Leitholm’s Plough Inn newcomers are given cause for cheer

Plough Inn proprietor Sarah McLean.
Plough Inn proprietor Sarah McLean.

A Berwickshire pub has been given cause for cheer over the quality of its beer despite only opening for business 18 months ago.

The Plough Inn, in Main Street, Leitholm, has been named as 2016’s Borders runner-up for a real ale quality award handed out annually by the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

Owners Sarah, 55, and David McLean, 58, bought the vacant building in 2014 as their first step into the hospitality trade.

Originally from London, Sarah has spent the last 22 years working in IT and living in Edinburgh with her Scottish-born husband David, who still works as a civil servant for the Scottish Government.

After extensive refurbishment of the building, which had sat vacant for around two years, they opened the Plough Inn in June 2015.

It now thrives not only as a pub, but as a cafe through the day, eatery at night, a three-roomed bed and breakfast, and an all-round community amenity selling a handful of daily items.

“We are aiming to make it a hub of the community,” Sarah explained.

“When we moved to Leitholm from the city, we found there were three things that consistently affected us.

“One was not being able to withdraw cash, one was that the fuel light seemed to come on every time we entered the village and the third was that we were constantly running out of milk.”

While there’s not a lot they can do about the fuel situation, Sarah now offers a cashback service to visitors and is looking to add milk to the small list of goods she already supplies, including free-range eggs and daily newspapers.

It being a family-run effort, Sarah’s stepson Fraser McLean, 32, also works at the Plough as head chef.

“It’s a friendly place,” Sarah said. “It takes a while to build up a customer base, but we are family and dog-friendly, and things are going very well.”

The Plough was named as best bar at the inaugural Born in the Borders awards last year and has been nominated for Scottish hospitality and entertainment awards this year.

However, the news of its Camra real quality award this week came as a complete shock to the couple.

Sarah said: “This is the first time we have won anything from Camra. We are delighted.

“We have two real ale pumps, one dedicated to Born in the Borders beers, which we rotate through, and the other is for a guest ale which might be local or national.

“This gives variety, but we try to support new breweries where we can.

“We have also been included in Camra’s Good Beer Guide for the first time, so we were really pleased to have made that so quickly.”

Now in its third year, the branch quality award is given to the pubs that have notched the highest average beer score during the year.

The Exchange Bar, also known as Dalton’s, in Hawick, was named as the Borders winner and came runner-up to the overall branch winner, the Doric Bar, in Edinburgh’s Market Street.

Scores are submitted by Camra members as they drink in pubs and range from zero, that being undrinkable, to five, rated as being absolutely stunning.