The Pubs of Winchester

The Railway Inn and other Pubs of Winchester

Matt Butler

My happiest memories at Winchester’s The Railway Inn involved drinking Bailey’s under a blue sky. Here’s my blue lighter as a tribute to that. The Railway is the best damn Winchester pub, in my opinion. Before I get to why, a little about the city:

In 827 A.D., the beautiful city of Winchester – or ‘Winchy’, as I affectionately call it – was the capital of England. Back then, Winchy was the place to be. All that changed when good old Bill the conquering hero from Normandy arrived and shook things up in 1066. London then became the spot to visit, and Winchester became the capital of Wessex in 1519. I bet they were feeling pretty smug when the Great Fire of London happened a century and a half later!

There are a few locations in this beautiful city where you can find stunning relics from those days – like the Arch, located near the top of the hill, and the Great Hall – and the history surrounding them is interesting to say the least. But you won’t hear me rambling on about it. You want to know? Be smart and look it up on the internet. That’s what it’s for… amongst… other things!

Winchy has a large-ish presence of students. On a good day, when the sun is shining and no clouds are about, I know of several people who would take a wander to St. Catherine’s Hill. I’ve only been there twice, and while the view is worth it, it is quite a trek.  Like the Uni students in their first year, I’d prefer to have a drink before walking all the way up there.

By the hospital and across the road from the West Downs student village is the County Arms pub, which is perfect for those who want to have a socialising event and cheap drinks. The food isn’t bad either. It can, however, get a little rowdy in there. I prefer a place where I can hear my small circle of mates talking.

The Railway is that place. Funnily enough, it’s situated around the corner from the actual train station. It’s quiet and the music is fantastically varied. You can actually hear each other clearly in there and, thankfully, it’s not that far to walk from my house. And if you want fresh air, there is a decent-sized beer garden.

As a writer, I occasionally like to write in a pub and as such, I have explored Winchester to find one where the atmosphere is just right. There is, of course, a Wetherspoon’s (as there is in every city and town) but truth be told, it’s not great. You will only ever find me there when with friends.

The Railway’s atmosphere is always chilled, uncrowded and relaxed. The staff are friendly and the pub has retro gaming nights. But there are alternative pubs if that isn’t you’re thing. Alfie’s is found in town not far from Winchy’s Cathedral. Like the County Arms and The Railway, it has a garden where smokers can smoke to their hearts content. They put on football and rugby and I’d whole-heartedly recommend Alfie’s for anyone and everyone. The only reason why I don’t visit Alfie’s often enough is because of the distance from my house! Again, laziness, I know….

Pubs are good for live music too. If you want live music, other than The Railway, then O’Neill’s is a place. Now, this is a pub! First, it’s Irish. Stereotype or not, they love a drink and the drink choices are great. This place can get busy when there is music and when I say busy, I mean busy, packed with all kinds of crowds. The food’s good too.

But it’s not a venue.

The Railway is a musician and writer’s dream come true. Being both, I can safely say that this pub is amazing! They have free Wi-Fi and there is an upstairs section, called the Attic, where writers of poetry and fiction can read whatever they want when open mic is there. At the back, known as the Barn, is a proper venue for bands to play. I’ve played there three times with my band – Before This Silence – because I enjoy the venue so much. The roster is good and musicians old and new visit often.

In many ways, The Railway is like a lighter: it’s warm and bright, and you will always find yourself drawn towards it. Just call me ‘Mutler the Moth’ from now on.

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