Country pub family raise toast

Craig and Nicola at the pub with Hugh
Craig and Nicola at the pub with Hugh

A Fylde Coast family is raising a glass to their 25th year in charge of the same pub.

Brian and Mae Wilkinson, of St Annes, took over the Bay Horse in Ellel, near Garstang in 1992, after running the famous Illawalla night club at Thornton, where Ken Russell filmed his film Valentino featuring Rudolph Nureyev.

We bought it right in the middle of the recession. Looking back, it was very brave, but it had to be done

Down a quiet country lane, the pub was once an unknown gem but under their son Craig Wilkinson, the chef patron, the Bay Horse is an award-winning gastro-pub.

Craig recalls the carpets were threadbare and it needed more than a good lick of paint.He put his training at Courtfield College in Blackpool to good use in the kitchen. The business became food-led, and the regulars and reputation of the Bay Horse grew.

It became known for top quality locally-sourced food.

Six years ago the family had the chance to buy the pub off brewery Mitchells.

Craig, 45, said it was both exciting and scary.

He said: “We bought it right in the middle of the recession. Looking back, it was very brave, but it had to be done.

“We always wanted to buy it off them.

“The pub was already a food-led business and I wanted to build on that.”

Craig said he saw the shift from a drinking culture to dining out and he knew he had be on top of every aspect of the business.

He said: “In the recession a lot of pubs went under. People couldn’t afford to run them. You have to keep one step ahead all the time. You have to adapt and run a very professional business.”

Craig and Nicola now have a son, Hugh, born a few weeks ago.