Pubs are more than just a place to drink – especially in village communities.
They’re a meeting point for locals; a place of joy, laughter and occasional tears like no other where people bond and form life-long friendships.
In Kintore, The Square is the port of call in the Aberdeenshire village.
Run by husband-and-wife owners Allan and Claire Campbell, the pair have an emotional attachment to their local pub having lived in Kintore for more than two decades.
They’ve seen the town’s demographic change throughout the years and with it, the loss of local businesses.
However, when the opportunity to take the reins of their beloved boozer fell on their lap, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“I was made redundant in October last year,” says Allan.
“There wasn’t a lot of jobs going about, especially in the hospitality industry, so I was thinking of changing career paths.
“But Steve McDonald who owned the pub here was looking for someone to come in and manage the place at the time.
“Because I’d lived in the village for so long, to me, it seemed like a sensible idea.”
Allan was born in Glasgow but he has lived in and around Kintore for almost 25 years.
He’s worked in hospitality throughout his life with family ties to the industry stretching back generations.
“My great-grandfather had a pub down in Glasgow,” says Allan.
“My mum used to work in it when she was younger, all the family would lend a hand.
I’ve always liked jobs where I can talk to people and use my communication skills – plus I like food and drink!
In more recent years, Allan pursued contract catering and catering management roles across Scotland.
But Covid and the precariousness of the hospitality industry led him and his wife to their first solo business venture together at The Square, which has a rich history in Kintore.
“For the past 200 years, it’s always been some kind of coaching house, inn or pub,” says Allan.
“There’s still a lot of regulars who drank here 30 or 40 years ago, so it’s interesting to hear their stories about it.
“At one point, there were three pubs in the village. Now it’s down to one.”
Allan and Claire officially owned The Square in May this year following a phased takeover with the previous owner.
With Allan having “tons of ideas” for refurbishing the place, the pair are currently renovating the six bedrooms in the premises to offer them to visiting guests.
The Square’s snug is also set to be transformed into an afternoon tea room and Allan hopes the changes will appeal to Kintore’s demographic.
“The village has changed during the last 25 years and it’s more of a commuter town now with the influx of houses,” says Allan.
“We’ve got a young family ourselves and we want to make the pub a family friendly environment.
“A lot of people in the past wouldn’t take their kids to a pub, but we want it to be a place where people can relax, their kids can run about a bit and make some noise.
“That’s the kind of venue we want it to be.”
With recent fun Halloween events and weekly foodie specials keeping the kids entertained, there’s also the space for adults to indulge in The Square’s wide range of drinks.
Its cocktails are the star of the show and its seasonal offerings capture autumn in a glass.
“We’ve got The Square Autumn Delight cocktail at the moment, which is made with Fireball whisky and has tastes of cinnamon and apple flavours,” says Allan.
“We try and mix things up a bit; it’s about trying to see what’s on trend whilst being seasonal as well.
“You go to all the cool venues in town and it’s cocktails galore. We want to try and bring that to the village so that we can give people here that offer.”
The Square Mule, made with vodka, ginger beer and lime juice, is another popular pick from its autumnal cocktail menu.
Classics like pornstar martinis and strawberry daiquiris also feature and at £7 each, they’re also decent value for money.
Allan insists that it’s this variety that is key to The Square’s selection of drinks offerings.
“We’d all usually settle for a regular pint, but if there’s something that might have a bit of a better offering, then we’ll look to capitalise on that,” says Allan.
“We’ve got draught beers on tap like Corona, Innis & Gunn, Brewdog IPA’s and lager.
“For spirits, we have gins including plenty of local varieties, around 20 malts and a nice selection of rum too.
“It’s a diverse range with plenty of options.”
Close to heart
The business may have only been under Allan and Claire’s control for six months, but they’ve used all of their hospitality experience to make it a success.
Though Allan admits he’s “more of a beans on toast chef,” his daily discussions with The Square’s chef ensures the pub’s food menu is always on point whilst regular social media posts also keep customers engaged.
Allan and Claire are certainly not sit-off owners and they’re keen to instil their passion for hospitality into all corners of The Square.
“I’m passionate about delivering good, friendly service and making people feel welcome,” he says.
“We’re not a pretentious venue or trying to be something we shouldn’t be.
We’re a country village pub at the core of the community and we want to run it really well.
“This isn’t a flash in the pan business for us; we’re going to be here in Kintore for the rest of our lives.
“We want to create a business that we can be successful with, and be proud of, but also keep a hold of for a long time.
“It’s a place that’s close to my heart.”
A round of questions with Allan Campbell of The Square Kintore…
Most underrated drink?
Vokda, ginger beer and a dash of lime.
If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
I would probably be a nice lager. Sharp and crisp.
What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?
Prosecco, prosecco and prosecco. It’s the drink of choice just now!
Most unusual drink you’ve ever tried?
I don’t like Advocaat. I don’t know anybody that does.
Worst experience with a drink?
Southern Comfort on a boy’s holiday. It was a drinking contest that didn’t end up in my favour!
Any secret tips of the drinks trade?
Don’t always stick to the same thing. Try new things because they might inspire you. If you’re a Tennent’s drinker, try something different.
Best food and drink pairing?
Sunday roast and a pint of IPA.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three drinks would be there with you?
Irn Bru, prosecco and Innis & Gunn lager, which is my tipple at the moment.