Facilities offering hospitality to travellers have been a feature of the earliest civilizations. In Greco-Roman culture and ancient Persia, hospitals for recuperation and rest were built at thermal baths. Japan’s Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, founded in 705, was officially recognised by the Guinness World Records as the oldest hotel in the world. During the Middle Ages, various religious orders at monasteries and abbeys would offer accommodation for travellers on the road.
The precursor to the modern hotel was the inn of medieval Europe, possibly dating back to the rule of Ancient Rome. These would provide for the needs of travellers, including food and lodging, stabling and fodder for the traveller’s horse(s) and fresh horses for the mail coach. Famous London examples of inns include the George and the Tabard. A typical layout of an inn had an inner court with bedrooms on the two sides, with the kitchenand parlour at the front and the stables at the back.
For a period of about 200 years from the mid-17th century, coaching inns served as a place for lodging for coach travellers (in other words, a roadhouse). Coaching inns stabled teams of horses for stagecoaches and mail coaches and replaced tired teams with fresh teams. Traditionally they were seven miles apart, but this depended very much on the terrain.