Edinburgh Transport

Coaches and Inns

in the Eighteenth Century

In the 1700s no local network of coach services in and around Edinburgh had yet been established, but it was becoming easier to travel to distant places.

The coaching business  that developed from Edinburgh in the eighteenth century was linked to a number of inns,  and was due to the efforts of a few innkeepers.

John Somervell

There are variations in the spelling of his name.

In 1725, an advert was placed advising people interested in travelling to London or any part of England to enquire to Mr Somervil's Gunsmith, Foot of Canongate.  This is the first advert that I have found for coaches from Edinburgh.

In 1736 John Somervell advertised  'A good coach and six stout horses to set out to London or Bath'.

John Somervell continued to advertise in the mid-eighteenth century.  At this time he described himself as stabler, rather than Gunsmith.  It took his Edinburgh Stagecoach ten days in summer and twelve days in winter to make the journey of about 400 miles from Edinburgh to London in 1754.

The coaching business in Edinburgh developed during the eighteenth century, due to the efforts of a few innkeepers.



White Lion Inn Mr Paxton's coaches left the White Lion Inn, foot of Canongate, to travel to London,  once a month in 1850

White Horse Inn

John Dumbreck developed a coaching business from White Horse Inn, Boyd's Close, off St Mary's Wynd, just outside the Netherbow Gate, in the 1780s.

From here he ran:
-   the "
Edinburgh and London Fly"
-   the "
Edinburgh and Aberdeen Fly"
-   coaches to
Kelso and Leith

He then sold the business to Duncan McFarlane in 1790.  McFarlane added
-   the "
Stirling Coach"
-   the "
Jedburgh Ply"
-   the "
Berwick Diligence".

Black Bull Inn

In 1772, the "Newcastle Fly" ran from the Black Bull Inn, at the head of the Canongate.

White Hart Inn In 1772, a a coach to Newcastle also ran from the White Hart Inn, near the Cowgate Port.  This was shortly after the inn had been acquired by James Dun.

The coach fare was 31s 6d to Newcastle and 4 14s 6d to London.

The next tenant of the White Hart Inn (1777-1782) was Duncan McFarlane.  From this address, he ran:
-  the "
London Fly"
-  the "
Glasgow Diligence".

Adam Square From his house in Adam Square in 1790, Duncan McFarlane later ran:
-  the "
London Fly"
-  the "
Jedburgh Diligence"

[Extract from 'Book of he Old Edinburgh Club' Vol. XIV (1925)  'Some Inns of the Eighteenth Century' supplemented by additional info found in old newspaper advertisements.]


Hotels and Coaches

John Dumbreck

In 1779, John Dumbreck, a vintner and innkeeper, purchased White Horse Inn, Boyd's Close, from John Boyd.  From there, Dumbreck ran the "Edinburgh and London Fly" and other coaches.  Here is an advertisement for the coach from March 1781

"In Four Days to London during the Summer"

The Edinburgh and London Fly will, on Monday 2nd April set out from the White Horse at 2 o' clock in the morning precisely and continue to do so every lawful day.

John Dumbreck died in 1791, leaving his eldest son William, born 1763, to run three Dumbreck Hotels in St Andrew Square

Originally the hotel was a single building (possibly 37 or 39 St Andrew Square) but it subsequently spread into adjacent buildings and became known as "Dumbreck's Hotels".  William Dumbreck sold these hotels to the newly formed National Commercial Bank in 1825.  The pictures below were probably engraved:

-  LEFT:  around 1800

-  RIGHT:  shortly after the sale of these hotels.

 Engraving from 'Modern Athens'  -  East Side of St Andrew Square

[Acknowledgement: Rod Dumbreck, descendant of William Dumbreck's family.]


The New Town of Edinburgh

Royal Mail Coaches

Edinburgh - Glasgow

Royal Mail coaches to from Edinburgh to Glasgow started from the several locations in the New Town of Edinburgh.


Tuft Coffee House, 1 St Andrew Street, Edinburgh
Mr Drysdale, proprietor,  Later Forsyth's Dept Store was based here

1804-1808 and possibly later

Tuft Coffee House, 20 St Andrew Street, Edinburgh
Mr Drysdale, proprietor  At the junction of South St Andrew Street and St Andrew Square.


Black Bull Inn, 1 Catherine Street, Edinburgh
part of Leith Street


MacGregor's Crown Hotel, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh
Later the North British Hotel, re-named Balmoral Hotel was based here

[Acknowledgement for the above details: Bill Cochrane]




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