Pub tenancies - spotlight on the north of Scotland

Interested in running a pub in the North of Scotland? In this post our Business Development Manager for the area, Billy Guthrie, shares the many benefits of living and working in this desirable region, and some of the excellent pub tenancies that are currently available.

What’s driving the pub industry in the North of Scotland?

“Scotland has become an all year round destination for tourists. There are lots of outdoor activities from horse-riding, quad biking, hill walking, scuba diving and other outdoor pursuits. Over the winter there are opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, if we have snow, and people still come for the beauty of the scenery, the people and the hospitality.”

“The North of Scotland is very much a tourist area. Scottish tourism is up and areas such as the Highlands, where we’ve got pubs, are thriving. It’s even becoming difficult for people to find places to stay because it’s become so popular. Because of issues such as Brexit, the Euro, terrorism etc. people are attracted to Scotland.

“A big part of tourism is around food, drink and hospitality; it’s very much the driving force in Scotland. Places like Perth, Aviemore, Inverness and Elgin (which sits on the whisky trail) are all on the up because of tourism.”

What areas of the region do you cover?

“I live near Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. It’s a great place to live. The quality of life is excellent. It’s good value for money in terms of property, I live just stone’s throw from the beach; great for walking the dogs and they say the east coast is the ‘sunniest part of the UK!’ It’s also quite easy to commute to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and St Andrews – if you’re into golf there’s lots of golf courses – there’s everything here you could want to do.

“It’s also the start of my geographical area that I look after for Greene King. Everything in the North of Scotland from the River Tay, east to west and everything above.

“That encompasses Dundee, up the east coast to pubs in Arbroath, Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen; right up to Elgin and across the Moray Firth from Inverness, to Dingwall and then down through Aviemore and Aberfeldy, to Perth, out to Kinlochleven and then back to Dundee.”

Would you recommend moving to the area to run a pub?

“I do have a couple of Spanish guys who are running a pub in Gleneagles and they’re very successfully operating one of our pubs. While I don’t currently have many pubs with licensees who have moved from further south to run a business, I don’t think this is a barrier. There are lots of people in the hospitality sector who have moved to the area and they are welcomed. The Scottish people are very welcoming.

“There are opportunities here for people with some investment to change their lifestyle and run a pub in this area, and for local people to have their own pub business.”

What makes a good pub in the North of Scotland?

“Gone are the days when you opened the door and people come into your pub. We’re now looking for ways to be different, to be the first with new ideas, to look ahead and see what’s going to be trending nine months down the line. Although what’s happening now is part of it, it’s also about licensees not just being satisfied with what they’ve got but looking for ways to improve and dial it up a little bit.

“We need to be able to innovate and offer new things, even with that traditional feel. For example we’ve got pubs that a few years ago wouldn’t have thought about selling wine, coffee, driving more food sales or putting on events. Tenants need to provide customers with a reason why they should come to their pub. Is it the craft beer, the pub garden, or the really friendly staff? Or is it just the comfortable surroundings, being able to take kids there? We’re really trying to change our pubs to be somewhere that has something to offer for everyone.

“We’ve seen the likes of Costa, Starbucks and other companies impacting on our business – opening earlier, staying open later, or being licensed to sell alcohol; so we need to be able to change and combat that by offering an alternative. That could mean offering coffee and somewhere to work with your laptop, it’s not just about going for a pint.”

Greene King and Belhaven Pub Partners have an active Facebook group for people in the pub trade in Scotland. It's a forum for sharing ideas, discussing the industry and what's happening in your area. It's a supportive group and members get a lot out of it. Whether you already have a pub in Scotland, or are thinking about taking on a tenancy or lease, you can become a member of the Facebook group here: Belhaven - Run a Pub - Scotland

Billy’s Top 4 Pub Tenancies In The North Of Scotland

If you live in the North of Scotland and would like to get your first pub, or if you’re already in the trade and want a new site, we’ve got some great opportunities for the right licensee. If you’re thinking of relocating to run a pub in Scotland and enjoy the fantastic lifestyle the region offers, you’re also in the right place!

The pubs below give you flavour of the type of pubs we have at Belhaven, they were available at the time of publishing. Use the search function at the top of this article to search for our latest pubs.

1. Picturesque views at the Clachnaharry Inn, Inverness

Year-on-year Inverness is attracting more tourists to the area and providing locals with jobs to support this industry. The Clachnaharry Inn has established itself as a popular destination pub for tourists and locals alike. It’s a traditional community pub with a distinctly modern Scottish feel; from the décor in the bar, dining room and lounge areas, to the menu that features plenty of Scottish fare.


This pub would suit a couple or single owner operator looking for their first pub, or someone with experience who loves the area and wants to be part of this community. The pub is on the outskirts of Inverness, close to the railway line with its steam train, and has fantastic views over the Black Isle and Caledonian Canal from the garden.

The Clachnaharry stocks a great range of cask ales, premium beers and lagers, and also runs a busy kitchen offering high end pub food with a focus on Scottish dishes and local produce. We’re looking for a tenant that will want to continue the great work already in place at this pub, and find new opportunities to grow the business.

2. Secret beer garden at the Abergeldie Bar

Could you uncover the hidden treasure that is the Abergedie Bar’s beer garden? This pub boasts a fantastic, secluded beer garden that would make it a great destination for local families and visitors to the area. Located in a residential area of Aberdeen, with a buoyant student population too, this pub needs someone to give it direction and maximise its obvious potential.


We think the Abergeldie Bar would suit either a first time operator or someone with food experience that would like to develop the site. There is great scope to improve on the offer and build a reputation for good food and a family friendly environment. With such a great catchment area on the outskirts of the city centre, the new licensee has an excellent opportunity to increase sales and grow profits.

3. A Traditional Wet-Led Pub – The Ionic Bar, Elgin

While there is a trend away from the value end of the pub market to more mainstream and premium offers, there is still a place for a traditional wet-let pub. The Ionic Bar in Elgin is a great example. It’s a single bar with a small lounge area, dartboards, pool table, and a warm welcome.


This is a ‘wee’ Scottish pub and therefore the perfect size - with attractive entry costs - for someone wanting to run a pub for the first time or take on a pub tenancy without needing a large investment. It has provided the current tenants with a good level of income and an opportunity to run a ‘proper’ pub in the heart of the community.

The right operator will embrace the lifestyle that comes with running a community pub: knowing what regulars like to drink, supporting local events, and providing a hub for residents in this area of the town. The Ionic Bar will benefit from an operator who understands the importance of customer service and provide customers with a reason to visit again. Regular events as well as a warm welcome should help drive sales and profits for this particular pub.

4. A unique opportunity in a unique pub – The Braided Fig, Aberdeen

To get an idea of what a fantastic opportunity this pub restaurant business is you only need to look at its Tripadvisor reviews. In the last 15 years the tenants of this pub – who are now retiring – have built a reputation for excellent food and fantastic customer service. We’re looking for someone to take the Braided Fig forward, build on this great work, and ensure that it remains a popular destination for going out in Aberdeen.


While the lunch and dinner menus at the Braided Fig draw customers from around the area, there’s a key talking point that also provides an attraction. The fig tree that the pub takes its name from, grows in the bar providing a focal point to relax and have a drink under!

The Braided Fig has been refurbished in the last two years and therefore doesn’t require any investment in improving facilities or furnishings. The key factor it does require is someone with excellent experience in food and drink, who has the drive and passion to take on this much loved destination pub and ensure it continues to thrive.


As before, if you have any questions about this opportunity or any other pub tenancies in the North of Scotland speak to Billy Guthrie. As he says, “if you are thinking about taking on a pub tenancy or your next site, speak to us. We won’t try to persuade you to take on a pub you’re not suited for; we want to find the right tenants for the right pub. Just come and have a chat, as they say ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’”