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Published on May 3, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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New door to heaven on earth

When a door doesn’t fit the space it’s intended for, most folks would shave off the necessary height or width. But not John Atkinson, who owns Hemelvaart Bier Café with partner Phil Walker in Ayton, Berwickshire.

John had stored the handsome etched bar door for 35 years, waiting for the right place and the right time to hang it, so now that the Belgian-style pub is undergoing a refurb it has taken pride of place – fitted neatly by extending the door frame.

John and Phil have also put down a new floor, changed some furniture and reorganised the bar and counter to accommodate an amazing range of British and continental beers – bottles, craft keg and hand-pulled. A restyled coffee lounge to the rear is also a work in progress.

“The tables we bought are all stamped underneath with the name of a German brewery,” says John. “Everything we do has authenticity.”

Hemelvaart Bier Café attracts some of the best live acts on the circuit, from bands to individual artists and stand-up comedians that have included Sarah Pascoe and Gary Delaney (Sarah Millican’s husband), often attracting more of an audience than there are seats available.

The name Hemelvaart is derived from Hemelvaartdag, Flemish (and Dutch) for Ascension Day, the commemoration of Christ’s elevation to heaven after his resurrection on Easter Day. The shorthand version is “died and gone to heaven” which sums it up rather well.

Ayton is eight miles north of Berwick upon Tweed – and well worth the short detour off the A1.


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Alastair Gilmour



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