THE new owners of Britain’s highest pub are reaching for the stars.
They want to install glass-roofed stargazing pods outside the Tan Hill Inn so people can see one of Earth’s most awe-inspiring sights - the Northern Lights - from the comfort of their beds.
Andrew Hields and Mike Kenney have taken the reins at the pub, 1732ft above sea level in the Yorkshire Dales, after buying it off its owners of the last 13 years, Louise and Mike Peace.
They are planning to plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into the Inn, which stands in lonely isolation on the moors.
As an official Dark Sky Discovery site it is perfectly placed to make the most of the Northern Lights, a natural phenomenon which can appear from November through to February, lighting the night sky with its fantastic colours and shapes.
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They already have an innovative design in mind and are contacting Channel Four to see if they can work with architect George Clarke who presents Amazing Spaces, the TV show which focuses on the creative use of small spaces.
Mr Hields, 33, an entrepreneur from Bradford, said they hoped to eventually have five pods, made of glass and wood and with grass coming up their semi-submerged sides.
He said: “We want to create a more of a year round approach and we have done quite a lot of planning and development with regards to stargazing pods.
“We hope to have at least the first two in the next 12 months. You will be able to sleep under the stars - and hopefully see the Northern Lights.”
The Pennine Way passes through Keld a few miles away and walkers and cyclists often stop off for refreshments, making for an eclectic crowd as they mingle with wedding parties.
An interior designer is being brought in to do up the rooms, but Mr Hields insists the essential character of the place will not change.
Walkers in muddy boots and dogs will still be welcome and they are keeping all the signs - including the one over the bar which reads: “Danger Altitude Sickness. Staff are liable to bouts of uncontrollable insanity during which they may be loud, insubordinate, rude or extremely silly.”
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The three bunkrooms will get more showers and cleaning facilities, charging points and privacy screens, while the rooms will be made comfier and given more of a “Tan Hill” character
And in what should be music to the ears of any Tan Hill fan, Mr Hields, says the prices will stay the same.
First of the many projects will be opening up the barn to make it a carvery and putting in a second bar.
On the cards next year will be an outdoor marquee to house up to 400 people so some of the big bands who want to play the Tan Hill - Arctic Monkeys, Mark Ronson and British Sea Power have all played in the past - can perform.
Mr Hields said. “I want to give people more of Tan Hill which might sound odd, but it is bringing out what it already has.
“We are never going to please everybody and we have not come here to change everything straightaway.
“We want to get feedback, but first we know there are some improvements that will definitely be welcomed.
"We are increasing the facilities, the comfiness - but still wanting the ruggedness as well.”
The splendid isolation of the Tan Hill Inn has inspired more than one Christmas marketing campaign.
Back in the early 1980s, the pub got a taste of overnight fame when it provided the backdrop for that now fondly remembered Everest double glazing ad. Last year it was Waitrose’s turn, which showed locals getting snowed in after gathering for a Christmas morning drink
The building dates to the 17th century and became a pub during the 18th century when it provided refreshment for nearby coalminers.
The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub survived thanks to the support of the community and the arrival of the car, which brought customers from further afield.