Village pub bucks the trend

The newly-reopened Cross Keys Inn at Ettrickbridge is bucking the current economic downturn, with customers flocking to the transformed pub.
The Cross Keys Inn at Ettrickbridge has been reopened by Rory Steel (inset).The Cross Keys Inn at Ettrickbridge has been reopened by Rory Steel (inset).
The Cross Keys Inn at Ettrickbridge has been reopened by Rory Steel (inset).

New life has been breathed back into the ailing village hostelry following its demise over several years, culminating in the doors being closed six months ago – but under the ownership and expertise of Rory Steel and wife Vicki, the pub is thriving.

Rory, who has spent 10 years running the couple's nearby luxury hospitality business, Aikwood Tower, said: “The support from the locals has been fantastic, with lots of repeat visits and high praise for our menus.

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"We have been really touched with just how welcoming and generous they have been.”

The new business, situated seven miles from Selkirk, is also proving a boost to the local economy, having created three full-time and eight part-time jobs, whilst providing some with their first taste of working life.

For Rory, whose father is Lord Steel of Aikwood, the renovation has certainly been a labour of love, having spent the first 18 years of his life living opposite the pub.

“It was always the centre of village life," he told us. “My family and friends have many happy memories from that time, and it was sad seeing it closed.”

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It was also feared that the much-loved property would be taken over for residential use, but with the couple's deluxe self-catering business only a couple of miles away, Rory said they decided it was a viable move.

There were some synergies that could make it work from a business perspective”, he explained. “After doing some planning and securing funding from South of Scotland Enterprise and the RBS, we felt the opportunity was a risk worth taking, in what is uncertain times for the hospitality sector.”

Since then, the bar has been completely redecorated with new floor, lighting and seating, but it was vital to the Blainslie couple that they retained the character of the pub's history.

“The pictures of the village through the years are on the walls, including all the personalities that have made, and continue to make, Ettrickbridge such a special place to live”, the 49-year old said.

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Alluding to the response to the revamped inn and full bookings, he added: “People are curious to see what we've done with the place, but hopefully word is spreading that they can expect a warm welcome, quality drinks, and tasty food.”

And after a hugely successful launch at the front of house, the couple have now also reopened the extensively refurbished bedrooms.

Looking to the future, the dad-of-two added: “We have set ourselves some ambitious goals, including winning industry awards, and if the team continue to work as well as they have been, there's no reason why we can't.”

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