Dales pub boss exiting the dragon for life on a Greek isle

Mark Thompson outside the Green Dragon Inn
Mark Thompson outside the Green Dragon Inn
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ONE of Yorkshire’s longest serving publicans is calling time on his career to fulfil a long-standing dream of living a much quieter life on a Greek island.

Mark Thompson and his partner Yvonne Lovatt have decided to sell the famous 13th century Green Dragon Inn in Wensleydale after running the historic coaching inn for 14 years.

Mr Thompson saved the pub from bankruptcy in 2001 when he bought it for £375,000 and has since carried out renovations which have included building a visitor centre near Hardraw Force, reputedly England’s highest single drop waterfall, which he also owns and runs as a visitor attraction.

The pub is for sale for £675,000 but Mr Thompson intends to retain ownership of the waterfall and the nearby campsite.

He said the decision to sell up and move on was a difficult one after being in the pub trade for 36 years “on and off”.

Since 1979 he has run a total of four different pubs in the Dales.

The decision to leave the Green Dragon was partly influenced by Ms Lovatt being diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Thompson also admitted that he had lost some of his passion for pub life and, to some extent, for people in general.

In April, he and Ms Lovatt, 64, are due to move to the Aegean island of Paros, which is around 100 miles from Athens and noted for its artists and writers.

Mr Thompson, 58, who has been visiting Paros several times a year since he was 19, wants to spend time painting old farmhouses and landscapes.

He said leaving the Green Dragon would be difficult but it was time to move on as it had become “too busy” and he wanted a quieter life.

“I love people but I have had enough of them,” he said.

“I want to be a hermit - to live up a coconut tree.”

He said that running a pub involved a lot of “giving” from which he had derived a great deal of pleasure.

“I’m going to stop (in Paros) as long as it takes. I have to do it. I have wanted to do it for 30 years. I have been over there three or four times a year for 30 years.”

He said one of high points of the last 14 years was successfully restoring the Green Dragon and turning it into a busy pub and then organising folk festivals, which he hoped would continue after his departure.

“The Green Dragon has a spirit of its own. Whoever comes in will be guided by it. It’s not just a pub, it’s something special, it is hallowed, it is the guardian of the waterfall.

“Selling is not something I want to do but I have realised my limitations after 36 years in the trade, on and off. I have mixed feelings really.

“I love the pub and I want the right person to love it like we do. Whether it is sold or leased, it has to be the right person who is passionate.

“It has a good wet trade, which goes up year on year. When we bought it, it smelled of sewage and was derelict. It has got to the point where it is too busy.”

He had also enjoyed chatting with celebrities who have popped in over the years, ranging from TV presenters to sporting stars and politicians.

Mr Thompson said he might consider running one more pub but a “quiet one” where he can play dominoes and have a few beers with a handful of locals.

The Green Dragon Inn is on the market for £675,000 freehold or £100,000 for a new free-of-tie lease with freehold purchase option with the Leeds office of agents Davey Co.

There is a three bedroom cottage and additional self contained apartments available by separate negotiation.

The pub’s history has seen a host of famous guests including poet William Wordsworth and the artist JMW Turner.

The waterfall was used as a location for the 1991 movie, Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves, which starred Kevin Costner.

Hardraw Force featured in a scene when Maid Marian caught a sight of Robin Hood bathing under a waterfall.

Owner Mr Thompson has chatted to a host of famous visitors including cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, TV presenter John Craven and political pundit Andrew Marr.

Mr Thompson is also in the middle of restoring Nappa Hall, a manor house in Wensleydale. And a book of his photos of Dales scenes from the 1980s to now is due to be published.