Earlston’s Red Lion calls time – for now

ICONIC Borders pub, The Red Lion – the only hotel in Earlston – called time for the time being on Thursday, writes Sally Gillespie.

But owners Punch Taverns says it is in talks with potential buyers, and local Scottish Borders Councillor Nicholas Watson is hopeful someone local will take over the well-known hostelry.

Former owner Kenny Macpherson said: “It’s the biggest pub in Earlston, it’s the only hotel and it was the only place that used to do food in the afternoon (other than local fast food outlets). It’s the biggest building in the centre of the town. It’s a huge miss.”

The hotel is thought to have had three tenants since Punch bought it in 2004.

Locals said the hotel closed its kitchen some time ago and had latterly stopped renting rooms.

A Punch spokesperson yesterday said: “We can confirm that The Red Lion is closed. As part of our disposal strategy, we review our estate regularly and may explore other options around the future of our less sustainable sites, or where they might better fulfil their potential for the local community under different ownership.

“Following such a review, a decision was made to put the Red Lion on the market and we are currently in discussions with interested parties.”

Mr Macpherson, who now has the village’s Swan Bar, has been in the trade for 36 years and bought the Red Lion in 1997.

He said: “It’s a well-known pub in the Borders. I don’t think I had a night when I didn’t have most of the rooms let.

“I have got great memories there, I had my family there and we had a great time. It was doing a bomb when we left it. I didn’t think it could fail. I didn’t have it for sale, Punch made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“They put in very nice people, but they didn’t know what they were doing.

“The last person was closing during the day because it was quiet, but you won’t sell any beer through the letter box.”

Councillor Watson said the pub had been for sale for a while and people had been interested before but a stalling point had been whether the hotel would be free of tenants.

He said: “It’s really sad to see anything like that go. Maybe now there is an opportunity, especially if it is in local ownership, to make something of it,” before adding, “Earlston has been crying out for more community space and perhaps there is an opportunity to meet that need as well.”