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When cities’ night life menus are exploding with choice, is it still possible to find traditional pubs that help you step off that spinning wheel and just let the world go by. I’ve been home a year now and still not had a really good look around. Until now.

Totally impromptu, my brother took me on a tour last night. We first headed to the Bow Bar in Edinburgh’s Victoria Street.  The bar is tucked behind a narrow frontage and, when a cold wind cuts to the bone, the old wooden doors welcome the traveller to a warm, friendly interior. The walls are covered with old advertising mirrors, a Victorian fireplace stands elegantly near the entrance and distinctive, narrow two-legged tables of seasoned oak are anchored to the floor. Young and old, traveller and city dweller, the craic was plenty and banter filled the air. Next stop was Sandy Bell’s.

Sandy Bell’s is quiet by day. By night its worldwide reputation for live folk music does not disappoint. As we walked through the doors, a double bass joined in harmony the courtship of a fiddle and mandolin, all three rising above the noise of customers. Once we found a sweet spot near the trio, our view improved.  The double bass player almost slapped his instrument into submission and his right arm danced as it played with the strings. His hands were worn but strong and his weathered skin told of his years. A roll-up tucked behind his ear seemed to have a familiar home. The songs were from a bygone era yet so wonderfully familiar.

Our final stop,  The Captains Bar seized me within five minutes of walking through the door. What an inviting view. A Victorian bar and display cabinets had been discovered behind plasterboard frontage and had been faithfully restored. These elegant pieces were made youthful with warm and inviting lighting which also shone on fiddle player Thalia and Mandolin player Cammy Robson as they had us tapping feet and clapping hands. Yet, the Captain’s Bar was relaxed and informal, like a small gathering of good friends from all walks, congregating with one aim: forget life’s complications and, well, just be.

Is it still possible to find places that help you step off that spinning wheel and just let the world go by? Yes. They may be traditional and the music may be old but both are still relevant today. They attract all sorts of people, drawing you in and reminding you that places out there do still exist that make us appreciate what, I believe, most of us enjoy: old friends, new friends, music and community.

Time, ladies and gentlemen, please!

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