Ratho pub Bridge Inn named best in Scotland

THE vegetables are as home-grown as the pork, while diners can enjoy a meal as the Union Canal ripples gently beneath them.

The Bridge Inns Jackie Smith toasts the pubs success which has been achieved thanks to its home-grown food and dining cruises. Picture: Ian Georgeson

It’s a world away from the pub Graham and Rachel Bucknall, both 44, inherited when they bought The Bridge Inn in 2010.

Four years on and the Ratho hostelry has been named Scotland’s best pub at the glittering AA Hospitality Awards ceremony in London.

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“More than a boozer” has been very much the motto of the husband and wife team, who collected their prize from TV newsreader Fiona Bruce at the Grosvenor Hotel.

The first-time pub owners have turned the canalside venue around, drawing diners and drinkers from all walks of life out of the city and into the village for the inn’s signature dishes, collection of ales, tasting events and dining cruises.

Today, they put the honour down to their never-ending efforts to go the extra mile for their loyal punters.

Food is as fresh as it can get at The Bridge Inn – Graham and Rachel hand-rear their own pigs to create the porky highlights of the menu.

Two barges kitted out with tables and chairs also provide picturesque views along the Union Canal for diners and drinkers.

Mrs Bucknall said: “I think there are quite a few things that make us different.

“When my husband and I started out, we knew absolutely nothing about running a pub, but we just started to incorporate different elements that appeal to our various interests.

“For example, we raise our own pigs and grow the majority of the vegetables that get served in the kitchen. We’ve also kick-started the barge services that the previous owners let lie dormant, which I think adds a lot to the character of the village and says something about its heritage.

“Throughout that process, I don’t think we’ve ever lost the village pub feel that the inn has always had, because at the end of the day it is Ratho’s only pub, and we have a group of locals to cater for.

“But we’ve tried to build upon that by making the inn a destination for people trying to escape the city for the day or other visitors that want to experience Ratho’s village aesthetic without venturing too far out of Edinburgh.”

Regulars at the pub – which doubles as a B&B with four bedrooms – said The Bridge Inn had been transformed by the couple, who thoroughly deserved their award.

Gemma Bisset, 48, said: “I think a lot of pubs all over the country have started to realise that they need to offer people more than just a watering hole.

“People want options. Maybe they want a place where they know there will be a roaring fire on a cold day, or a nice place to drink the day away outside when it’s sunny.

“They want good food and they want entertainment all in one package – and that’s why I think The Bridge Inn is doing so well.”

Yesterday, one drinker who returned to the pub for the first time in a decade was amazed by the transformation.

Ratho resident Hugh Wilson, 82, said: “I hadn’t been in for ten years, and it’s certainly changed.

“It used to be nothing but a village pub, but now it’s gone very upmarket. There’s a lot more to see and do.”

The latest award comes after The Bridge Inn was honoured for having the best food in Scotland at the Great British Pub Awards.

It was also shortlisted for the CIS Pub Excellence Award 2014 and has been nominated for the Waitrose Food and Drink Restaurant of the Year Award 2015.

Dog owners are also welcome – and the pub won an award for its friendly approach to pooches earlier this year.

Regular customer Stuart Henry, 68, said: “I can’t find anywhere else without having to leave my best friend behind.

“You don’t get many places like that any more – at least, you don’t get upmarket places like that.”