My husband and I stayed at The Mermaid Inn over the weekend of 14th/15th September to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.
Firstly, I adore the building. It really is like stepping back in time to an age of smugglers, rouges and gentlemen. The thrill of being able to touch a hand to timbers, which have stood in place for almost six hundred years, gives the experience of a stay here the feel of being inside a museum after hours, when all the curators have gone home and we may creep through the public spaces unhindered.
Its ambience is alive with the thrum of history and the resonance of all who have passed through the leaning, narrow passages, supped from tankards at the bar and hatched villainous plans in any one of the shadowy nooks.
That we, as mere tourists should be allowed to stay within such walls is an experience to be cherished and savoured.
However, and from here in on, should my comments be construed as either uncharitable, pernickety or downright pointless is for you to decide. I offer my views only in defence of a building, which, were it permitted, is more than able to breathe on its own merit, without the hindrance of fussy, cheapening detail. It’s much more about “taking away” than adding anything.
Indulge me and let’s pretend The Mermaid Inn is under my charge. Here’s what I would do differently.
1. Remove the countless, ageing celebrity photographs. I’m already there, I’ve booked the room and I don’t need to be “wowed” by the fact that Jan Leeming once graced the hallowed ground in her sensible court shoes and immaculate coiffure. Likewise, the revelation that anyone from David Jason to Pierce Brosnan have been guests is of no importance to me except to detract from the wonderful features hidden behind the myriad of mis-matched photograph frames. Perhaps I’m missing the point and there is an enthralling and immersive game based on a sliding scale of celebrity to be had by browsing the famous (and not so famous) faces? From the blond-haired unplaceable TV presenter, climb the ladder of notoriety right up to Donald Sinden, folks!
2. Rip up and burn the pub-style carpets found throughout the public areas. Okay, okay, I know they go some way towards assisting with the soundproofing but, underneath those garish swirls lie a feast of flagstones and luscious, creaking boards, or, at least, one would hope. Good rugs and runners, studiously applied with considerations to trips and slips, managed by many other similarly appointed establishments, go a long way towards contributing to the authenticity of somewhere like The Mermaid.
3. Remove many of the cheaply-framed mirrors and “artworks” found throughout. Our room had an awful pre-Raphaelite poster in a gold plastic frame, as well as a couple of mirrors, which looked as though they’d been picked up from boot fairs. I understand that the mirrors may have been employed in an effort to bounce some more light into the low-ceiling, very dark room, but, really, they’re not necessary. The building is very low-ceilinged and dark in some areas, that’s the point.
4. Tighten up on service. Now, I’m not saying that the service was “bad”. In fact, in one or two respects, it was very good. It’s just not “tight”. Here’s a couple of examples:
a. The receptionist didn’t get up out of her seat when we arrived to check-in. She told us we were too early for the room (in a pleasant enough manner), but didn’t go to the trouble of coming out from behind the high divider that screens off the back part of the reception area, nor offer to have our bags taken from the car and looked after until the room was ready.
b. The night duty manager stalked unsmilingly around the bar and lounges in quite a purposeful way before loudly ordering the barman to inform the guests still sitting in the bar at 11pm they were required to take their drinks into one of the lounges. I didn’t get the impression that customer service was one of his strong suits.
c. The candle was missing from our dinner table. Everyone else had one. We felt left out. Such a small thing, but it's the little things and attention to tiny details that set a truly great hotel apart from merely a good one.
I really hope I don't come across as a whiny old bag for this review. It's just that I used to love The Mermaid, but, the older I've got, the more I've started to see her flagging.
It wouldn't take much at all to give this fine old lady the presentation she truly deserves.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Originally, dating from 1156, the Mermaid was rebuilt in 1420, much as it still stands today, as the principal Inn of Rye. The Mermaid now caters for those who appreciate tradition and charm, coupled with the modern facilities required by today's guest. So, from a picturesque cobbled street; step back in time to experience the unique atmosphere of one of England's oldest and loveliest Inns. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Mermaid Hotel Rye
- Mermaid Hotel Rye
- Mermaid Inn Rye
- Mermaid Rye
- The Mermaid Inn Rye, East Sussex