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Inverness bar owner Bruce MacGregor looks to expand into Sutherland with a second venue in Golspie in the early summer

By Ian Duncan

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Bruce MacGregor at MacGregor's Bar in Inverness.
Bruce MacGregor at MacGregor's Bar in Inverness.

Despite a global pandemic and some of the most challenging trading conditions in living memory one of Scotland’s leading Inverness-based bar brands is hoping to open a second venue in the coming weeks.

Bruce MacGregor, who owns MacGregor's Bar in Academy Street, has today confirmed they are planning to open the new outlet in Golspie, in the Ben Bhraggie, in the early summer.

He said they were living up to the business motto – despite them – considering everything that has happened over the past year and it had the added advantage of being on the North Coast 500.

The Inverness bar was the winner of Scotland’s Best Pub (Visit Scotland Thistle Awards) and Best Music Pub (Scottish Licensed Trade Awards).

Mr MacGregor said: "We’ve looked all over the country for the next MacGregor’s and the lockdown period really gave us a chance to research the trends in the business which have changed massively in the last year.

“We believe the move to staycations and the need to get to the great Highland wilderness is going to be massive. MacGregor’s has got a very strong Highland stamp of authenticity and we want to develop that.”

Jo De Sylva, the bar's co-owner and chairwoman of Visit Inverness and Loch Ness BID, said: “The North Coast 500 is going to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the UK for the foreseeable future.

"We looked right across the route and Golspie just stood out like a beacon for us for so many reasons. The setting is stunning with the beach just a few hundred metres away and the range of outdoor activities available from golf to mountain biking and hillwalking is just fantastic.”

With Dunrobbin Castle just a stone’s throw away the Ben Bhraggie dates back to 1829 and was constructed as the Aberdeen Town and County Bank. As a half-way house between Inverness and Wick, the “Ben” has been an ideal stop off point for travellers over the years and the couple hope that travelling musicians will be tempted in for some of the famous MacGregor bar music sessions.

Mr MacGregor , a member of Scotland’s Blazin’ Fiddles and presenter for BBC Radio Scotland, highlighted the role of music in the new venture and said: “We are so keen to get regular music and events on in the venue and to work with local performers.

"We actually spoke to a number of musicians in our research to find out what was wanted. Our whole ethos is marrying the best of Scottish music, food, drink and culture into the bar experience and Golspie has so much on its doorstep. We’re really looking forward to working with the local community and building something special for the area.”

Ms De Sylva, who has renovated and designed venues across Europe, wants the new venue to retain its character while embracing the brand's stamp. She said: “Although it will undeniably be MacGregor’s and that look and feel we have developed, we want to retain a lot of the local character. We’ll also be recruiting locally and training alongside our existing staff to ensure we maintain the MacGregor’s quality and consistency.

"One of the key reasons for coming to Golspie was the positive outlook and enthusiasm of locals for developing the town as an outdoor capital of the Highlands. A recent HIE report highlighted a number of opportunities that the community are desperate to develop and a quality food and drink offering is one of the pieces of the jigsaw that we can provide.”

The original MacGregor’s was crowdfunded and the new operation will also be offering people the chance to invest.

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