Pick of the Pubs - Our Top Spots for Drinking, Eating and Live Music

Which pub to go to is quite a discerning decision to make here on the Island these days, because there is a pub for all seasons and all tastes.

Gone are the days when you’d get more or less the same on offer in every hostelry. Some pubs are for drinking, some pubs are for eating, some are for music and merriment and if you’re lucky you may find all three.  So we pulled together a quick guide to the best places for beer, bands and food across the Isle of Wight.

Top for… Drinking

Real Ale is the name of the game in this category, although ciders are making an inroad. The Volunteer in Ventnor is a drinker’s pub that hasn’t changed in many a long year. Built in 1869 as an ale house, the pub didn’t get a licence to sell wines and spirits until the 1960s. There are always six guest ales from the barrel and two bottled guest ales as well and the pub is so small that the clientele often spill out into the side alley or onto the pavement. The old English game of ‘Rings’ is a game played here by the locals, along with darts, and it is only on games nights that food is provided. You’re here for the beer remember.

The Newport Ale House in Holyrood Street in Newport is a relatively new addition and yet a very traditional style of pub, for drinking and talking with between three and five real ales on tap and a cosy warm atmosphere. There’s no jukebox and no one armed bandits but they do have live music on Sunday afternoons in this small one roomed bar. The pub has a sister hostelry in Cowes, called Cowes Ale House, which has the same ethos of a good pint with camaraderie – you may even get roped into a pub quiz.

The Old Village Inn, in Bembridge High Street, offers four real ales on the pump and an every changing selection, many of which are local to the Island. Ales from Yates brewery, Island Ales and Goddards can often be found on the pump plus those from further afield such as Ringwood brewery, Youngs and Sharps.

Top for… Eating

The Taverners in Godshill is getting top marks with its local food, beautifully cooked and the enveloping wooden beamed interior, where there is also a shop for buying the ingredients along with local crafts and products.

The Pointer Inn in Newchurch is consistently good for food – it’s advisable to book a table in advance because they do get very busy. This is a real traditional country pub that has changed very little over the years, except for upping the stakes with its food.

The New Inn in Shalfleet has been known as a food destination since the seventies, and the waft of Sunday roast filters in through your car window if you drive through Shalfleet on Sunday lunchtime  – how can you resist?

The Red Lion in Freshwater is a fantastic foodie pub where you and your dog will get a warm welcome (dog optional) and the décor is reassuringly traditional.

Top for… music

The Sun Inn at Hulverstone favours Saturday nights for its live music in the bar, with well-known and highly talented local artists who’ll get you on your feet.

For a traditional fix there’s a weekly folk session at the Dairyman’s Daughter at Arreton Old Village on a Tuesday evening, hosted by owner Andrew Gibbs with his accordion, along with local bands over the weekends.

The Spyglass Inn on Ventnor seafront regularly has good local bands in the bar and the family also have the Bargeman’s Rest in Newport where there is live music five nights a week.

The Anchor in Cowes has live music from Wednesday to Saturday nights and the Old Comical in Sandown and The Vine in St Helen’s have live music too. The Buddle Inn at Niton has regular live music in the bar and sometimes bands play in the bigger Smuggler’s Barn.

The Black Sheep Bar in Ryde is a good place to catch live music in the cellar bar below the bar/restaurant, although it is sometimes just a club – check the website for details. Added bonus is that IW Festival boss John Giddings has an interest in this bar and puts on some of his acts here from time to time.

Look out especially for JC and Angelina, The Chale Bay Wailers, Riptide, Grizzled Skipper, Pinstripe, Last Orders (Irish), Lucid, Switch and the Wight Hot Pipes (Trad Scottish and power ballads with a rocking beat).

Jo Macaulay

6 September 2016

By Jo Macaulay in Articles