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July 20, 2021

Crook Inn for the long haul

The rapid expansion of community asset acquisitions in recent years might suggest to the casual observer that the whole process has become relatively straightforward and pain free. But closer inspection of the relatively brief history of community asset ownership reveals a different story. While there are some recognisable steps that all communities should consider, each acquisition presents its own unique set of challenges. None more so than the 400 year old Crook Inn in the Scottish Borders. Since 2006, the community has been trying to bring this vital community hub back to life under local ownership.

Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC

Work is scheduled to start later this month to bring the site of one of Scotland’s oldest pubs back into use.

The Crook Inn at Tweedsmuir in the Borders closed in 2006 after more than 400 years of continuous operation.

A lengthy community campaign to try to bring it back to life has now seen a contract awarded for phase one of a redevelopment.

It will allow work to begin on The Wee Crook – a licensed bistro – which it is hoped can open early next year.

The Crook Inn was first licensed in 1604 and operated for four centuries before it closed its doors for good.

Plans were lodged to turn it into flats and a house but local residents fought to buy the building and save it for the community.

A fundraising campaign saw the Tweedsmuir Community Company (TCC) agree a deal to take it over in 2012.

Grant applications for initial plans to redevelop the site proved unsuccessful in 2016, but enough money was subsequently raised to buy the remaining buildings and surrounding land.

It led to revised plans over three phases to revive the historic building.

A contract has now been awarded to Biggar-based Lawrie Construction to carry out the first stage of work at a cost of £600,000.

It will see the old steading building converted into a licensed bistro.

At the same time, the community is working on restoring the gardens opposite and the land around the inn.

A second phase will see the development of a new bunkhouse behind the Crook Inn providing accommodation for tourists visiting the area.

Then the final section of work will be to tackle the main building itself.

James Welch, TCC vice chairman, said support from Scottish Borders Council, South of Scotland Enterprise and local wind farm funds – as well as others – had been instrumental in moving the project forward.

“We are really delighted to have made it across the line and are now able to move our focus to the delivery of a new facility for the Upper Tweed community and to welcome visitors to the area,” he said.

Work should start on the new bistro by the middle of July and it is hoped it can open for business by spring 2022.