The Settle Inn: Stirling’s Soul

Lockdown stories of support for Stirling's oldest pub.


The Settle Inn is Stirling’s oldest pub, but, like treasured locals up and down the country, it was in danger of going out of business this year. 

Though there was a grant to pay expenses during lockdown, many of our independent establishments have suffered. Ongoing costs including rent and tax meant that there were hefty outgoings even while no money came in. Some small businesses were able to run take-away services; for places like the Settle, which does not serve food, this was never an option. 

Losing the Settle, which has been open since 1733, would be a blow to a town that is lacking in independent pubs. “That was one of my fears,” said Kerry McBride, who works behind the bar. “If they didn’t get it opened someone might buy it and turn it into a cafe or something. It would be a soul lost to Stirling.” 

Determined to do all she could to help, she asked the owners, father and daughter team Jock and Lesley Beech, what it would cost to re-open. Even though she knew how beloved the pub was, Lesley originally didn’t want to ask for donations: “I take their money all year round and give them cheek. I wasn’t going to take their money for nothing!” 

Photo: Robert Cutts

Photo: Robert Cutts

On the 27th June, Kerry posted a message about a GoFundMe to the pub’s community via their Facebook page. The original goal was £2000, enough to buy in opening stock and install vital screens, hand sanitization points, and signage. Within 24 hours supporters from across the world had raised £5000, and within a week the total was £6870. With the excess Lesley and Jock have been able to put in new easy-clean carpets and soft furnishings, replace the decades-old till, upgrade ventilation, and pay for a professional deep clean. The pub is sparkling, while retaining its charm. 

Pubs are important community hubs. They are places people go for social interaction, something we have all been sorely lacking in the past few months. Some have voiced disdain at prioritising the reopening of pubs, but it’s worth remembering what benefits these places offer. Many people live alone and going to the local is their main form of social interaction. “Some don’t even come in to drink,” said Kerry. “One guy comes in on a Saturday and does his crossword and just has a can of juice, just to chat to people.” The virus is serious, but so is loneliness. 

Twisted Britain, a podcast exploring true crime and strange events, came from two friends who met at the Settle. Created by Bob Dale and Nadine Royle in 2018, the podcast is recorded in the cave — the low brick room in the back — and listening to it feels like being included in a cosy conversation at your favourite pub, laughter and arguments over rounds included.

I found lifelong friends, endless support and a home away from home

“I worked at the Settle Inn as a barmaid for around five years and still miss it every day,” said Nadine. “The Settle was meant to be a part-time job, a means to find extra cash as a student, but it turned out to be so much more. I found lifelong friends, endless support and a home away from home.

“I was so happy to be able to return to Stirling for the reopening of the Settle Inn and it was just as it always has been: warm, cheerful and full of community spirit! It was amazing to see old friends reconnecting after time apart and see everyone showing support for this wonderful business.”

Emma Erwin, a regular of more than a decade, also told me why she loves it: “It’s there for everyone in the community, a beautiful mixture of locals, students and misfits that I’ve never seen come together in such a seamless way anywhere else. Lesley and Jock really look out for their regulars.

“My mum didn’t much like me moving to Stirling but one night in the pub she saw the family I had made around me and was happy with my new home. She’s even moved over herself now and loves bringing visitors to the Settle!” Emma and her mum both donated to the GoFundMe. 

Lesley was taken aback by the outpouring of support. “We’ve had messages from people overseas who’d only been here once or twice on their holidays, or folk that used to live here. It has been amazing.” 

It’s clear that patrons of the Settle did not think they were ‘giving for nothing’. The Settle Inn is one of a dying breed, a historic establishment that is run with warmth, love, and a little bit of cheek. It is for students, pensioners, tourists and lifelong locals. Thanks to the support of their community, Jock and Lesley will be able to continue offering their legendary welcome for years to come. 

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