The Mermaid Inn – One of the best Hotels in Rye

The Mermaid Inn, perhaps one of the most famous hotels in Rye. For other reasons than just its history and beauty…..

“If you wake at midnight, and hear a horses feet,

Dont go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,

Them that asks no questions they isnt told no lies,

Watch the wall, my darling, whilst the gentlemen go by

This extract from the poem, A Smugglers Song, by Rudyard Kipling greets you in the car park of one of the hotels in Rye, The Mermaid Inn. The poem hints of the Inn’s sketchy past, giving you a clue to its clientelle of yesteryear. The Mermaid Inn has long been on my list of hotels I would love to stay in, and when I wrote my post on its haunted past recently, (you can read it in this post, A Smugglers Haunt,) I knew that a little pre-christmas stay there would be amazing. We have just returned, so I thought I would share with you our experience of The Mermaid Inn.

Haunted Hotels in Rye?

I know for a lot of people, the thought of staying in a reportedly haunted hotel would not be on their list, but I love anything like that. You know by now my obsession with old buildings and historical places, so it should come as no surprise to you that out of all the hotels in Rye, I would want to stay here. The Inn dates back to 1156, so just imagine all the people that have passed through the doors in its 850 years history…….some of them perhaps preferring to stay……

The mermaid Inn Rye
The Elizabethan Bedchamber

I wanted to stay in one of the “historical bed chambers”, which are the rooms that have such rich history. There are two of the bed chambers, rooms 15 and 16. The Elizabethan Chamber, named after Elizabeth the first stayed here in 1573, and Dr Syns Bedchamber, named after the ficticious character from the mind of the author Russell Thorndike, who wrote a film based on the Inn’s past residence, the 600 man strong Hawkhurst Smuggling Gang. We stayed in Dr Syns Bedchamber, the largest of the Inn’s rooms, and it was stunning. The minute I walked in through the door I was in love. The rich reds of the furnishings, coupled with the original beams and antique furniture just filled the room with atmosphere. It is a beautiful room.

The mermaid Inn rye
Dr Syns Bedchamber

Walking into the room, we were surprised to see both a double bed and a single bed. The room is used as a family room too, so that explains that….it wasnt a bed for any unexpected or unwelcome visitors…… You also had a door leading to the bathroom, a seating area with the most comfortable, aged leather wing back chairs I have ever sat in, a beautiful fireplace and a book case lined with old books. Or was it???  Walking over to admire the books, we saw that it was in fact a panel that had been made to look like a book case. The panel had a latch that showed that the panel could be opened like a door…….leading to where??

Throughout the Mermaid Inn, you will find many secret panels, hidden doorways and places where a priest or a smuggler could be hidden. The secret passageway from our room leads down to the bar, which used to be the kitchen of the inn. The perfect getaway route for those trying to escape the long arms of the law. There are also rumoured to be countless tunnels running under the Mermaid, to various places over the town. Again, all in the name of quick getaways. No wonder it was a Smugglers favourite of the hotels in Rye!

the Mermaid inn rye

We were lucky enough to meet the Mermaids owner, Judith, who was happy to show us around the beautiful Mermaid, and regale us with stories of the ghostly goings on and history that has been uncovered over the years. It has even been confirmed that William Shakespeare himself had been at the Inn. The wannabe author in me was over the moon to learn this. I kept telling Nik that I needed to stay at The Mermaid for at least a month, to really get my creativeness flowing. He didn’t seem keen on the idea….

The communal areas of the Inn are just perfect. There are various lounges, all with fires roaring in them, where you can be enveloped by the comfy sofa’s and enjoy one of the 50 gins on offer, a spiced mulled wine or a crisp glass of wine. The Fireplace bar, at the rear of the Inn, has the most amazing inglenook fireplace, and the atmosphere is wonderful. You can feel the history of the place in the carvings on the fireplace, etched into the wood by captains of the ships docked in the port. Looking closely to the left of the fireplace, you would see the hidden doorway to the priest hole, a hidden recess in the fireplace where the exiled priests escaping to France would be hidden.

the mermaid inn rye
Hotels in Rye the mermaid inn

We had booked bed and breakfast, and the breakfast was served from 8-10, so no need to be up with the larks. The breakfast consists of a full english, or variations of cooked breakfast, cereals, fruit, yoghurt and pastries. It was delicious and certainly set us up for the day. We didn’t have our evening meal at The Mermaid as we had already decided that we wanted to go to the local Thai restaurant (which is amazing), but we did have some baguettes at lunchtime, which were fresh and delicious. Nik chose ham hock, I opted for cheese.

Ghostly going on at The Mermaid Inn Rye???

Now, lets talk about whether we had any ghostly encounters. I suppose the most truthful answer would be Im not sure. Let me tell you what happened. The head porter at The Mermaid, Glen, had offered to take us up to The Kingswood Room, which is reported to be the room with the most activity. The room is beautiful, and has a real feeling of stepping into history as soon as you walk in the door. Standing in the middle of the room, I felt a warmth. Thats the only way I can describe it. It was like a warm feeling running through me. The room is said to be haunted by one of the Hawkhurst Gang members, Kingswood, so Glen asked if we would like to try to see if he was in the room. Of course we agreed!

the mermaid inn rye

Glen and Nik stayed by the door, and turned the main light out. Glen called out “Kingswood, if you are here, let us know’ He started taking photos on my phone, hoping to catch anything.  It could have been my imagination, but I swear, after about 2 minutes, it felt like someone brushed the back of my neck. Not just a breeze, but actual fingers running along the nape of my neck. Nik was standing with Glen, and also taking pictures, and Nik, who is a non-believer, said that he could see bright, circle lights dancing around near the top of my head, and darting down towards the floor. One of the photos does show one of these light circles. It was weird, I 100% felt something on my neck, but I never felt scared. Who knows! It could have just been in our minds, but i like to think it was the permanent residents of the Mermaid Inn telling me that I was welcome there.

the mermaid inn rye
Is this an energy orb?

I absolutely loved our stay at The Mermaid Inn, and would go as far to say that is my favourite UK hotel to stay in to date. It is probably the most famous of the hotels in Rye. I just adored it and felt like I was home. The Inn is also one of the only places in the centre of Rye to have its own car park, which is perfect for guests. The staff are all fantastic. Friendly, full of stories and eager to make your stay amazing. Both Nik and I really felt that you could feel how passionate the staff were about their work place, and all 41 members of staff have been at The Mermaid for many years. Their local knowledge is so helpful. I would say in summary, The Mermaid Inn Rye is a place full of stories, history, atmosphere and comfort. It is perfectly located for exploring Rye and the surrounding areas of East Sussex, and you can guarantee a warm welcome. I hope to return early next year for another stay.

Prices for a nights stay at The Mermaid Inn start at around £140 – £220, depending on what room you wish to stay in. Details of prices can be found here.

The room types that are available can be found here.

So, what do you think? Would you stay somewhere like The Mermaid Inn? Do you prefer modern luxury or do you like the historic, atmospheric places? Have you ever stayed somewhere that has been known to have ghostly goings on? As ever, I would love to hear about your experiences! 



  1. December 18, 2018 / 10:10 am

    So much history Kerry it’s really fascinating – you are brave though! x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      December 18, 2018 / 11:11 am

      Hahaha! Brave or stupid? It was just fantastic and a great way to spend a couple of days before Christmas. Thank you for reading x

  2. Jane weller
    December 18, 2018 / 4:43 pm

    Hi Kerry. Glad that you had a magical stay. We have only stayed there in the summer so very envious. The Giant’s fire place looks fit for smugglers, reprobates and Gin drinkers! Loved your write up. You have captured The Mermaid. It’s full of intrigue and I can never get enough of it. It’s like coming home. I am always plotting our next stay. Glad that Glen looked after you. He’s brilliant; (especally his Charlie Drake impressions) Incredible large Orb on your last photo just on the sofa and a smaller one to the right of the picture just on the beam. Whizzie little balls of energy! Great fun! They liked you! Thanks for sharing xxx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      December 18, 2018 / 9:59 pm

      Ohh Jane you have said exactly how I felt, exactly like I had gone home. Do you think our ancestors need looking into??? Maybe we are welcomed there as we have some past hahaha! We never noticed that second orb, so thank you for pointing it out. My husband said there were so many floating about. I am so keen to go back, and we are hoping to go early next year. I have just fallen in love! Thank you so much for reading xxx

  3. Laura
    December 18, 2018 / 10:58 pm

    Hi Kerry, we also love the Mermaid, have been going there to eat and drink for many years when visiting Rye, and most recently we have had a couple of stays also in Dr Syns which as you say is an amazing room. I really enjoyed your article, and glad you mentioned lovely Glen, he and all the staff are great. You have made me want to book our next stay right now!

    • kerrylifeandloves
      December 19, 2018 / 12:05 am

      Hi Laura, I am so glad you know Dr Syns chamber, its hard to get across how beautiful the room is, so its great you know it. It seems that once we visit Mermaid Inn, we all become hooked and want to keep going back. Its just holds you in a big, all encompassing hug doesn’t it. The staff are a real credit to the Inn, and you are right, Glen is fabulous. I hope you get back there soon (as I hope to also) Thank you so much for taking the time to comment xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      December 19, 2018 / 9:31 pm

      Ohhhhh I know what Mark means, it has a “feel” about it. Its not scary at all, honestly. Its just a beautiful, historic hotel….with a few ghosts hahahahaha

  4. January 27, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    Kerry, we had a wonderful weekend at The Mermaid for hubby’s birthday a couple of weeks back – all down to your blog post!! Loved everything about it, the restaurant was superb and the staff so helpful. We also tried a new restaurant called The Devil in Rye which backs onto the old monastery walls and then went to the jazz bar. Lovely weekend x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      January 28, 2019 / 9:21 am

      Ahhhh Claire I am SO happy to hear this! It sounds like you had a fabulous weekend. The mermaid is just perfect isnt it, and Rye a gorgeous town to spend time in. I am thrilled that you had such a good time, yayyy! xx

  5. September 1, 2020 / 5:50 am

    Wow. Such an interesting place to stay!! I love it. Also, the interior is stunning!! Ok not going to lie that your energy orb photo freaked me out a little haha

    Thanks for sharing!

    • September 1, 2020 / 8:23 am

      Hahaha, it was a weird experience in that room. The feel of someone brushing my neck was strange, but for some reason, not scary! The Mermaid Inn has become one of my favourite hotels ever!

I love reading your comments x

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