The Witch's Skull at the Saracen's Head - Atlas Obscura

Though the Saracen Head pub, affectionately referred to by the locals as the “Sarry Heid” or “Sorry Head,” has been in the Trongate district of Glasgow since the 18th century, the current building is a more modern drinking den.

In the Middle Ages, Saracen described any person who followed Islam. According to legend, anyone who returned from the Crusades with a Saracen’s head was considered a conquering hero. Today, the Saracen Head pub has become Glasgow’s first pub museum.

One object on display inside the tavern is a woman’s skull attributed to “Maggie the last witch to be burnt at the stake.” This may refer to the same woman remembered at Maggie Wall’s Memorial, which commemorates a woman accused of witchcraft some 50 miles away in Perthshire during Scotland’s witch trials from the 14th to the 18th century.

While the skull belonged to a woman, it’s unlikely to have survived the conflagration. More likely, the skull was taken from the Church of Little St Mungo’s cemetery.

Also at the Saracen Head is a poem by the country’s national bard, Robert Burns. However, this is not on display and is kept in the private hands of the owners for safety.

The watering hole also has connections to a few other literary luminaries. Renowned English biographer James Boswell and the purveyor of the dictionary Samuel Johnson were said to have visited after their excursions to the Hebrides. Other notable celebrities to visit the pub include the economist Adam Smith and the poet William Wordsworth.

Know Before You Go

The Saracen's Head hours of operation are irregular. The best time to go is in the afternoon, Friday to Sunday. The display case is on the left, just as one enters the bar. The pub is cash only.

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