Exploring The Top 10 Oldest Hotels in the UK

The United Kingdom, steeped in history and rich in culture, is home to some of the oldest hotels in the world. These historic hotels offer more than just a place to stay; they are gateways to the past, each with its own unique story and charm. From the cosy inns of the countryside to the elegant establishments in bustling cities, these hotels have witnessed centuries of history and have been part of the lives of many, from royalty to commoners.

In this article, we explore the top 10 oldest hotels in the UK, each boasting a distinctive character and a deep connection to British history. These hotels are not just buildings but living museums, offering a glimpse into the past while providing the comfort and amenities of the present. From The Old Ferry Boat in Cambridgeshire, believed to be the oldest pub in England dating back to 560 AD, to The Porch House in Gloucestershire with its roots in 947 AD, these establishments each have a fascinating tale to tell.

Join us as we journey through time, uncovering the stories behind these ancient hotels that have stood the test of time. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a traveller seeking unique experiences, or simply someone who appreciates the allure of the old world, these hotels promise an unforgettable stay, blending historical significance with modern luxury.

Our List of the Top 10 Oldest Hotels in the UK.

Explore this article using the links below to skip to a particular section.

  1. The Old Hall, Derbyshire: Built around 1625, The Old Hall combines historical significance, notably its ornate plaster ceiling, with modern comforts for a unique stay​
  2. The Spread Eagle Hotel, Sussex: Since 1430, it has been a historical beacon, hosting notable figures including Queen Elizabeth I and offering a blend of history with luxury
  3. The Lygon Arms, Worcestershire: Dating back to the 1300s, this former coaching inn has played a pivotal role in English history, hosting historical figures like Charles I
  4. Angel and Royal, Lincolnshire: Established in 1203, this hotel has hosted English royals and maintains its medieval charm alongside modern luxuries​
  5. The Mermaid Inn, Sussex: Rebuilt in 1420, The Mermaid Inn is rich in history, from hosting artists to possible ghostly encounters, blending ancient architecture with modern comfort
  6. Walworth Castle Hotel, County Durham: Originating around 1150, this castle-turned-hotel has royal connections and now offers luxurious modern amenities
  7. The Olde Bell, Berkshire: Founded in 1135, The Olde Bell is a historic coaching inn that has hosted famous guests and boasts a mixture of medieval and modern elements
  8. The Maids Head Hotel, Norwich: Known as the UK's oldest hotel, it has been welcoming guests since the 1090s, with a history intertwined with Norman bishops and royal visits
  9. The Porch House, Gloucestershire: Dating back to 947 AD, The Porch House combines a rich history as a former hospice with contemporary inn comforts
  10. The Old Ferry Boat, Cambridgeshire: Revered as England's oldest pub dating back to 560 AD, it's a charming riverside inn steeped in history with an alleged haunting

10. The Old Hall, Derbyshire - 1625

The Old Hall in Derbyshire, dating from around 1625, is a Grade II* Listed Building, indicating its significant historical importance. It was likely built by Godfrey Frogatt and features an ornate plaster ceiling in the parlour, added around 1630. This ceiling and the Wainscot wood panelling in the dining room showcase the craftsmanship of the era. The building contains ancient beams, with the oldest dating back to 1558.

Transformed into a modern holiday destination, The Old Hall offers a 5-star stay with 5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, accommodating up to 10 guests. It blends historical features with modern amenities, including a well-equipped kitchen and a large garden. The property is a balance of ancient architecture and contemporary comfort, making it a unique stay in Derbyshire​.

9. The Spread Eagle Hotel, Sussex - 1430

The Spread Eagle Hotel in Sussex, dating back to 1430, is one of England's oldest coaching inns with a rich historical tapestry. It has been a host to an array of distinguished guests throughout its centuries-long history. One of its most famous visitors was Queen Elizabeth I, whose stay in 1591 gave the Queen Suite its name. This suite is renowned for its ancient beams, a four-poster bed, and a roll-top bath, and features a unique Wig Closet, believed to be the last in an English hotel.

Other notable guests include famous writers such as H.G. Wells and Hilaire Belloc. Prince Charles also visited the hotel in 1978, adding to its list of royal connections.

Retaining its historical charm while adapting to modern times, The Spread Eagle offers contemporary amenities including a charming restaurant, a gin bar, and an award-winning spa. Despite its modernization, the hotel still exudes an old-world charm with its characteristic wonky walls, uneven floors, and creaking stairs. The Spread Eagle provides a unique experience, combining historical ambiance with modern luxury, making it a fascinating destination for those who appreciate a blend of history and contemporary comforts.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

8. The Lygon Arms, Worcestershire - 1377

The Lygon Arms in Worcestershire, originally known as "The White Hart," has a rich history dating back to the 14th century, with the earliest record from 1377. The current structure, a Grade II* listed building, dates from the early seventeenth century. This historic coaching inn has been a significant part of English history, notably during the English Civil War, hosting both Oliver Cromwell and Charles I.

Over the years, The Lygon Arms has been a favourite of many notable figures, including King Edward VII, his grandson Edward VIII, and celebrities like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. It also hosted Prince Philip, author Evelyn Waugh, and singer Kylie Minogue, adding to its storied past.

Today, The Lygon Arms offers a blend of historical charm and modern luxury, retaining its significance while adapting to contemporary needs. It serves as a unique destination for visitors seeking a mix of rich history and modern amenities in the heart of the Cotswolds

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

7. Angel and Royal, Lincolnshire - 1203

The Angel and Royal Hotel in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is one of the oldest inns in the world, dating back to 1203. This historic hotel has a remarkable past, hosting a series of English royals over the centuries. King John held court here in 1213, and other monarchs like Edward III, Queen Philippa, and Richard III have stayed at the hotel. Richard III even used the hotel's "Chambre de' Roi" to issue a death warrant in 1483, a letter of which copies are displayed in the hotel's dining room. The hotel's royal connections continued with visits from Charles I, Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War, George IV, and Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales in 1866, after which the "and Royal" was added to its name.

The hotel itself is composed of several buildings surrounding an internal courtyard, with the oldest part of the façade dating back to the 14th century. This includes the ornate carvings of Edward III and Philippa, as well as a gold-painted wooden figure of an angel, which contributes to the 'Angel' part of the hotel's name.

Today, the Angel and Royal Hotel continues to offer hospitality with 31 unique bedrooms, a restaurant, a bistro, and a bar, maintaining its historic charm while catering to modern needs.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

6. The Mermaid Inn, Sussex - 1156

The Mermaid Inn, located in Rye, Sussex, holds a rich history dating back to the 12th century. Rebuilt in 1420 after being destroyed by French Raiders in 1377, it maintains an ancient charm with its cellars dating from 1156. This historic inn has been a significant venue through various historical periods. It was a club in 1913, attracting artists like Dame Ellen Terry and Lord Alfred Douglas. During World War II, it served as a garrison for Canadian officers and later hosted a luncheon for the Queen Mother in 1982.

Architecturally, The Mermaid Inn is a striking black and white timber-framed building. Its design features include dark oak, carved stone chimney pieces, and timber reportedly from dismantled ships. The inn is famous for its Giant's Fireplace Bar and Tudor-style fireplaces. With 31 individually designed rooms, some with four-poster beds, the inn blends historical ambiance with modern amenities.

Notably, The Mermaid Inn is also known for its paranormal activities, particularly in Room 16, making it a subject of interest for ghost hunters.

Today, the inn offers guests the experience of staying in a historical setting, complete with a 2 AA Rosette Restaurant and diverse dining spaces like the Linen Fold Panelled Restaurant​​​​.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

5. Walworth Castle Hotel, County Durham - 1150

Walworth Castle Hotel in County Durham, England, is steeped in a rich history that dates back to the 12th century. The estate was originally owned by the Hansard family, known as the "Handsome Hansards", and has seen several changes in ownership over the centuries. In 1586, Elizabeth Jenison, a notable owner, added many features to the castle, including the solid oak staircase and ornate coving. The castle was a favourite of royalty; notably, King James VI of Scotland stayed in what is now the King James Suite during his journey to his coronation as King James I of England.

Throughout its history, Walworth Castle has undergone various transformations. It functioned as a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II and was later used as a girls' boarding school. In 1981, the castle was renovated and opened as a hotel, now part of the Best Western hotels group. The castle, a Tudor-style structure dating from around 1600, is a Grade I listed building with significant architectural features, including limestone rubble and Welsh slate roofing. The west tower, older than the rest of the structure, features gunloops and narrow windows.

Today, Walworth Castle Hotel is an award-winning venue that continues to deliver excellent customer service. It is a popular location for weddings and other celebrations, offering overnight accommodation and dining in a setting that combines 21st-century facilities with 12th-century charm

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

4. The Olde Bell, Berkshire - 1135

The Olde Bell in Hurley, Berkshire, is one of the oldest inns in the world, with a history dating back to 1135. Originally serving as a guest house for visitors to the nearby Benedictine Priory, its legacy includes a secret passage used during the 'Glorious Revolution' in 1688 by Lord Lovelace of Hurley to overthrow King James II. This inn has been an important staging point on the Oxford to London route, with the last recorded schedule in 1890.

In its illustrious history, The Olde Bell has hosted numerous notable figures, including Sir Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colonel Elliot Roosevelt during World War II. The inn was also a favourite of movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Cary Grant, and Errol Flynn. The 17th Century Malthouse was once the residence of Boris Karloff, the classic horror actor, while he was filming in the area.

Today, The Olde Bell continues to capture the essence of English hospitality, complemented by chic design and luxury. It offers a range of accommodation across five buildings, and its award-winning restaurant serves produce from the inn's kitchen garden. The Olde Bell is also a popular venue for weddings and events, maintaining its tradition of hospitality for travellers and strangers.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

3. The Maids Head Hotel, Norwich - 1090s

The Maids Head Hotel in Norwich, reputed to be the oldest hotel in the UK, has a fascinating history dating back to the middle of the 1090s. The site was originally used for hospitality by Herbert de Losinga, the first Norman Bishop of Norwich. Its continuous use for hospitality since then forms the basis of its claim as the oldest hotel.

The hotel's oldest above-ground parts date back to the 15th century, particularly noticeable in the AA two-star Wine Press Restaurant and the wood-panelled Oak Room. The bar and snug, added in the late 16th century, further contribute to its historical ambiance. Throughout its history, the hotel has played host to various historical figures. For instance, Edward the Black Prince was entertained here in 1359, and Queen Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife, was entertained in 1520. Even Queen Elizabeth I is associated with the hotel, although she stayed across the road with the Bishop of Norwich during her 1578 visit to the city.

The Maids Head has undergone several refurbishments over the years, ensuring it meets the expectations of 21st-century guests while preserving its historic charm. It now operates as an independent hotel, offering a unique blend of historical significance and modern hospitality.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

2. The Porch House, Gloucestershire - 947 AD

The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, holds the distinction of being England's oldest inn, with parts of its building dating back to 947 AD. The site originally served as a hospice and then an inn, with its timber-framed structure founded by the Saxon Duke of Cornwall, Athelmar. The Porch House has a rich and varied history, including being run by the Knights Hospitallers and undergoing enlargement in stone after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.

The inn's architectural and historical significance is evident in its Grade II listed Cotswold stone building. It boasts historical features like a 16th-century fireplace with witch marks intended to ward off evil spirits. Notably, one of the bedrooms displays a mediaeval 'houris' frieze, believed to date from the time of the crusades.

Today, The Porch House operates as a stylish boutique inn with a multi-award-winning restaurant. It offers a seasonal menu with dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients, served in a dining room characterised by exposed oak beams, fine 16th-century fireplaces, and honey-coloured stone walls. This historic inn is a blend of rich history and modern hospitality, providing a unique experience in the heart of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

1. The Old Ferry Boat, Cambridgeshire - 560 AD

The Old Ferry Boat in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, holds a unique place in history as it is widely believed to be the oldest pub in England, with its establishment dating back to 560 AD. This riverside inn is situated in the peaceful hamlet of Holywell, on the banks of the River Great Ouse, making it an ideal spot for those seeking a tranquil retreat.

The inn features a charming exterior with a thatched roof and white stone walls. Inside, it combines classic decor with contemporary comforts, offering seven en-suite rooms equipped with modern amenities like free Wi-Fi. Each room is designed for comfort, featuring large beds and bright, fresh bathrooms. The inn is also dog-friendly, accommodating guests who wish to bring their pets along.

Historically, the Old Ferry Boat is known for its alleged haunting by a ghost named Juliet Tewsley, a local girl who is said to rise annually on the anniversary of her death in the 11th century. The inn honours her memory with a stone slab dedicated to her inside the pub.

In addition to its historical significance, the Old Ferry Boat remains a popular destination for dining and relaxation. The traditional pub serves classic British fare, real ale, premium lager, and fine wines, with options to dine indoors or in the large beer garden. It's a perfect spot for enjoying a steak, breaded scampi, or a full Sunday roast, while soaking in the rich history and picturesque surroundings.

This blend of ancient history and modern hospitality makes The Old Ferry Boat an intriguing and unique destination, whether for a stay, a meal, or simply to explore the surrounding countryside and nearby attractions like Cambridge and the Cromwell Museum.

Book Your Stay: Booking.com

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