The Isle of Wight has lots of great pubs, many of which come into their own during the autumn and winter. Read on to discover guest blogger Darragh Gray’s favourites…
I have to admit I’m not much of a winter person – I much prefer the lighter, warmer months. But one thing I always look forward to in the cooler weather is getting cosy in a welcoming pub!
Fortunately, with an estimated 100+ pubs, the Isle of Wight has something for everyone – from ancient smuggler’s inns to modern microbreweries.
Every local and visitor will have their favourites and, while it’s a tough choice, here are 12 of mine to help you get started if you’re visiting this autumn or winter. Most of them are close to bus or train routes too, so there’s no driving required!
Cowes is blessed with lots of good watering holes and its attractive High Street makes a great base for a shopping trip and pub crawl after. One you shouldn’t miss is The Ale House. Its compact size and friendly vibe make it a great place for an off-season visit. Though it’s a traditional boozer in style with stripped-back period décor, its beer selection is bang on-trend. There’s a selection of real ales from the cask (rotated regularly), along with local lager on tap and a range of quality spirits too.
At the top of Ryde’s High Street, The Star Coffee and Ale House is a good choice whether you fancy a warming hot drink or something stronger. Launched around two years ago, its retro vibe and eclectic décor make it feel welcoming all year round. Thanks to a thoughtful selection of beers, it features in CAMRA’s 2024 Good Beer Guide. There’s also an interesting selection of spirits, good tea and coffee and light food served from 10am. Regular live music and quiz nights are also on the menu.
If you find yourself in the island’s capital Newport, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of welcoming pubs there. The Castle Inn is the oldest, dating back to 1550. Inside, you can view a secret staircase leading to a passageway allegedly built for King Charles the First, so he could escape Carisbrooke Castle for a beer (or perhaps to visit the brothel above!) The Castle has a friendly local feel, an open fire to keep you warm, a good selection of food and drink and evening entertainment
Further south, Godshill is a gorgeous thatched village well worth exploring in any season, and it has two decent pubs. One of these, The Griffin occupies a fine stone building whose interior manages to feel spacious and snug at the same time. There’s a range of comfortable armchairs and a log fire in one of its cosy corners. An extensive pub-grub menu is on offer and it’s a child-friendly venue with a dedicated kids’ menu and a fun maze to explore at the rear of its large garden!
Among Bembridge’s decent choice of pubs, the quirky boat-shaped Pilot Boat Inn offers something a little bit different. A short walk downhill from the village, it’s perfectly located for a bracing stroll along the harbour. These days, it’s home to Wight Knuckle Brewery’s taproom, and there’s stone-baked pizza on offer too. There’s no log fire here, but it’s a comfy place for a break in any season, and you can warm up by buying a 1/3 pint of all their six beers for £10!
A hidden gem in Sandown that I love is Boojum & Snark, the island’s first dedicated craft beer taproom. Themed after Lewis Carroll who lived opposite for a while, this intimate vintage-style venue is also a microbrewery and art space. Tracy and the team are super-friendly, and the taps are turned on at noon. There’s a tempting and regularly changing selection of beers on offer from various small and supercraft breweries – as well as several of their own which are brewed onsite!
One of my first stops in Shanklin is always the Fisherman’s Cottage. Tucked away beneath the cliffs at the far end of the esplanade, this gorgeous thatched pub dates from the early 1800s. Sitting right on the beach, it feels like the kind of place smugglers would have felt right at home. You can hide from the cold in the cosy interior, or enjoy fantastic views from the patio outside if the weather’s kind. There’s also plenty of reliably tasty home-cooked food on offer, from breakfast to dinner time. This pub closes for a couple of months over the winter, so you could visit The Crab Inn in the Old Village for an alternative thatched pub with an old-world feel.
There’s no food and no nonsense at The Volunteer in Ventnor, thought to be the island’s smallest pub. It’s a proper, good-value, old-school boozer and it’s all about the beer here – there’s always a good selection of ales, including something local – and there’s organic cider too. 150 years old this year, it has the feel of your grandad’s front room about it (in a good way!) Its friendly vibe and all the historic memorabilia adorning the walls help create a warm atmosphere, whatever the weather.
At the southern tip of the island’s coastline just outside Niton, The Buddle Smuggler’s Inn originally dates from the 16th century. This pub oozes ancient charm. Its thick stone walls, inglenook beams and flagstone floors help to evoke the area’s rich maritime history and fire up the imagination. Sitting by the roaring fire and looking out over the magical garden towards the sea, you’re sure to feel cosy on the coldest of days here. It also offers a decent food menu featuring local produce.
The Red Lion is a lovely traditional red-brick pub next to a medieval church in the quiet village of Freshwater. Inside, you’ll find old stone floors, a warming log fire and comfortable seating. It boasts several real ales, local beers and a fine wine list along with a high-quality seasonal menu that’s definitely a cut above the usual pub grub. There’s a garden at the back too.
It’s a short climb up to the Tennyson Monument from Totland’s remote Highdown Inn and Tennyson Tearooms, making it a perfect pitstop when walking or exploring in West Wight. As well as having a good selection of ales (it’s highly rated by CAMRA members), there’s an impressive selection of loose-leaf teas. The extensive food menu will also meet most needs with light bites, afternoon tea and classic home-cooked dishes on offer plus mid-week roasts and local fish and seafood specials.
Yarmouth has a number of decent pubs but I think it’s hard to beat The Bugle Coaching Inn. On the main square, this characterful 16th century stone building is a rambling venue full of nooks and crannies, with nautical décor, an open fire and a great buzz. It has a good selection of ales and wines as well daily food specials featuring local produce – and there’s a children’s menu too. You can also find an attractive conservatory and garden to the rear.
It’s been a tough job choosing, but that completes our brief round-the-island pub crawl – and I hope it gives you some inspiration for your autumn or winter break. Cheers!
🛈 Please note: some pubs close on certain days of the week, opening hours vary and winter timetables may be reduced. We advise checking a venue’s website and social media channels before setting out.
About Darragh Gray
Our guest blogger Darragh Gray works in the charity sector and in his spare time he loves travelling – as well as photographing and blogging his adventures. He’s been visiting the Isle of Wight regularly on family holidays since he was a child and, in 2022, he moved from London to Southsea which gives him even more opportunity to explore the island!
You can follow Darragh’s adventures on his Instagram account: @travelling__penguin