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Peterculter pub ploughing on from strength to strength

Wines, beers, spirits and good local food makes The Ploughman one of Peterculter's most sought after venues.
Wines, beers, spirits and good local food makes The Ploughman one of Peterculter's most sought after venues.

What do you look for most in a pub… A homely feel? Originality? Whatever it may be, there’s a good chance The Ploughman in Peterculter will have something just right for you.

The venue, celebrating its 60th birthday this year, is currently owned by Alistair Dornan and business partner Simon Cruickshank.

Value for money, local food and drink and fine, family-friendly company is what this venue thrives upon.

The Ploughman co-owners Simon Cruickshank and Alistair Dornan.

The venue has enjoyed a busy summer season with locals visiting regularly and tourists from around the world making a welcome return to the north-east after lockdown restrictions.

And though the pair behind The Ploughman may come from completely different working backgrounds, they’ve wasted no time putting their own stamp on the venue and continuing its popular legacy.

Sharing platters have been a popular option at The Ploughman this summer.

From friends to business partners

“I met Simon through the oil industry when I was first posted with Shell in Aberdeen,” says Alistair.

“That was back in 1990 and I worked in the industry for three decades.

“I’ve had no hospitality experience, but I do have a love for collecting wine!”

While Alistair, originally from Bathgate, may be a hospitality novice, born and bred Aberdonian Simon is the opposite.

Alistair is an avid wine collector.

Owner of the Bieldside Inn for 13 years, he also currently owns The Richmond Arms in Peterculter, with his son following in his footsteps as the owner of The Albyn in Aberdeen’s West End.

However, The Ploughman was also a venue that Simon had his eye on years before he eventually took the reins.

“The previous owners of The Ploughman, Graeme and Shirley Wight, were here for 34 years and I always got on very well with them,” says Simon.

Rosé anyone?

“I approached them several years ago to try and buy the business, but they weren’t ready at the time.

“But in the middle of 2018, I remember being out on a walk and someone shouted at me – turns out it was Graeme.

“He asked if I was still interested in buying The Ploughman. Then, I ended up meeting Alistair for lunch, told him about the opportunity and the rest is history.”

The Ploughman

Alistair and Simon are now the fourth set of owners to take charge of The Ploughman in its 60-year history.

It was originally built by Aberdeen publican Ned Brown and though renovations were done in the past, the pair felt it was important to give the venue a fresh lease of life.

“It needed quite a lot of investment when we picked it up,” Alistair explains.

From left, Alan Stewart bar manager, Simon Cruickshank co owner, Andy Stewart general manager.

“Covid kicked in by March 2020, which was obviously a blow. But it also provided us with a lot of opportunities to do some of the renovations a little quicker than we could’ve done if we were open.

“But now, the best way to describe it is that we’ve taken the business on a journey.

“The previous owners had been here such a long time and things were getting a little dated.

“We’ve taken the customer base on the journey with us to improve their overall experience here.”

A traditional pub feel inside The Ploughman.

Delectable drinks

Picking a tipple of choice at The Ploughman is an easy task.

From beers to wines and local spirits, Alistair and Simon have created a plentiful drinks list filled with popular favourites and local delights.

“We are diversifying our options for customers,” says Simon.

“We have Camden Pale Ale which is popular, Bud Light as well. But we’re noticing drinking habits have changed since Covid with more people having a few beers and then heading onto spirits or even wines.

Gins galore.

“There is local rum from Banchory behind the bar, we have Garden Shed gin which is based further up north, Old Tom style gin from Kincardine O’Neil as well.

“Whenever we have visitors from local distilleries, they always tend to get stuck into the local offerings.

“Cocktails like Aperol Spritz and espresso martinis are drinks we can also make, but we don’t promote them as much as some of our other drinks offerings.”

Alan pouring a pint of Corona.

When it comes to wines, Alistair’s experienced palette comes to the fore.

“We’ve certainly put a lot of effort into giving a pretty balanced wine list and there’s plenty of selection to choose from here,” he says.

“New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a huge seller, Argentinian Malbec is also popular too.

“During the summer, we had a French family come in who very happy to see that we had a dessert wine called Sauternes on our list – a very famous French pudding wine – which you wouldn’t usually find in most pubs.”

Popular beers sit alongside other more obscure offerings at The Ploughman.

Fine food

The Ploughman’s traditional Scottish menu is also full of local variety.

Fish and seafood is the go-to here, but hints of European flavours as well as classic roasts are always in high demand from customers.

“The seafood side of the business is huge – we sell stones of haddock every week,” says Simon.

The Ploughman sharing platter.

“Our haddock comes from Peterhead, scallops from Shetland, as well as salmon.

“The roast of the day is also really popular with customers – I think this is our biggest food seller.

“We’ve also introduced sharing platters as well with influences from European cuisine and we aim to do a lot of vegan and gluten-free dishes as well.”

Customers come first

Both Alistair and Simon say that receiving positive feedback from customers on a daily basis is the thing that they both enjoy most about running The Ploughman.

Social media has been key in helping further raise the business’ profile and with the recent instalment of the A90 bypass, people from all over the north-east are enjoying easier access to the Peterculter pub.

Alistair admits that challenges will lie ahead for the venue in the midst of rising energy and food costs. But with the pub regularly busy throughout the week, its current trajectory is looking optimistic.

“We’ve been holding off increasing our prices as we like to give value to our customers, but there’s an inevitability that we’re going to have to make movements soon,” Alistair explains.

“But for people who haven’t visited The Ploughman for a while, it’s great to see how satisfied they are when they come in and see the changes that we’ve made to the place.

“Word of mouth is the biggest thing for us and the feedback we’ve received has been tremendous.

“We’re hugely appreciative of our customer base and this is what gets me out of bed every day and keeps me motivated.”