Jeremy Clarkson’s Pub Gamble: A Traditional Take on Country Hospitality

Jeremy Clarkson is venturing into the pub business, aiming to revive the charm of traditional country pubs. Despite being advised against it, he has purchased The Windmill in Asthall Leigh, near Burford in west Oxfordshire. This historic pub, set on five acres, cost him “less than £1 million.”

Clarkson, 64, revealed his new venture over the weekend, highlighting the pub’s breathtaking views and proximity to his farm, Diddly Squat. His plan is to create a fun, traditional pub experience, featuring produce from his farm and his own Hawkstone Lager. The pub, currently used as a wedding venue, lacks accommodation but promises to offer a lively atmosphere with bar billiards, darts, and Aunt Sally in the garden.

Ed Perchick, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The area is known for its upscale establishments like The Fox at Oddington and The Double Red Duke, which cater to affluent Londoners. Clarkson’s vision is a stark contrast, aiming to attract everyday visitors looking for a good time. Locals see potential in Clarkson’s purchase, noting that The Windmill has always had untapped charm and a beautiful location.

Operating a successful pub is no easy task, with challenges like tight profit margins, strict drink-driving laws, and staffing issues. Many entrepreneurs have tried and failed to maintain the idyllic vision of a country pub. Dan Brod of the Beckford Group and chef Tom Kerridge, both experienced publicans, warn that running a pub is extremely challenging, especially post-Brexit. Despite these hurdles, they acknowledge that Clarkson’s high profile could draw attention to the struggles of country pubs and potentially boost support for them.

Clarkson’s colleague James May, co-owner of the Royal Oak in Swallowcliffe, also emphasizes the importance of food in pub business. While some celebrity ventures have failed, Clarkson’s previous success with “Clarkson’s Farm” shows he can turn challenges into triumphs by highlighting the difficulties involved.

As Clarkson embarks on this new journey, he hasn’t set an opening date yet, but if he can replicate his success from the farm, he might just breathe new life into the traditional country pub scene.


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