A Smugglers Haunt – The Mermaid Inn, Rye, East Sussex

Ok, so my next Hotel for freak week takes us into Rye, East Sussex. I adore Rye. Its one of my favourite places in the UK, and I wrote a full post on our visit there early last year, (you can read that in this post, Walking The Cobbles in Rye, East Sussex). Steeped in history, Rye has a long history and past with smugglers and pirates. There is a famous street in Rye, Mermaid Street, where it is said to be a street of “disrepute” for much of its past. Smugglers frequented the Mermaid Inn, which stands on Mermaid Street, so I suppose that didn’t help its reputation! The Mermaid Inn, Rye has long been reported to be haunted, with many guests telling similar stories. Read on to find out why I am looking forward to staying here in December.

the mermaid inn rye
Mermaid Street

The Mermaid Inn, Rye – A troubling past?

The Mermaid Inn has parts of it dating back to 1156, so it is one of the oldest Inn’s in England. During the 1700’s the notorious smuggling gang The Hawkhursts, were known to frequent the Inn, using it as one of their bases and strongholds. It is thought that some of the smugglers still haunt the Inn, looking for one last glass or rum maybe? Or perhaps a gin as the Mermaid has 50 gins to choose from! (Thats my idea of heaven right there, you know I love my gin) The Inn brewed its own ale and charged sailors and workmen a penny a night for lodgings, so there was lots of merry sailors, plotting smugglers and dodgy dealings afoot. As Rye was a thriving port then, business was plentiful! Catholic priests, fleeing from the 1500’s reformation also were welcomed at the Inn to hide. The Inn seemed to attract all manor of troubled and trouble seeking souls. There are hidden tunnels running under The Mermaid, some leading to the Old Bell Inn, which the smugglers used as a quick get away. With so much going on at The Mermaid, I suppose it is no surprise that lots of ghostly activity has been recorded.

The Mermaid Inn Rye

The Ghosts of Mermaid Inn

Room 1 –  (James Room) A lady is often seen sitting by the fireplace in a chair. Dressed in grey or white, the lady is said to just sit there. Guests have reported waking up to find their clothes wet on the chair. The Grey lady has also been seen walking through the room to sit on or stoop by the bed. A family of a Mum, Dad and child have also been seen walk through the wall and across the room.

Room 10 – (Fleur de Lys room) The ghost reported here is that of a man. It has been documented that he walks through the bathroom wall, into the main room.

Room 15 – (Dr Syns Bedchamber) This was the room that a seance was held, that I have spoken about in the staff experiences further down this post. There was also a camera crew setting up in this room a while back, and as they were running tests for lighting etc, lit up orbs were detected on the film, but not by the naked eye.

The Mermaid Inn Rye
Dr Syn’s Bedchamber

Room 16 – (Elizabethan Room) A lot of activity has been reported in this room. It is said to have been the place where a dual between two men took place. Guests have seen a man being dragged along the floor, both men dressed in 16th century clothing. There has also been numerous accounts of the sounds of a dual taking place, swords glinting in the light. Another ghost reported to haunt this room is the ghost of a maid, that worked at the Inn, but was also the girlfriend of one of the Hawkhurst gang. She was killed by other gang members as they feared she knew too much of their dodgy dealings. The activity in this room got so intense that staff members have resigned as they couldn’t cope with it.

Room 17 – (Kingsmill) Named after a Hawkhurst gang member, Thomas Kingsmill, I suppose its no wonder that this room is said to be haunted by smugglers and a wife of one of the smugglers, George Gray. Mrs Gray was said to sit in the rocking chair that was in Kingsmill, silent rocking and rocking. Guests have refused to stay in the room in the past as the apparitions were so regular. The chair was eventually removed from the room.

Room 19 – (Hawkhurst) Reported by several guests as having the ghost of a gentleman in old fashioned clothes, sitting at the end of the bed when they wake in the night.

The Mermaid Inn Rye
The Hawkhurst

Experiences of the staff

I have been speaking with the managers at The Mermaid Inn, as I wanted to know the best room to stay in for ghostly activity. My husband thinks I am crackers. One of the incredibly helpful managers, Martin suggested room 17, Kingsmill. Now I have got to put my money where my mouth is and book it haha! At one point, there was so much activity going on in room 17, that the chamber maids refused to clean the rooms alone. They cleaned it in pairs only. I cant say I blame them!

Five members of The Mermaid Inn’s staff also agreed to take part in a seance with a medium that was brought in. The seance took place in room 15. The medium informed the staff that a figure with a dog had come into the room. The staff were invited to put there hand out in the area that the medium could see the figure, and all members of staff felt that they had touched something that felt like dog fur! Spooky!

The Mermaid Inn Rye
The Kingsmill

The Mermaid Inn also keeps records of any ghostly goings on that their guests tell them about. The manager sent some of these stories to me, and let me tell you, they are plentiful! Lots of guests told similar tales too, so it leads me to think that the spirits are regulars! One of the stories in particular spoke of the dual going on in room 16. A night camera was actually set up, and the sight of swords crashing together could be seen, as well as a shadowy figure to the right of them. This type of sighting has been reported by many guests. Guests also reported looking up at the window of the room and seeing the silhouettes of two people inside the room, despite there being no one in the room.

Secrets and Passageways

As I have said, there is secret passageways leading from and to The Mermaid Inn, but also within it. There is a secret panel in room 18 that leads into a secret passageway, as well as an entrance to the Priest’s hole in the back of the cupboard above the bars fireplace. You will also find a secret way from the bar to Dr Syn’s bedchamber. All of this history, all of the buildings secrets, make it a prime location for those things that go bump in the night……..

The Mermaid Inn Rye

The Mermaid Inn really is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days. Fantastic restaurant menus, atmosphere a-plenty and the most warmest of welcomes. The history of Rye, the gorgeous antiques shops everywhere. There is also the most fantastic second hand book shop tucked away down one of the streets. I cant get enough of this gorgeous town, ghosts or no ghosts. Rooms start at £90 including a full breakfast, and you can see full details about a stay in The Mermaid Inn right here. 

So, would you stay here? Have you stayed here? I would love to know any stories you have about anywhere similar. Am I bonkers to be booking into room 17. I may end up on my own as my husband is a scaredy cat! Let me know what you think! 







  1. October 25, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Looks wonderful – going to make enquiries for the NY to see if they can manage my mobility issues. Thanks for sharing C x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 25, 2018 / 9:59 pm

      Ohhhhh Claire I really hope you get to stay, it’s just beautiful! Have you been to Rye? If not, you are in fir a treat, it’s just wonderful. I’d love to hear if you get to stay there, especially if you see an extra guest or two…….

      • October 31, 2018 / 3:53 pm

        I have booked! Surprise weekend in Jan for hubby’s 50th – very excited….so thank you!!!

        • kerrylifeandloves
          October 31, 2018 / 3:59 pm

          Ohhhhhhhh Claire I am BEYOND excited for you! Ohhh you are going to love it, i could burst! I cant wait to hear all about it. Yayyyyyyyyy! xxxxx

  2. October 25, 2018 / 8:59 pm

    What a fabulous post to read!!! Now let me tell you a story… it takes us back to good old 1991… you know… the year of the perms, shoulder pads and hideous make-up… Well besides those fashion statements (which I mastered like a pro needless to say), 1991 was also the year of my first encounter with Rye! I saw one (1) picture of this charming village and I fell in love with England… easy as that! Due to that one picture, I booked a bed and breakfast in Rye, went on a 4-day trip to this bit of Sussex and found out it had an entire smugglers’ history and it was part of ‘The Cinque Ports and the Two Ancient Towns’.

    I was studying ‘management, tourism and recreation’ back then and I decided that I would write my final thesis on this subject. The next year we visited all seven towns so I could gather information and buy some interesting books for my thesis (oh yes, those good old days before the internet when we had to look up everything in the library and write letters to tourist information centres hoping they’d send the much needed information as that sure was a subject of which I didn’t find very much here in Belgium I can tell you that!).

    I had so much fun doing all the research and that was really where my everlasting love for England started!

    I came first with my thesis (84%… still proud of it) but I’m even more glad that I got to know such a beautiful piece of England which left me craving for more. Now nearly 30 years later we are still travelling across the Channel and we really hope that the Brexit won’t prevent us from visiting England many times more.

    Love, Kathleen

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 25, 2018 / 9:28 pm

      Ohhhhhh Kathleen this story made me get goosebumps! I LOVE that you fell in love with our little Island, in a place that I too adore. I dont see how anyone could not fall in love with Rye. maybe you will pop back to meet the “residents” of The Mermaid Inn?? I would have loved to have read your thesis, I bet it was interesting! Thank you so much for telling me such a wonderful story, I really love that you shared it, made me feel all warm xxx I really appreciate you reading xx

  3. October 25, 2018 / 9:38 pm

    In short, I’m too chicken to stay anywhere with ghostly goings on – but it was absolutely fascinating to read about it – thanks for sharing Kerry!

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 25, 2018 / 9:43 pm

      Hahahaha! Im pushing hard for my husband to come with me to stay there, but I will probably be scared witless! I really am determined to get there though, all that history in those walls! thank you for reading xxxx

  4. October 25, 2018 / 9:38 pm

    This is hillarious, fair play to you!
    There is no way I would stay here knowing all this, I would get not one wink of sleep.
    Rye however looks like a town I could get down with and I’m already looking up google directions 🙂
    Great pics my love

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 25, 2018 / 9:46 pm

      I am so excited to stay there! My husband is not into anything scary, so i think Im finding it hilarious that he will be terrified! Im so wicked. Rye truly is a beautiful town, and there are so many nooks and crannies to get lost in. You would love it Im sure! Let me know if you end up going. Oh and pop in The Mermaid for a g&t, it has a gorgeous ambience x xx Thanks for reading xx

  5. Jane weller
    October 30, 2018 / 4:37 pm

    Hi Kerry. My partner and I have stayed at The Mermaid several times over the years. In Fleur dy lys, Kingsmill, James suite and The Elizabethen Bed Chamber back in June. We try to stay once a year as it’s our favorite hotel. In 2019 we are staying in Dr Syn’s Bedchamber. So far the most ‘active’ rooms that we have encountered are The Elizabethen Bed Chamber and the Kingsmill Suite. At night we took so many photos of orbs whizzing around the room on our camera using flash – I could not sleep ! I suggest you take your camera too and a charger! It’s a shame that I am unable to post some of my photos on here. Also look out for the coloured ‘Witching balls’ hanging in all the down stairs room to ward off evil spirits passing by. In the Giants Bar, if you look inside the fire place on the beams on the left hand side – you will see three joined up circles which are the symbols for Witch craft. It truly is a facinating place to stay. Have a wonderful time. Best wishes. Jane x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 30, 2018 / 7:17 pm

      Ohhhhh Jane thank you so much for sharing your experience! You have made me even more excited to stay here now! Wow! I am so excited that you have seen activity. Thats amazing! I would love you to send me a photo, Im so curious about all this sort of thing. Thank you for sharing Jane, I really appreciate it xx

      • Jane weller
        October 31, 2018 / 8:17 pm

        Hi Kerry. I have emailed you some photos. I hope Judith (one of the owners) is there for your stay. She is great to talk to talk about the history of The Mermaid Also ask to see the Norman cellars beneath the hotel. Jane xxx

        • kerrylifeandloves
          November 1, 2018 / 9:25 am

          Ohhhh Jane thats brilliant! Thank you so much. I will pop across to my inbox. Im so excited to see xxxx

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