Mermaid Street, RYE, TN31 7EY
The atmosphere of the smugglers' inn remains at the Mermaid, which is one of the most famous and photographed of England's ancient pubs. This venerable black and white timber-fronted building was a haunt of seafarers from the Cinque Port harbour. Its colourful history is reflected in ships' timbers for beams, a vast inglenook where the infamous Hawkshurst gang warmed themselves, a hidden priest hole and huge open fireplaces carved from French stone ballast dredged from Rye harbour. British and French-style food is served in the bar, restaurant and under sunshades on the patio. Perhaps choose clam and orange chowder; or local charcuterie with pickles and toast; followed by south coast cod in beer batter; steak and frites; or the sea food platter. Superb wines, local Harvey's beer and comfortable bedrooms complete the package.