New owner of Tan Hill Inn looks to the skies to boost appeal
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
THE new owners of Britain’s highest pub are looking to the sky to boost its international appeal.
Business partners Andrew Hield and Mike Kenny took over management of Tan Hill Inn from Louise and Mike Peace last week and while they want to maintain its character, they have grand plans to attract more people to the area, not least of which is putting in star-gazing pods as it is one of the few pubs in the country to be classed as a Dark Sky Discovery Site.
Mr Hield said: “It has world-wide appeal, not just local appeal. Louise and Mike have done a fantastic job and have it at a stage where we can continue. We think it has reached about 50 per cent of its potential.”
First on their list, however, is to improve the guest rooms.
Once complete they plan to visit Finland and Norway to learn more about maximising the potential of star-gazing pods and hope to have them up-and-running within two years.
Also on the cards are improved facilities for campers, walkers, bikers and bird-watchers. In addition, the new owners want to capitalise on the inn’s fame as a music venue, which was developed by Mrs Peace to a point where it has featured such acts as Mark Ronson, Arctic Monkeys, Scouting for Girls and British Sea Power.
She said: “We’ve had 90 per cent of the best British indie rock groups here. Music nights are really special, even if there is only one person on. It is the heartbeat of Tan Hill inn really.”
Traditionally, concerts have been held in the Inn’s barn, but putting up a marque could increase capacity up to about 500 people, Mr Hield said.
The 34-year-old, who was recognised as the nation’s most outstanding entrepreneur during the 2014 Best Business Awards, wants to improve the inn’s merchandising, such as beer mats, T-shirts and bottle openers, and make them available to buy online.
He said: “People make a special trip to come to Tan Hill for a beer mat and then there aren’t any.”
For her part, the former landlady is to briefly return to Fort Augustus where about 14 years ago it “all began”.
t was there that she gave up her work in the construction industry to take up ownership of the inn.
After that she plans to write a book about her experiences at the pub.
Explaining what she will miss most, she said: “I think it is all the interaction with the people – the craic.
“It’s the vast population of completely diverse people under the roof at the same time. The hoity-toity and the rough and ready.
“If you go to a workingmen’s club you getting workingmen, if you go to a gentlemen’s club, you get gentlemen – at Tan Hill you get every walk of life. It is what makes Tan Hill special.”
At 1,732 feet above sea level Tan Hill Inn is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest pub in England.
It became famous in the 1980s after appearing in a television advert for double-glazing company Everest, and has since appeared in adverts for Vodafone and Waitrose.