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Smugglers' tunnels, hidden passageways and secret priest holes, it's no surprise that the 15th-century Mermaid Inn in Rye is one of the most haunted places in Britain. Once the headquarters of the notorious Hawkhurst gang of smugglers, it now attracts legions of ghost hunters and history buffs. For brave civilians, staying the night is made more tempting thanks to its two-AA star Linen Fold restaurant and cosy Giant's Fireplace bar.

Your expert reviewer

Tracey Davies
Freelance journalist
A travel writer for 20 years, Tracey has written for a wide variety of national newspapers, magazines and websites including Metro, Guardian, The Times and Good Housekeeping. A self-proclaimed connoisseur of hotel breakfasts, she's also the East Sussex hotels expert for the Telegraph.



Camber Sands is only a 10-minute drive away, where a romp along the dunes blows out the cobwebs.

Located on the cobbled Mermaid Street, this old inn lies on the edge of High Weald AONB, a short drive from some of the south coast's best beaches.
By car: 2 hours 15 minutes from London, 1 hour 30 minutes from Brighton and 30 minutes from Hastings. There is a small car park at the back of the hotel with space for 15 cars.
By train: Rye station is a five-minute walk from The Mermaid Inn, with a 20-minute connections Ashford International. Ashford has high-speed links to London St. Pancras (35 minutes) and Paris (4 hours).

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Style & Character

Alongside the bold and the brave, it attracts everyone from the youngest smuggler fans to the oldest ghost hunters. The devil's chair, a 17th-century wooden chair with a carved effigy of satan, is said to come from a witches coven.

Service & Facilities

Judith, the owner, has a real passion for the place. She knows its history and its ghosts - although she claims to never have seen one.

  • Bar and lounges
  • Restaurant
  • Terrace
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Free parking
  • Family rooms


Dr Syn's Bedchamber is allegedly the most haunted room. A secret passageway behind the bookcase leads down to the bar. Look out for the antique witches' balls - shiny globes hanging in each of the rooms to ward off unwanted spirits.

Single Rooms, Double and Twin Rooms, Superior Double and Twin Rooms, Four Poster Rooms, Historical Bedchambers
Facilities include: ensuite bathroom with shower, toiletries, tea and coffee tray, antique furniture, exposed beams, free Wi-Fi

Food & Drink

For dinner, Rye Bay scallops with charred baby onions, blackberry and trout caviar is pretty unbeatable. We love snuggling up by the fire in the Giant's Fireplace bar afterwards, with a Blackdown Sussex gin nightcap.

Linen Fold Panelled Restaurant: 2-AA Rosette, British fine dining, local produce. Three Courses £39.50. Open for lunch 12-2.30pm and dinner 7-9.30pm (also available as room service).
Giant's Fireplace Bar: British pub classics, al fresco dining, local wines. Lunch served 12-2.30pm. Large plates from £10.95.
Breakfast: cooked and continental a la carte options. Served from 8-10am. Also available as room service. Included in room rate.

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