There have been traditional music sessions at Sandy Bell’s Pub since 1942. An extraordinary number of influential musicians of many styles and backgrounds have been regular players. The pub is a legend and an institution - known internationally but with an absolutely local culture of real traditional music. You can read more about its' story on the history page.
Nightly sessions at Sandy Bells are the thriving focus for Edinburgh’s traditional and folk music scene. Below is a rough guide only: every night is unique and unpredictable. Edinburgh has a distinctive traditional style - sometimes called the 'Edinburgh Swing'. This style is often heard here alongside that of musicians from all over Ireland, the United Kingdom, and many other farther-flung places who've come to play.
If you're not familiar with traditional music sessions - it's worth bearing in mind that the musicians playing aren't just a band paid to play for the pub. It's a different relationship - and it's the player's night out too so please treat them with the respect you would other people - for example don't just take pictures without asking (especially with flashes).
So below is a (very) rough guide to each night at Sandy Bells. But remember, anything can happen!
In addition to the nightly sessions detailed below, there are daily afternoon sessions during the month of August for the Edinburgh Festival, from 2-5pm
An early fiddle session starting around 6pm is known as "Itchy and Scratchy".
After this, every second Monday there's a harmonica session. Sessions with between 12-15 harmonicas ("mouthies") have been known.
The later session, starting around 9.30pm, is a bit more mellow, and often features mouthies as well as the more standard traditional instruments (fiddles, flutes, mandolins, smallpipes, guitars).
Often a fiery Galician/Scottish/Irish vibe.
Often a more song-driven session, folk/blues, and also the traditional Scottish and Irish jigs and reels and other forms that are heard most nights at Sandy Bells.
Alternating weeks. Younger local musicians playing traditional instrumental music or singer songwriters/ instrumentalists with a bluegrass/Americana influence.
Photos by Julie Dieudonne
Anything can happen - the energy of the crowd and the playing of the stand-out regulars (and distinguished guests!) combine to create an amazing night out.