Planning and legal officers at the North York Moors National Park Authority are making new moves to have the landmark Saltersgate Inn, in the heart of the park, restored.
It was once a top pub and restaurant which attracted clients from far and wide, to not only taste its legendary cuisine but to see its peat fire - which was reputed to have burnt non-stop for some two centuries.
But the inn, at the famous Hole of Horcum is now virtually derelict after being closed for many years.
A spokesman for the Helmsley-based National Park said: “We have been saddened at what has happened to the inn, and have been using our planning and enforcement powers to try and help resolve the situation.”
A legal notice has been issued by the authority which required external repairs to be carried out to the structure – the roof, walls and windows – because it was seen as “an injury to amenity”, said the spokesman.
“We understood a new owner with a tourism idea and resources was about to purchase the building some months ago, but it fell down at the last minute. We are now pressuring the owner to complete the full schedule of works or risk prosecution. It does appear we may well need to resort to prosecution as the works are not proceeding at a satisfactory pace.”
The peat fire in the historic pub – famed as a haunt for smugglers taking salt and rum across the moors from boats which had been lured onto the rocks between Whitby and Scarborough – was never supposed to go out. It was said an excise man, who was carrying out an investigation into the smuggling, was killed and buried under the fire.
Hopes were high that the inn could be restored as tourist accommodation. It is on the market through Knight Frank as a hotel, restaurant, and/or pub opportunity with planning permission for a nine-bedroom hotel and restaurant expansion.
It was bought by local builder Joseph Woodhead in 2008 but his intention to restore it was scuppered by the recession.
While there have been several expressions of interest in the building no deal has yet been clinched.
The inn was known in its early days as The Waggon and Horses and prospered from the trade in smuggled salt for fishermen.
And from its strategic location across the vast moors approaching excisemen could be easily seen.
However, one officer caught the smugglers red handed some 200 years ago, and his body was put beneath the pub’s fireplace.
According to local folklore, if the fire ever burnt out, the excise-man’s ghost would be aroused or the local community would be beset by the plague.