The hotel is believed to date from around the end of the 18th Century, when it was known as The Hare and Hounds. At that time Tunbridge Wells was divided into four main areas: The Parade (now known as The Pantiles), Mount Pleasant, Mount Sion and Mount Ephraim.
Mount Ephraim was situated a short distance from the other areas and was considered to be the "better end of town". A contemporary account states the area as being "a respectable and useful quarter of Tunbridge Wells on a hill with the most salubrious air and with extensive views of Kent, Surrey and Sussex."
The Inn was one of a number of hostelries and boarding houses on Mount Ephraim where people stayed during "the Season"; coming to Tunbridge Wells to take the waters and socialise during the summer.
A map engraved by T. T. Barron, dated 1808, shows the Inn set back from the road on its present site, at that time however the main axis paralleled the Mount with the building facing out over Boyne Park. Some of the original Georgian brickwork can still be seen in the cellar area.
In about 1835, Edward Neal, a wine merchant who ran his business from the vaults fronting the road, acquired the Inn and changed its name to The Mount Ephraim Hotel. He carried out extensive alterations and refurbished the principal apartments. We believe this is when the whole of the front of the Hotel was added changing its axis to look over the top end of The Common and town.
Whilst still a princess, Queen Victoria stayed several times and later granted the use of her Coat of Arms, which are proudly displayed at the top of the building.
A "posting department" consisting of Mail Coaches was run from the hotel and was found to be "efficient in every respect, with daily conveyances to and from the hotel between London, Brighton and Hastings".
The freehold of the hotel and the adjoining Somerville and Plaisance cottages came up for sale in 1866 and General Sir Frederick Smith, chairman of The Alexandra Hotel Company, invited the public to subscribe in shares of the Hotel.
In 1868 a local directory lists a Charles James Curtis as the Hotel Keeper and by 1886 the owner of the now named Royal Mount Ephraim Hotel was a Miss F Prouse.
At the turn of the century the Conservatory and bay windows were added and between the Wars a garage block completed. By 1935 the hotel was known simply as The Royal Hotel and in the 1950's was owned by Lady Docker, the socialite and wife of the Chairman of Daimler Cars.
In 1968 the hotel was purchased by Geoff and Peggy Sloan and became The Royal Wells Hotel. In 1982 their two sons David and Robert became the proprietors of the hotel. In July 2002 Peter Ratcliffe bought the hotel from David and Robert Sloan. Today the hotel still retains much of its Victorian elegance.
In September 2012 the hotel was purchased by Shepherd Neame Ltd, and added to its estate of quality Hotels.