Two Borders pubs named best in Scotland for beer and food

Two Borders pubs have extra cause for cheer after being named the best in the country.

By Darin Hutson
Friday, 20th September 2019, 3:10 pm
Manager Nikki Cassidy and barman Hamish Crawford at the Bridge Inn in Peebles.
Manager Nikki Cassidy and barman Hamish Crawford at the Bridge Inn in Peebles.

The Bridge Inn in Peebles has been given the title of best pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland for the second time in three years by the Campaign for Real Ale and retained its long-standing place in the organisation’s latest Good Beer Guide.

Burt’s Hotel in Melrose is also celebrating after being named as Scotland’s best bar for dining at by the rival Good Pub Guide for the sixth year on the trot and seventh time overall.

The Bridge Inn, in Port Brae, will be presented with a certificate by Camra officials on Saturday, September 28, and will now go on to vie with other regional winners to be named the UK’s best pub in February.

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Nick Henderson at Burt's Hotel in Melrose.

Nikki Cassidy, manager of the pub for the last seven years, is delighted by that accolade.

“It’s great. It’s good to be honoured. We’re chuffed to bits, absolutely,” she said.

She’s pleased too to see her pub, also known as the Trust and previously as the Tweedside Inn, keep its listing in the Good Beer Guide.

“We’re proud to have been in it for as long as I can remember,” she said.

The Ladhope Inn in Galashiels.

“I’ve been here for over 10 years and it’s been in since long before that.

“It was in it as far back as 1994, according to a certificate we’ve got here, but it could well have been in even longer.”

Nikki attributes its enduring popularity to the quality of its beers – four being on offer on cask at any one time, with Jarl by Fyne Ales in Argyll and Bute the only ever-present and one of the Borders’ seven breweries always being represented – and its commitment to fostering a sense of community among its regulars.

“We’ve got such great local ales it would be daft not to have them on,” she said, adding: “Community focus is definitely important to us, so we’ve got things like our techie Tuesday so we can help our older customers keep up with modern technology.

The Exchange Bar in Hawick.

“We’ve also got a French conversational group and our Monday lunch club to save people having to eat at home on their own. I’ve renamed it the munch-and-moan club, though, as they’re always moaning.”

Diners at Burt’s Hotel, in Market Square, are unlikely to have much to moan about, on the other hand, as its food is as good as it gets this side of the border, according to the Good Pub Guide, published by Ebury Press.

Being named the best dining pub in Scotland by the guide once again isn’t something its boss, Nick Henderson, and head chef, Radik Micia, take for granted, though.

“It’s an achievement we’re proud of, but we can never be complacent,” said Nick.

“We’re always striving for greater consistency. Customers keep coming back because they know they’re going to get good food, and that’s something we want to keep up.”

The Bridge Inn is the only pub in Peebles listed in the 2020 Good Beer Guide, down from three last year.

The only towns to muster multiple entries this year are Innerleithen, with St Ronan’s Hotel and the Traquair Arms, and Kelso, with the Cobbles and Rutherfords.

They’re among 18 entries for the Borders also including Earlston’s Red Lion, the Horseshoe Inn at Eddleston, the Ladhope Inn in Galashiels, the Exchange Bar in Hawick, Morebattle’s Templehall Hotel and two pubs sharing the name of the Gordon Arms, at Mountbenger and West Linton.

Burt’s Hotel is one of only two entries for the Borders in the main section of the 2020 Good Pub Guide, the other being the Wheatsheaf at Swinton, but a further nine are given brief mentions in its round-up of other bars worth a visit.

They include the Allanton Inn in the Berwickshire village of that name, Lauder’s Black Bull, Ayton’s Hemelvaart Bier Cafe, the Cross Keys at Ancrum and the Buccleuch Arms at St Boswells.

The select band of bars meriting a mention in both guides consists of the Cobbles, the Craw at Auchencrow, the Border at Kirk Yetholm and Mountbenger’s Gordon Arms.

Both guides are out now and both cost £15.99.

Here are a dozen of our entries ...