IT'S lost its reputation as an "old man's pub" with the award-winning Hillend Tavern's friendly welcome making it a pub where everybody knows your name. 

And while there's plenty of doom and gloom surrounding the industry, with soaring prices, changing drinking habits and staff shortages eating into the bottom line, the village bar is toasting its latest success. 

The pub has now been presented with the CAMRA Pub of the Year award for Scotland and Northern Ireland, which was announced in August, and will go forward to the next round see if they're named the best of British.

Owner Francesca Henderson said “We’re really proud.

"We’ve been here for 12 years and won some local and Fife awards, but this is the first Scotland-wide award that we’ve won.

“We’ve got a bit more footfall from all the exposure and publicity too. There were articles written all over the place. It was in the Times and on BBC Scotland. The exposure has been great.

Dunfermline Press: Cheers. Francesca Henderson and the team at the award-winning Hillend Tavern. Cheers. Francesca Henderson and the team at the award-winning Hillend Tavern. (Image: David Wardle)

"It sometimes feels like we’re a bit of a dying breed. We had seen the Coaledge Tavern closed down, which is such a shame so we’re very lucky that we’re surviving.”

She reckons good punters often make up a good pub and explained: “If a 'stranger', someone who we don’t recognise, was to come in there would definitely be someone there that will turn around and talk to them.

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"I feel like before it would’ve been different and people would just look at them in shock. We definitely don’t get that anymore. The characters that we get in really make the pub.

“We’ve got some youngsters, some that have just turned 18 which is brilliant because before it maybe had a reputation as more of an old man’s pub.

"It’s brilliant that it’s so inclusive now. We’ve got 18- to 80-year-olds and everything in between so it’s really fab.”

She continued: “We managed to keep all our amazing staff which says a lot.

"Helen has been with us eight years, Chris has been with us six, and Leslie-Anne has been here for two and a half.

"The staff build up a relationship with the locals and it ends up feeling like a more personal service. We know all about their woes and good news which makes a huge difference.”

Francesca said the Hillend Tavern is flourishing despite rising financial concerns in the pub game with the Scottish Licensed Trace Association (SLTA) releasing the results of a survey that show plenty of watering holes are struggling.

Soaring utility and supplier costs, under-staffing and a drop in trade have all had a big impact. 

SLTA spokesman, Paul Waterson, said: “In previous surveys we warned that it wouldn’t be economically viable for many outlets to remain open, and we are now seeing this come to fruition with a worrying nine per cent of outlets either planning to close or considering options.

“Scotland’s pubs and bars face a continued barrage of economic challenges and we call on the UK and Scottish governments to assist us in dealing with these challenges.”

Covid and the cost of living crisis have badly affected many businesses, including pubs, while people’s drinking habits have changed too. 

Francesca said: “Our hours have slightly changed since Covid. We used to have a big tea-time crowd which doesn’t really happen as much now.

"We also now close at 11pm during the week rather than 12. It seems as though people were coming in a bit earlier.”

In the meantime, there could be more success coming the Tavern's way soon.

She added: “Because we won the Scotland and Northern Ireland award, we go through to the next round and compete against winners from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, and Cumbria.

"We’re effectively in the last 16. We’re hoping to find out if we get any further into the competition by the end of the week.”