Owner of Britain’s remotest mainland pub, The Old Forge at Knoydart, goes to war with his very own locals (who’ve set up their own rival in protest)
British folk (and apparently even more so Scottish folk) are very territorial when it comes to their local pub. They have a favourite seat and a favourite barman (or barmaid) and they don’t like it when anything about their local changes. Even, as was shown in an episode of The Archers last week when the village pub, The Bull, changed the farm supplying the meat for its burgers, there will certainly be erruptions.
Now, with news that Britain’s remotest pub, The Old Forge at Knoydart in the Highlands, has a ‘rival,’ illustration has been provided as to how a wedge can be driven between a landlord who wants to alter their establishment and the community that has no doubt frequented that venue for decades.
Today, in The Times, correspondent Mike Wade reported on the “revolt” of the now former locals of The Old Forge – a pub accessible only by a 40 minute boat ride or a 17-mile hike over the moors. After several were banned – supposedly, in one case, for refusing to wash (according to another article in The Press & Journal) – and with 172 “terrible reviews” on TripAdvisor (opposed by 173 “excellent” ones also), the community has decided to set up its own bar under a wooden shelter by the pub. Here, according to Wade, “they bring drinks and snacks from the village shop and shoot the breeze.”
The Forge’s owner, a former Belgian hotelier who paid £645,000 for the 17th century premises in 2012 named Jean-Pierre Robinet, presents himself as a jovial sort on his website. He certainly makes the place sound whacky yet somewhat jolly and announces:
“People are important. Very. Food figures up there and music is our glue. Families reunited, divided in tune, best friends, trade secrets, lovers tiffs, escaping, daliances, affairs of the heart and hearty affairs, yachties, munro baggers, daydreamers lost in a book, lost on the hill, drunk on over or from the bottle. Idle chat, local gossip, furious fiddles, banjos, bongos and bodhrans heckling up each other for a cord change and lifting the pace of a late night strip the willow down the main street. Just another day at The Old Forge, mainland Britain’s remotest pub.”
“We have complimentary WiFi for customers up until 6pm, free new moorings for guests dining with us and musical instruments hang on the walls for guests to play – fiddles, guitars, whistles and spoons for the musically challenged! Relax and enjoy great company, stunning lochside views and the freshest of shellfish and seafood landed daily or join in on a ceilidh, you won’t want to leave. Leave your mobile – there’s no signal – but remember to pack your dancing shoes!”
Locals, by contrast, paint quite a different picture of “adamant he will not leave” Robinet. They brand him “unpredictable, grumpy and rude” and claim that he is physically aggressive (a charge that he flatly denies). The cite that he has hunting rifle confiscated in 2014 by the local police and state: “It’s a community against one guy. The community would like that guy to go.”
Readers of The Times reacted to this morning’s article with mixed sentiments. One, Ken Barrett, commented: “In these days of pub closures, the Knoydart locals are lucky to have a pub at all. Don’t push your luck, lads” whilst another, John W. Bright, added: “The Times published a survey last week showing that Scots are more strongly against immigration than the English. Not sure whether that has bearing here, but remote communities can anyway be a rocky road for a newcomer. Two sides to this one though, I feel!” Finally, one Michael Bone, ‘picked a bone’ with Mr Robinet and asked: “How can he object to competition when he’s closed for 4 months of the year?”