Honoured: Dales pub that refused to die

FOR the villagers of Litton in the Yorkshire Dales, it was an event that had an all too familiar ring to it.

Emily Cowan, landlady of The Queens Arms at Litton in the Yorkshire Dales.

When the historic Queen’s Arms closed its doors in February last year, many feared it was the latest in a long list of village pubs that had fallen victim to the economic slump. The building dates from 1637 and had been a pub since 1841, but its demise was seen as another major blow to the rural community after the nearby Arncliffe Primary School closed the previous year.

But Mark and Heather Hancock, who have lived in Littondale for the last 16 years, decided to buy the premises and undertook a major restoration before re-opening in May. The efforts to rejuvenate the pub have now seen the Queen’s Arms named as the best rural start-up business in Yorkshire in The Countryside Alliance’s annual Rural Awards.

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The accolade has been announced as the pub’s landlady, Emily Cowan, who grew up in Litton, is due to celebrate her 21st birthday tomorrow. She will travel to London with Mr and Mrs Hancock and the pub’s chef, Ann Baker, for the national awards ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on March 13.

Miss Cowan said: “We are absolutely thrilled and it is amazing to have won the award. You often hear a lot of doom and gloom about village pubs closing, but The Queen’s Arms proves they can be a success. We have worked really hard for this to be something the whole dale can be proud of, and the award is recognition of what we are trying to achieve.”

The pub employs about a dozen staff and its menu features ingredients sourced from local farmers.

While it is back at the heart of the community, it is also helping boost the tourism industry. Visitors from as far afield as Australia, China and America have all stayed since it re-opened. Two new bedrooms will be ready next month to rent out alongside the existing four rooms, while a micro-brewery is being launched in April.