My Pub: The Ashford Arms, Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Peak condition: the Ashford Arms is a hot spot for tourists in the Peak District
Peak condition: the Ashford Arms is a hot spot for tourists in the Peak District

Related tags My Pub Star pubs & bars Property Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

The Ashford Arms is pubco Longbow Venues’ third site.

The independent group based in the Peak District, was set up by Derby hotelier Rob Hattersley in 2019.

Here, he tells The Morning Advertiser​ about the site, which is located in a picturesque village with plenty of footfall thanks to tourism.

The pub

The Ashford Arms is a 400-year-old grade II-listed coaching inn in the Peak District National Park set in the centre of Ashford-in-the-Water, which was voted in the 20 prettiest villages by readers of The Times​.

A Covid casualty, the Ashford Arms closed in March 2020. Villagers were desperate for it to reopen and, knowing our other two venues, a local resident pleaded with me to take a look.

We could see its potential immediately. It’s a beautiful building with lots of space in a stunning location that is increasingly popular with tourists.

Facts ’n’ stats

Pub name:​ the Ashford Arms

Pub company:​ Longbow Venues

Licensee:​ Rob Hattersley

Address:​ 1 Church St, Ashford-in-the-Water, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1QB

Wet:dry split:​ 30:70


Importantly for us, it is also close to our other two sites. We specialise in taking businesses that are closed or on the verge of closure and making them viable, so the Ashford Arms was a perfect fit.

We lease the pub from Star Pubs & Bars and, after a joint £1.6m refurbishment with them, we reopened it in February of this year as a premium country pub with nine boutique ensuite bedrooms.

It has a new snug, two bars, a 107-cover restaurant plus a 30-seater alfresco area with a retractable roof opening onto the garden.

It was a massive project made easier by Star. They allowed us to use our own contractor who knows the finish and look we’re after and assigned us a dedicated investment manager and a business development manager to provide additional expertise and support. 

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The publican

Hospitality is in my blood. I started out my career helping out in my parents’ restaurant, Aitch’s Wine Bar in Bakewell, before working as a chef and manager throughout the UK and, for a few years running, beverage operations for Royal Caribbean Cruise Liners.

After years working for other people, I wanted to go it alone and set up a business that put the team and local suppliers front and centre.

Rob Hattersley

I sold my home and invested my life savings in founding Longbow Venues in 2019. Following a major refurbishment, I opened my first site the Maynard in Grindleford six weeks before Covid hit.

Longbow Venues now has the Maynard, an award-winning hotel, restaurant and wedding venue; the George at Hathersage, a 24-bedroom premium gastropub and the Ashford Arms, all within an eight-mile radius.

The Peak District was discovered by staycationers during the pandemic and there’s lots of capacity in the market for independently run premium venues that celebrate the region’s fantastic produce.

The trade

The Ashford Arms is a top-quality country gastropub, open from 8am serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon teas and dinner to locals, visitors, walkers and those wishing to escape to the Peak District. The site can serve up to 150 diners each day midweek and 350 covers at a weekends.

We aim to give our guests a premium pub experience and everything we would ever want in a pub ourselves. It’s about warmth, joy and seasonal dishes that feel special but aren’t at all fussy or overcomplicated as well as feeling welcomed and at home as soon as you step in the door.

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The Ashford Arms is both a local pub for those living nearby and a destination venue for people from further afield. We make sure we cater for both. Our pricing is fair and although food is a big part of our offer, we keep a large bar area for those just wanting to drink where the tables aren’t bookable.

The response to the Ashford Arms has been really mind blowing. So many people have happy memories of the pub in the past and everyone is delighted to see it open again.

Locals come in for multiple occasions from a quick cup of coffee after a dog walk or a pint after work to special celebration meals and we’re building up regular drive to trade from the wider area.

Sales are 25% ahead of projections and room occupancy is running at nearly 100%.


The team

There is a team of 55 staff, consisting of a management team of five, 13 full-time kitchen staff, five housekeepers and 32 front-of-house employees. 

These are supported by an operations director, executive chef and marketing and administrative departments from Longbow Head Office.

One of the reasons I wanted to have my own company was to create a great place for people to work and I’m therefore delighted that Longbow has just been listed in The Times Best Places to Work – ​medium-sized employers.

We employ a recruitment and talent succession manager and believe in showing people the career pathways that exist in a sector that is often labelled as ‘not a proper career’.


The Ashford Arms GM Josh Butler is just one example of this, having worked his way up the ranks with us. Although I’m always in and out of the pub and will give hands on help on the bar or in the kitchen when needed, we empower the team and they appreciate the responsibility and sense of ownership.

We also pay higher salaries than the market average and give the pub a greater labour allowance than the industry average to create a happy working environment.

The drink

Being a rural retreat and food orientated, we’re big on cask ales, some from the nearby Thornbridge Brewery. Premium gin serves from Peak District distillers and cocktails feature heavily on the drinks menu, too.

We use local award-winning suppliers Hattersley Wines for our wines. We cover all price points from £23.95 to over £100 for a bottle and take less margin on some really top-end wines to give customers the chance to try something that they might not normally. We have three champagnes priced at between £50 and £120.

Our coffee is barista quality and is also locally sourced with the beans coming from a roaster in Sheffield.


The food

While the Ashford Arms has quickly become very much a community pub, our main focus is food. All of the menus are seasonally inspired and orchestrated by Longbow’s executive chef Adrian Gagea, who worked under Raymond Blanc.

It’s vital and a non-negotiable for me that we support Peak District businesses. In a cost-of-living crisis and a hospitality industry that has seen so many venues suffer extreme losses and closure, we want to make sure we always contribute to our local economy.

Our meat is sourced from local suppliers, who raise and nurture their own livestock through traditional farming values and our seasonal fruit, veg and herbs come direct from Peak District farms.

Our gastropub-inspired menu is all fresh and made from scratch – right down to the pastry. We serve pub classics, such as fish & chips, Derbyshire pies and Scotch eggs, alongside dishes inspired by the team’s travels and world flavours.

On the breakfast front, we have everything from continental-style choices to eggs benedict and full English breakfasts. At lunchtimes, we have a sandwich menu for those wanting a quicker or lighter option.


The events

We’re putting all our energy into delivering excellent food, drink and accommodation and don’t envisage putting on events.

The future

The pub is building up for a busy summer of alfresco trade while, subject to planning, Longbow is hoping to convert a listed bank in the centre of Bakewell into a 150-seater bar and restaurant.

Looking further ahead, we’ve got the structure and systems in place for more growth but that will depend on finding the right sites in the right locations in South Yorkshire or Derbyshire.

What’s on the menu?

Sample dishes

Pan-fried pigeon breast, served with celeriac & dark chocolate purée, crispy courgette and red wine reduction (GF) £9.95

Smoked haddock & spring onion croquette, spiced cauliflower purée and roasted peppers in a sweet chilli sauce, served with a dressed frisée salad (GF) £9.95

Pan-fried duck breast, served with chamomile-infused rice, stir-fried vegetables in a miso sauce, and sweet & sour pineapple (GF) £24.50

Pappardelle in a creamy wild mushroom & truffle sauce, served with a parmesan crumb (V) Choose from: Grilled sirloin steak £20.50 Grilled chicken £18.50 Pan-fried salmon £21.50

Wild mushroom & lentil aubergine rolls, served with sweet potato purée, kale, vegetable crisps, tahini, and a coriander & lemon sauce (GF) (VE) £17.95

White chocolate & passionfruit cheesecake, served with ginger coulis and orange sorbet (GF) (V) £8.95

Chocolate brownie, served with strawberry parfait, spring-berry coulis, and a honeycomb crumb (GF) (V) £8.95


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