Midlothian pubs: Harris family celebrate 50 years ownership of The Original Rosslyn Inn
The Harris family will celebrate an incredible 50 years of ownership of The Original Rosslyn Inn in Roslin, Midlothian later this month.
Grahame Harris and his son, Richard, run the popular hostelry, and have put together a series of videos which will be released on social media featuring the family, the Original, and its customers and staff, to celebrate and commemorate the last five decades. The Harris family took charge on March 27, 1973, and will celebrate the exact date with a VIP party at the hotel, where famous names including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, and Sir Walter Scott have stayed.
Richard Harris, 41, explained: “Our 50 stories for 50 years video project is to celebrate everyone involved with the Original over the last 50 years, not just us. We feature regulars including Tam Murray, who is almost 80 and worked in the pub when he was a 10 year-old-boy, as well as the staff and family. We also cover lots of questions we are constantly asked – Why are there two dates on the building? What does the inscription above the fire mean? Did Robert Burns actually stay here?
“There are a few anecdotal and urban legend tales that will only ever be told on the barstools of the pub! And my dad, Grahame, obviously has more than a few of his own tales to share!
“We are having a couple of parties – one for trade partners and industry colleagues, and another for our customers. The guest list for that one will be made by randomly selecting names from our vast mailing list, and inviting our customers to celebrate with us – none of this would be possible without them, would it? We just wish we could invite them all.”
Grahame Harris, 71, was already a rising star in the hospitality industry when he arrived in the village with his parents Tom and Sheila, and turned the local pub with the main focus on drink, into a thriving hotel, bar and restaurant with the focus on events, good food, and homely coaching inn accommodation.
He said: “My dad wanted to harness my ‘youth and enthusiasm’ and create a family business. It’s been a pleasure to be welcomed into a village community that has given us so much. I’ve enjoyed serving them and being a part of it, and I take great pride in seeing Richard carry on the tradition. I have a few grandchildren I am hoping will want to be the fourth generation of Harris’s to run the business. And they and Richard have an advantage on me – they are Roslin natives. I’ll always be a ‘townie’ until my dying day!”
Over their 50 years, the Harris family has encountered ups and downs in its’ time as the Inn’s custodians, not least the Covid pandemic of 2020, and the surge of tourism in the village following Dan Brown’s best seller The Da Vinci Code putting the spotlight on the 16th century Rosslyn Chapel, just down the road from the Original. The neighbouring business, Dolly’s Tea Room, run by Richard’s wife, celebrates Roslin’s other claim to fame, the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep.
Grahame said: “The village has grown and changed so much since my arrival. It’s doubled in size, and we’ve had the world’s media focused on us with Dolly and The Da Vinci Code. I feel honoured and privileged to have been here to see all of that.
“But nothing prepared us for the Covid pandemic and lockdowns. To be told to close after serving guests every day since 1973 was a very harrowing time. Everything about it was hard – staying shut, keeping all of our staff and placing them on furlough, worrying about reopening, watching announcement after announcement to see when we could open, what we could serve, how we could meet restrictions, face masks, social distancing, sanitiser – all of it was so difficult. But we got there.
"We now have the cost of doing business crisis, as I like to call it, and again we face difficulties, but we have plans in place for the future and we know we will do everything we can to survive.”
Grahame and Maureen Harris took over the business in 1973. Their son Richard’s wife Amy has run the neighbouring business, Chapelcross Guest House, and Dolly’s Tea Room, since 2013.
Despite the challenges of the last few years, Richard is firmly forward focused and is ready to take the Original into the next phase, with modernisations of the accommodation, including green energy improvements, assisted by the Midlothian Business Gateway.
He said: “Our major goal for the next phase of the Original is to modernise our conservatory and create a space that brings the garden inside – we want to utilise our large garden space for safe, family dining.
“We are passionate about making green energy improvements and improving our green credentials. We’re exploring ground source heat pumps, consulting with planners about solar panels, and are excited about the advances in battery storage.
“We also want to expand our story-telling – our hospiTALEity, if you will, and plan to have QR codes around the premises that will answer a lot of the guests’ questions about the legends of the hotel and the village. Most of all we continue to do what we do because we love doing it, and we hope that shows in the services we provide.”