Elements of the waterside George Hotel are so lopsided with age that, when you cross its ancient threshold, you find yourself wondering whether you've stepped on board an old sailing ship.

Elements of the waterside George Hotel are so lopsided with age that, when you cross its ancient threshold, you find yourself wondering whether you've stepped on board an old sailing ship. Built in 1670 for the then governor of the island, Admiral Sir Robert Holmes (his dapper-looking portrait still hangs in the hall), it is one of the island's prettiest buildings - and most popular hotels. As one recent guest, Helena Bonham Carter, would surely agree, from the gently sloping flagstones in the entrance to the slightly skewwhiff panelling in the cosy residents' lounge, the structure's higgledy-piggledy appearance is its best feature.

The George has been operating as a hotel since the mid-18th century and the current owners have cleverly made the most of the building's original character. The lounge panelling, for example, has been stripped back so that the grain of the wood blends atmospherically with the room's traditional fabrics and antique furniture. Not that there's anything old-fashioned about the facilities. Elegant modern additions include sleek wooden garden furniture and crisp white bathrooms.

Sister hotel to The Master Builder's House Hotel in Hampshire (for a fee you can shuttle between the two in the hotel's boat), The George also has two restaurants, a burgundy-tinged formal dining room and a more family-focused brasserie. While the food in the latter punches well above its weight, the room's bright yellow decor and copper pan-decked ceiling may not do much for your appetite. A better option, on warm, late-summer evenings, is to eat out in the garden, in the shadow of Yarmouth's 16th-century castle, watching yachts flit past on the Solent.

LOCATION

The George Hotel, Quay Street, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight (01983 760331; www.thegeorge.co.uk). In the centre of historic Yarmouth, on the west side of Wight. Set right by the town's restored pier, the hotel is so close to the water's edge that one couple who recently had their wedding reception there hopped into a boat at the edge of the garden to set sail for their honeymoon. For a more conventional sailing experience, it's two minutes' walk from Yarmouth ferry terminal. Transport: Your feet will do fine in Yarmouth, although to get further afield on the island it's useful to have a car. The hotel has no parking.

Time to international airport: Southampton airport is about 90 minutes away by ferry and car.

COMFORTABLE?

As you'd expect in an old building, none of the rooms are exactly alike. Some have original fireplaces and wooden panelling. Most have elegant sash windows. A couple have four-posters, while elsewhere simple double divans are tucked cosily into the eaves. Two of the rooms have large decked balconies, where you can eat breakfast looking out over the water, while others have windows overlooking the town or the mesmerising bobbing masts of the harbour. This is a hotel that has had plenty of care lavished on it; whichever room you choose it will be comfortable, bright and clean, with fresh, modern furnishings.

Freebies: As well as the usual run of Floris toiletries, guests can help themselves to the fresh fruit and home-made shortbread set out on the landing. Free tea and coffee are also offered when you arrive, and first thing in the morning.

Keeping in touch: Rooms have TVs, radios and phones, with internet sockets to plug your computer into.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at £175 per night with breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Jireh House, round the corner, has en suite doubles from £62, B&B (St James's Square, Yarmouth; 01983 760513).

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