The town’s principal old coaching inn retains the top spot
Originally a small, market-place inn of the 1700s, The Golden Lion was developed by an enterprising innkeeper in the 1830s to become the town’s principal coaching inn. At the peak of the coaching trade it had stabling for 40 horses.
The coming of the railway to St Ives in 1847 brought the coaching trade to an abrupt end but did not diminish The Golden Lion, which maintained its leading position in the town. A horse-drawn omnibus was set up to meet every train stopping at the town’s station, carrying hotel guests back and forth. By 1853 the front of the hotel had been completely rebuilt and the magnificent carved and painted golden lion was erected on-high to complete the splendid edifice that survives today.
During the 1900s The Golden Lion developed a reputation as a haunted inn, although the claimed origins of some of the ghosts do not bear much historical scrutiny. On a lighter note, during the latter half of the century hotel guests sometimes enjoyed impromptu entertainment for free during visits by then then owner, the famous comedian Eric Morecambe.
Successive owners have refurbished and expanded the hotel, while preserving the best of its Victorian architectural heritage. It was acquired in 2016 by the Coaching Inn Group, which is dedicated to respecting the history of all its hotels while also improving them to meet current customer needs.