Pints were last served in the pub – which sits by the side of the A696 – four years ago and its closure has meant the close-knit commuity of Belsay has been without a drinking hole for the first time since the 1700s.
But this week Anthony Hunter, a group director at Ellingham Hall, was delighted to reveal they had aquired the landmark property and were looking forward to reopening it as a pub early next year.
He said: We first looked at the property in 2017, so it’s been on our radar for quite a while. It feels a bit like we have been waiting in the wings, and now it seems the right time to take it on."
Mr Hunter said the pub was due to undergo a refurbishment, and it was hoped the work would be completed by Easter next year. It will again serve food and, being on a well-worn route between England and Scotland, will aim to appeal to tourists as well as locals.
It will also retain its name.
Mr Hunter said: “We hope to make it into a good old fashioned community pub again. A ‘destination’ venue but still with the bar and restaurant, and a community feel about it. Still somewhere you can pop in with the dog."
Ellingham Hall, owned by entrepreneurs Aidan and Helen Ruff, is one of the county’s most exclusive wedding venues, and Mr Hunter did not rule out making the Highlander some sort of wedding destination in the future.
He said: “Everything is up for conversation.
"We have the space in the back [of The Highlander] and the area is crying out for decent function space. Ultimately, we may go down those lines a little, because that is what we know and are good at.
"It all comes down to offering a good service to people, and hopefully we already have a reputation of providing that at Ellingham Hall.”
Ellingham Hall’s sister venue, Lemmington House, is also due to start trading next year. The 18th century Georgian mansion near Edlingham, which was the Ruff’s home, is being converted and is due to open as an events venue.