a small back room with tongue-and-groove timber dado and brass service bells. This is one of only a handful of city pubs always to have sold real ale and was renowned for serving McEwan's 80% at lightning speed by up to 15 red-jacketed barmen. In the past, customers would raise their fingers on entering to show how many pints they wanted and they would be on the bar by the time they reached it.

A shadow of its former self is how some local people describe the Diggers, the name coming from its position between two large cemeteries. However the layout of the bar is much as it was. Situated in the ground floor of an 1889 five-storey tenement block, the pub was owned by the T W Innes Trust from 1899 and remained unchanged until purchased by Scottish & Newcastle in the early 1990s. The changes in recent years include the replacement of the bar counter, a new bar top and in 2002 the removal of the partitions that formed the separate jug bar and private bar, as well as the solid wooden screen from the top of the bar counter and a set of three tall fonts. Only the back gantry of sturdy well-carved wood and the small island gantry of oak are original as is the screened Publican’s Offices area created by two low partition walls at the rear.

Away to the right, separated by a glazed screen, is the small back room with tongue-and-groove timber dado and brass service bells. The pub gets packed for Hearts home matches and rugby matches at nearby Murrayfield.

It was internationally famous for serving cask McEwan's 80/- or Heavy at lightning speed from 11 tall founts by up to 15 red-jacketed barmen. It is one of only a handful of pubs in the city to have always sold real ale and in the past customers would raise their fingers as they entered the pub to indicate how many pints they wanted which were poured ready by the time they reached the bar. As the then landlord Bill Farmer remarked, "The person coming into the pub needs a pint more than the person in the bar that's already had a pint!" It has probably the largest number of working Aitken tall founts (eight) serving cask ales by air pressure generated by two electric air compressors.

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