The Cross Keys, in Ettrickbridge, has been revived by a local couple, Rory and Vicki Steel. They have spent over £400 000, in buying and refurbishing the 17th Century coaching Inn seven miles from Selkirk.
The pub had fallen into a decline and had been closed for six months when the couple who live nearby in Blainslie, stepped in. The couple also own a nearby hospitality venue – Aikwood Tower. A grant from South of Scotland Enterprise helped the pair acquire the freehold and carry out extensive refurbishments.
Rory Steel explains, “Without their help, I’m pretty sure the developers would be turning the pub into flats and it would have had a detrimental effect on village life.”
Mr Steel, the son of the former Liberal Democrat leader David Steel, now Baron Steel of Aikwood has fond childhood memories of the local pub from its past. He says, “The pub was a huge part of my childhood – I grew up opposite it for the first 18 years of my life and it was the hub of village life. My dad liked being able to go to the pub and not have to talk politics, people would much rather talk about fishing or rugby with him. The exception to that might have been election time when the pub was packed with journalists.
“The visitors were always made to feel very welcome, and there were some legendary lock-ins during those high-energy weeks.”
He credits the pub with him entering a career in the drinks industry – his career included working for William Grant & Sons and he ran Steely Fox PR for 15 years.
Now the Cross Keys has returned to being a vibrant pub at the heart of the village, serving food. It also now has seven bedrooms.
The live-in management team are chef Ashleigh Barker and his wife Danielle who is front of house. Ash has worked at Riddle & Finn and Dermot O’Leary’s, Fishy Fishy in Brighton, and with stints at Soho House and Kensington Wine Rooms before moving to Scotland.
Mr Steel concludes, “The project wouldn’t have worked if the locals weren’t behind the plan. They have been hugely supportive, which is what we need if we’re to succeed. The majority of staff are local and creating employment and opportunity for youngsters to come into hospitality has been hugely satisfying.”