12 Pubs of Christmas: The Edinburgh Users Guide

Recently, I began my Christmas rant by explaining that I personally came to learn about the holiday as an obligation-free adult living in Australia. Because of the way Christmas came into my life, it has always been about fun, good times, friends and drinking. I realise this isn’t everyone’s experience of Christmas, hence the disclaimer and for those not keeping up, please read the first part here.

Edinburgh December nights snowing and festive lights in New Town.

Now to return to my own personal adventure and story of Christmas joy, the year is 2015 and I find myself living in Edinburgh. Living is very much an overstatement as toward the end of 2015 I had already known that I was not going to be able to stay in Edinburgh and I was finishing my work contract, moving out of my flat and planning a series of travels that would allow me to take the longest possible time to actually return to Melbourne. Or the longest possible time that my budget would allow. I’ll make sure to expand on those travels at a later point.

Edinburgh Street of Lights, Royal Mile.

My last two weeks in Edinburgh were in the start of December, when the nights are long, cold and dark but the Christmas festivities spice up every corner and hidden nook. From the stunning lights on The Dome, to the plentiful Christmas Markets on Princes Street, Edinburgh really does light for the festive season. There are work parties, themed decorations and tourists as far as the eye can see and all roads began to point to the best year of 12 Pubs of Christmas ever!

In 2015, the twelfth of December was a Saturday night – my last Saturday night in the country in fact. I naturally took this to be a good omen and started to rally up the friends as early as possible. Again, it was an easy year to organise the crawl because I wasn’t going to be in the country for much longer and my dear friends demanded a going away do. So I gave them one that was truly some kind of Christmas miracle.

Christmas decorations in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

By the end of the night, we were a posse of 20 strong who visited 12 pubs with no injuries, vomits or venue rejections. This was not an easy feat to achieve but here’s how I did it (do not attempt this at home and always practice responsible drinking)!

Little Santa climbing up a Leith window.

Tip 1. Make sure to pick the perfect area.
We chose the Leith area in Edinburgh. We started at a lovely waterside pub in the fancy part of Leith then made our way up Leith Walk, hopping strategically from pub to pub and finishing at a fabulous club in the Edinburgh “gay triangle” at the top of the Walk. When mapping out your route, it’s important to pace the crawl in accordance with debauchery-escalation levels. It would just be rude to make venue ten a family pub at dinner time.

Tip 2. Make sure everyone knows the drinking rules
Now these weren’t always the rules but when you turn drinking into an endurance sport, it’s important that everyone is well informed. Our rules were basic – one drink per venue and no booze is to be repeated, ie if you had a beer in venue one, you have to have something different in venue two. Now the different boozes can be opened up for debate. We chose to separate the wines into colour categories and beers into some basic groups but all of the spirits were one group each, ie whisky is just one whisky and you can’t have another. Each crawler does pick their own drinks at each venue (unless there’s a game in play). My partner is in a league of his own and made his drink choices rhyme with the carol On the Twelfth Day of Christmas. I do not recommend this level for beginners.

The Official 12 Pubs of Christmas 2015 memo

Tip 3. Write the memo, send the memo
Decide your starting time, venues, route, included snack stops and thrown in party games then send out the memo to your mates. We decided to throw in a “shots only” venue, a chippy pause, a team game venue and naturally encouraged all crawlers to wear festival themed garments and accessories. All of this was conveniently captured in a poster and messaged to everyone in advance.

Pub 3. The (Bar) Brig of 12 Pubs of Christmas was a flute of fizzy wine for me…apparently.

Tip 4. Games!
Just in the event this 12 Pubs of Christmas pub crawl isn’t fun enough, we decided to throw in a little competition.

Game one went on all night and its aim was simple – pick pocket a wee decoration from a venue without being spotted by the other crawlers and at the next venue you get to gift your treasure to one of the other crawlers plus a bonus drink to them of your choice! T’is the season to be giving after all!

Game two was at a venue that was known for their cocktails jugs. We broke up into teams and the team that finished their jug first, won! Then we danced but that wasn’t part of the game, more the natural compulsion.

Photos from pub 12 on the night and in the morning (I may have lost my phone at the last pub and had to go back for it in the morning).

Tip 5. Look after each other and always be safe

Making sure to look after your mates is crucial as that ensured we all make it all through the night together! You’d think that after at least 12 different drinks we would all be glad to go home after the last venue, but we chose to stay and dance the night away.

This was the best pub crawl ever and two days later I was on a flight out of Edinburgh. For anyone else out there having to leave a place and move on around Christmas, I highly recommend employing my 12 Pubs of Christmas scheme to say good bye to your friends, the place where you lived and to have a naughty and nice time!


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