Sheffield’s Kelham Island is the best up and coming area in the UK.
It is full of traditional breweries and pubs, but also has lots of new bars and restaurants. Never staying still, the area is changing all the time.
So where should you go and what should you do whilst you’re in Kelham Island? Let’s find out…
Welcome to Kelham Island
Just half a mile north of Sheffield City Centre, Kelham Island is an area that has seen significant change. From an industrial heartland it has become the best urban neighbourhood in the UK.
Although people refer to it as “Kelham Island”, that is actually just a small area surrounding the Kelham Island Museum. Here, water was diverted from the river Don around a little passageway, creating an island of sorts. This goit was used to power the water wheels, in turn powering the mills and factories.
What is commonly referred to as Kelham Island is the traditional area of Neepsend, and parts of Shalesmoor.
Kelham Island Museum: A glimpse into the past
A lot of the past history has moved on and Kelham Island continues to develop and evolve. Old factories are being converted into beautiful flats, venues pubs, bars and restaurants.
But the old industry is still represented at the Kelham Island Museum, with its big bessemer landmark outside.
Well worth a visit, the museum offers a real glimpse into the past of the area.
Kelham Island: The Valley of Beer
One thing the area is known for is its unparalleled real ale scene. In beer circles Kelham Island has earned the nickname of the ‘Valley of Beer’.
In fact, Sheffield has nearly five times the amount of breweries as Greater London.
Big brands such as Stones, Whitbread and Bass have long since left; but in their place many different independent brewers have emerged.
The Fat Cat: an important Kelham Island pub
Probably the most important pub in Kelham Island, The Fat Cat is the place that started the whole real ale trend.
Across Sheffield almost all pubs across Sheffield were run by industrial mass-produced breweries like Stones, Wards, Whitbreads, and Tetleys.
Originally called The Alma, the pub was bought by Dave Wickett and Bruce Bentley at auction in 1981. After altering the name they opened as a free house. This meant they could essentially curate the best of beers from around the country.
The pub’s reputation grew exponentially. Even as this area was deprived — and was a bit of a no-go area in some respects — people came just for the beer in The Fat Cat.
Then, as they grew through the nineties The Fat Cat expanded and they started to make their own beer. Thus saw the creation of the Kelham Island Brewery – now the longest running brewery in Sheffield.
Kelham Island: Best pub crawls in the country
If real ale and craft beers are your thing, then Kelham Island is for you. Arguably the best pub crawls in the country are in this area full of award winning pubs. Many people like to start out at the amusingly named The Bar Stewards micropub on Shalesmoor. Right across the road from that is the excellent Shakespeares with its massive menu of hand-pull drinks.
It is then just a short walk across to the extremely popular Kelham Island Tavern; the only pub to have won CAMRA’s national Pub of the Year award in two consecutive years.
If you’re arriving to the area on the Supertram, the conveniently placed Shalesmoor stop sits right next to The Wellington (tap pub of The Neepsend Brewery). From there it is a hop over the crossings to get to the likes of The Ship Inn. A historical pub which has been refurbished to a high standard in the last few years. It is said that two men, possibly smugglers, drowned in secret tunnels under the pub during the Great Sheffield Flood.
Coming from further along the A61? You might want to try out The Harlequin on Nursery Street. House beers here come from Sheffield’s Exit 33 Brewing Company.
Gardeners Rest: a community success story
At the very opposite end of the area is The Gardeners Rest (tap house for The Sheffield Brewery Company), a Sheffield CAMRA pub of the year.
One of the real success stories of the area, The Gardeners Rest is essentially now community owned. This means that its locals essentially own the place; therefore it is always going to be a really cool friendly place to go. Being a community pub lots of non-profits and charities regularly meet here too.
It has one of the best beer gardens in the region as well. It is always a pleasure sitting down with a nice cold beer by the river in the beer garden.
Beyond the beer…
But what if Real Ale just isn’t your thing? Kelham Island has pretty much everyone covered.
The Kelham Wine Bar is situated just at the end of the Ball Street bridge alongside its sister venue Graffiti Bar and Kitchen. The latter happens to have a lovely cocktail menu as well as a funky outside pod dining area.
Sat atop recycled shipping containers at the Krynkl complex is INC, Sheffield’s first rooftop bar. It is a cool and stylish place to come and relax with a few friends, especially in the sunshine. The cocktail menu is one of the finest in Kelham Island.
Downstairs from INC is Jöro, one of Sheffield’s more exceptional modern dining experiences.
Beer gardens, coffee and shops
Spending time in the sun doesn’t stop there. Some of the best Beer Gardens in Sheffield can be found in Kelham Island. A must-visit is Riverside Kelham and its huge outside area. The pub is now run by the True North Brew Co, famous for other Sheffield venues such as The Forum, The Broadfield, The York and more. Remember to nip across the bridge for a good view of the famous artwork by Phlegm on the wall behind here.
Coffee lovers are catered for too. The Grind Cafe in Cornwall Works is a brilliant lunchtime spot and Gaard Coffee Hide on Burton Street has become a bit of a destination.
For something a little more different, Kelham Arcade on Burton Road houses shop units for the likes of The Depot Bakery and Sheffield Cheesemasters.
The Milestone group: a revolution
The Milestone is the gastropub that started the revolution of Kelham Island as a food destination. It was one of the first food venues to pop up as the area was still a hive of industry. The Milestone might be best known for being a semi-finalist in Gordon Ramsey’s Best British Restaurant series.
Not only is the flagship venue great for food itself, owners the Milestone Group helped with the rejuvenation of the area.
They own Craft and Dough by Kelham Island Museum, INC Rooftop Bar and have opened Cutlery Works; a big food hall which has received much acclaim.
Cutlery Works Food Hall at Kelham Island
What a place Cutlery Works is! Located in and named after the old Rutland Cutlery Works on Neepsend Lane. This amazing concept has 14 food outlets and three bars on two floors – making it the largest food hall in the North of England.
You’re spoilt for choice here with everything from fantastic pies and burgers, to amazing sushi, to mouth-watering vegan desserts — and everything in between. There’s even a bean-to-bar craft chocolate factory on site!
Don’t make the mistake many do of sticking just to the downstairs hall. Head upstairs for a continuation of all the goodness! For a Cutlery Works protip: Just find a table, download the Milestone Group App and order with no queuing. The convenient app allows for table service along with some hidden special offers and loyalty points.
Piña: Mexican taqueria in an old Sheffield workshop
One of the newer bars around Kelham Island is Piña. The Harvest Lane building is easy to spot with the huge Kid Acne graphic on the wall.
The unique bar is the result of a couple of Sheffielders who visited Mexico. They concentrated on bringing the food, drink and culture back to a little old workshop in Sheffield.
Piña is not only the best place to go get Tacos, it is really cool venue. On the upstairs mezzanine floor you can watch sport on the screens. Downstairs you can have cocktails and food. During weekend evenings, DJs play brilliant tunes. It is always a great atmosphere and just a fun, nice place to visit.
Old Workshops and Oysters
Around the corner on Hicks Street is The Old Workshop, which is again situated in, well, an old workshop. One of the most dedicated craft beer bars in the whole of Sheffield. The Old Workshop is very quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best bars in Kelham Island.
There’s no prizes for guessing what food is on offer at Stew and Oyster. The bright and airy bar is situated by the beautiful old Green Lane Works entrance and clocktower. The restaurant has an amazing menu to match its wonderful outdoor space.
Church: Temple of Fun
If you’re looking for the really cool end of Kelham Island you have to visit Church: Temple of Fun. It is called the Temple of Fun for a reason; because it has got all kinds of cool stuff in there. There’s a shop from Drop Dead, a tattooist and a ‘barcade’ with arcade machines and video games to play.
Everything in Church is vegan with one of the best vegan menus in the country from Make No Bones. Occasionally they host events and gigs as well. One of the owners, Oli Sykes, is a member of Sheffield band Bring Me The Horizon. He is investing back into Sheffield and into the area through things like Church and Drop Dead.
Church: Temple of Fun is without doubt one of the best places to give vegan food a try.
Incredible Kelham Island events
Kelham Island has a reputation for amazing events. Every few months the Kelham Island and Neepsend Community Alliance arranges the ‘Ball Street Deli’; the road is closed and a fantastic market operates along the gorgeous Grade 2 listed Ball Street Bridge.
A must-visit event is Peddler Night Market. The event takes place at 92 Burton Road warehouses on the first Friday and Saturday of every month.
This incredible space houses a huge rotating assortment of street food vendors, drinks, makers’ stalls, art and live music. This combination of proves extremely popular, ensuring a unique, entertaining and unforgettable experience each and every month.
If you’re looking to hire a different kind of place for a party, wedding or other occasion then look no further than the amazing Chimney House by the Kelham Island Museum, or their new sister venue The Mowbray on Mowbray Street.
Kelham Island’s musical legacy
Music is very much in the DNA of the area with practice rooms and studios aplenty. Yellow Arch has seen the likes of Sheffield sons Arctic Monkeys, Reverend and the Makers and Richard Hawley practice, play and record there; not to mention International superstars such as Kylie Minogue, James, Texas and even one of the many Sugababes line-ups!
Located in a former nuts and bolts factory, the often overlooked Yellow Arch bar is open throughout the day. The space plays host to gigs, club events and much more in the evenings through to the early hours.
Into the future
And all that is not the end of Kelham Island either – there’s lots more coming in the future. There is a really cool new container unit yard, Steel Yard Kelham, being built. There will be loads of shipping containers with lots of little businesses including, bars, restaurants and more. There’s even talk of a brewery and a distillery opening there as well.
Beyond that, the old Ski Village is being developed as a brand new extreme sport village from Extreme Destinations.
There’s so much to take in across this amazing area, and probably more that we’ve missed on this non-exhaustive list. Plus new spaces are opening all the time.
Keep on checking The Sheffield Guide for any news of new features coming to Kelham Island.