The White Hart Inn

West Mersea, Essex, United Kingdom
Book from GBP Book from £150 per night

The White Hart Inn

West Mersea, Essex, United Kingdom

A newly renovated inn with just six cosseting rooms and a sociable restaurant on England's most easterly inhabited island

A newly renovated inn with just six cosseting rooms and a sociable restaurant on England's most easterly inhabited island

There's an otherworldly quality to the dynamic Essex coastline, with its shimmering mud flats, golden sandy beaches, and those huge horizons. Encapsulating this watery landscape is low-lying (and oft-overlooked) Mersea Island, a draw for smugglers and holiday-makers since Roman times, connected to the mainland by a Saxon-built causeway that floods at high tide. In the centre of West Mersea you'll find The White Hart Inn. A hostelry has stood on this site for 600 years yet this latest incarnation is thoroughly bang up to date.

The six colourful guest rooms have everything you need for a restful stay, including sockets in all the right places, brilliant big beds and excellent bathrooms. Hospitality remains the heart and soul of the White Hart: there's a vibrant dining room with an al fresco terrace which attracts locals and visitors year-round. Dine here on famed Blackwater oysters (shipped worldwide) and beautifully presented East Anglian produce. The drinks menu delights with inventive cocktails, wines, spirits and mocktails; have a pre- or post-dinner glass in the cosy Snug to the rear. Walls and fabrics are snazzy and bright, the featured arts and crafts (much by Mersea artists) are for sale. Head outdoors to stroll along Monkey Beach and explore wildlife-rich salt marshes, or try the sailing clubs for watersports, fishing expeditions and boat trips. Those Romans were definitely on to a good thing.

Highs

  • Marvellous seasonal and local fare in the restaurant alongside elevated pub grub plus an excellent wine and drinks menu
  • Supremely comfortable rooms and lovely big spoiling bathrooms with Bramley products
  • Mersea itself: a tidal island offering an authentic slice of coastal life, with untamed salt marsh and long beaches, big skies, nature reserves, watersports and lots of wildlife; the beach is 150m away
  • Friendly yet expert service as you'd expect from the team who run sister property The Sun Inn, set inland in Constable country
  • A strong sense of history and place yet no creaking floors and draughty windows - the Inn has had a complete makeover

Lows

  • No twin beds and no extra beds; families will need to book additional rooms
  • Not all rooms have sea views, and those that do have their views curtailed by leaves in the summer; Cocum Hills overlooks the car park
  • Closed Sunday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon during the winter months
  • Check the tide times; at high tide the causeway could close for an hour or two
  • The island's elemental beauty may not suit all, especially out of season

Best time to go

It's a joy to be by the sea any time of year. The summer sees most visitors and things to do, particularly around sailing and watersports. The Mersea Island Food & Drink Festival is in May; Mersea Week is a week-long August festival of boat racing. Late spring/early summer is good for sunsets. Autumn has that wonderful clarity of light beloved by photographers drawn by the bleak beauty of the landscape. There's a particular enjoyment in getting all windswept on bracing winter walks then returning to good food and warm cosy rooms at the Inn.

Our top tips

The Blackwater Estuary mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, so make sure to sample some while you are here. There's an oyster shack down the road if you want to bring some home.

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Inn
  • 6 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar (open Wed-Sun only)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 24-26 December, 2-11 January
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car recommended
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The six bedrooms, named for local landmarks or historical characters, are housed across two storeys at the rear of the Inn. Colours and schemes are sophisticated and calming, pleasingly no seaside schtick is allowed. At the top is the largest, Mehalah, where we stayed, in dusty pink with bold blue patterned curtains and views out to the estuary. The bed was absolutely heavenly, we slept like babies.

The other five rooms are along a corridor on the floor below. Handsome blue-toned Strood faces the church and is the next largest. Little Ditch also overlooks the church and has sea glimpses, while Cocum Hills faces west over the car park; both are vivid in greens and botanical fabrics. Cobmarsh (jazzy curtains and red accents) and Barrow (in blues and splashes of yellow) face each other and are often taken as a pair by friends or a family.

We were dead impressed by the super bathrooms. All are beautifully tiled, spacious, with power showers and spoiling Bramley toiletries.

All art throughout is for sale, you can look up the artist's details to see more of their work.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • WiFi

Eating

The convivial restaurant and terrace are the beating heart of the White Hart. This open-plan space twinkles at night with wicker lights and candles illuminating tables, banquettes and booths.

Ingredients are mostly East Anglian (meat is slow-grown and of rare breeds where possible, much produce comes from the island), and the menu changes seasonally every 6-8 weeks. We loved the signature trio of oysters and also the smoked haddock rillette on sourdough. For mains we were tempted by the Dingley Dell pork chop, and thought the almond and nori-stuffed skate with cods roe sauce inspired. Sadly our stomachs were too full for calvados brûlée or coconut mousse or ice creams.

The wine, cocktail and drinks menus are particularly impressive; we rated our cucumber and mint gimlet and raspberry bellini cocktails highly.

The casual menu has burgers, sandwiches, seafood platter, soup, pasta and sides. A great Sunday roast (with vegetarian options) is served every week.

For breakfast help yourself to yoghurt, croissant, cold cuts, cheese, compote and cereals. We went for the smoked Mersea sea bass with scrambled egg as our cooked option. The Fry Up looked amazing. Coffee and tea are prepared any way you wish.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Kids' meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian options
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the island by foot. You can walk all the way around (allow around 4 hours and bring suitable footwear!) or enjoy shorter strolls along the beaches and through dunes
  • Try your hand at watersports including SUP and kayaking; there are a couple of sailing clubs along the road
  • A boat trip is a good way of discovering this meandering salt marsh coastline
  • Photographers and artists are drawn here by the big horizons and clarity of light, particularly in the autumn
  • Wildlife lovers flock here too; the 5500-ha Blackwater Estuary National Nature Reserve is an internationally important habitat especially for overwintering birds, while Cudmore Grove on the island itself protects 41-ha of this unique coastal landscape
  • For classic English seaside days out, the golden sands of Southend and Walton-on-the-Naze are just along the coast
  • England's oldest city, Colchester, is only 25 minutes' drive away: it has extensive Roman walls, a Norman castle (built on a Roman temple) and museum, an archaeological park, an arts centre and a zoo

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • SUP
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children of all ages are very welcome at The White Hart Inn, and the wonderful coastal location will appeal to outdoorsy families. Note that there are no baby cots, extra beds or twin rooms, and families will have to bring their own travel cots or book additional rooms if the children are too old to go in baby cots. The Snug has books, mags and games for guests.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

If you are bringing a travel cot this can be added to Strood, Cocum Hills, Barrow and Mehalah. Families of four are advised to book Cobmarsh and Barrow together as they are opposite each other at the end of the corridor. Mehalah is the largest room.

Children's meals:

  • Kids menu featuring cod goujons, house burger and fries, pasta and ice cream
  • High chair

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beach
  • Watersports
  • Wildlife watching

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour
Kid Friendly:

Location

The White Hart Inn is in the centre of the small town of West Mersea, the larger of the two settlements on the tidal island Mersea Island, found due south of Colchester on the Essex coast.

By Air:
Fly to London Stansted (61km away) served by lots of airlines, including many low-cost carriers. The small airport at Southend is also an option.

From the Airport
Most will hire a car – see our car rental recommendations. It's about an hour's drive across Essex to Mersea. The White Hart Inn can arrange a transfer, see Rates.

By Public Transport:
Colchester is the nearest station (17km away) which is served by regular, fast services to London Liverpool Street and Norwich. (From Stansted, you can take a train into Liverpool Street and then on to Colchester.) From the station you can get a taxi (@ GBP30). You can also get a bus from Colchester but check the times as these can be infrequent.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

Airports:

  • London Stansted 61.0 km STN
  • London Southend 71.0 km SEN

Other:

  • Beach 0.3 km
  • Shops 0.4 km
  • Restaurant 0.9 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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Rates for The White Hart Inn

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