Running This Pub Will Make You 'King' Of An Island

The Ship Inn on Piel Island is a unique food and beverage experience on the Cumbrian coast of the U.K. – and it's seeking new management (via BBC). Even in a time of labor shortages, this quest for a new tenant to manage the pub is unique. The Ship Inn is the only food and beverage seller on the tiny island, which is also the home to three houses and the remains of a 14th-century castle (via BBC). The pub itself is described by locals as "the jewel in the crown" of this coastal location and a "vital part of our heritage." Ian Baker, who signed a petition to keep the pub alive, explained, "The entire island was given to the people of Barrow to serve as a memorial to those who died in the First World War to honor the fallen we need to do all we can to attract people to the island – having a public house on the island helps attract people."

The search for new leadership began after former tenants asked to leave after months of pandemic-related closures. A temporary group was able to reopen the pub in July 2021, but January 2022 marks the hunt for the next manager. The aim is for the new person to begin in April. In addition to pub-related skills, the applicant will ideally also have "sound local knowledge." If you think that sounds like a job fit for a king, you might be in luck.

Crowing the pub 'king'

Whoever takes the job will become the new "King of Piel." Traditionally, that involves a ceremony with "a rusty saber" and alcohol, according to The Guardian. The new manager must sit in an ancient chair with a helmet and sword while they are coronated with buckets of beer being dumped over their head. The new "monarch" is tasked with caring for the chair and helmet (via Pie Island). At least in modern times, a person who mistakenly sits in the king's chair is said to owe a round of pints to the bar, per The Guardian. At times in history, there has also been a full retinue of Knights of Piel. The island even boasted a cabinet with a Prime Minister and Lord Mayor of Piel and even a royal family.

Past requirements for both king and knights included being, "a free drinker and smoker and lover of the female sex" which we imagine didn't make the modern job description. Kingship does indeed appear to have modernized, based on how Barrow Councilor Steph Cordon described the ideal candidate: "The emphasis would be on a long-term, 10-year lease with an annual review of performance and a rental charge that would be subject to review over the time period" (via The Mail). Sounds like a challenge, but what a great opportunity to become "king of the island" for the right person in this centuries-old pub.

What to expect at the Ship Inn

The Ship Inn on Piel Island is located at the tip of the Furness Peninsula (via Piel Island). Access to the island is gained by the Roa Island ferry which departs daily between 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. depending on the weather. Visitors can expect a selection of locally brewed ales plus the traditional wine, beer, and spirits. The available food features fresh-caught fish or game from local farms. Visitors who arrive at the right time can expect special guest chefs and even a Murder Mystery weekend, among other events. For those who wish to stay longer, island camping permits are also available at around $6.75 per tent when booked in advance.

The place has received praise from past visitors. Reviewer Charlotte Day said of the experience, "The Piel Island beer and fish and chips were amazing! Really good, friendly service, and a great day watching the sea. Would really recommend!" (via Google). Some point out that working at this remote location will take a special kind of person. According to local John Murphy, "You can't just nip across to Tesco for a loaf of bread when you're on Piel Island" (via The Guardian). Murphy adds, "You'll need to have dedication and a strong passion for isolation and peace and quiet. It takes a special personality." A special person to be crowned "king" of a special place for sure, and we look forward to seeing this tradition carried on.