THE name suggests an ancient hideout where shady characters sip their brews as the waves crash against the stormy shore.

But one of the most intriguing secrets of the Smugglers Inn is that its fascinating history reveals nothing of the sort.

Stepping into the quaint and friendly family pub in Milford-on- Sea its nautical links are evident with a barrel of sherry, a ship’s steering wheel and a painting of Lord Nelson taking pride of place at the entrance.

But the High Street outlet – dating back to the 1700s – served as a customs and excise office before being converted into a tiny bar called The Crown – only changing its name 30 years ago.

Manager Susie Roche, who runs it with husband Guy, a chef and fisherman, said: “We always joke that it was actually the last place the smugglers would want to go!”

The original bar, which included a barbers, was extended 60 years ago using old ship timbers which – along with dimmed lighting, wooden tables, cupboards and plush brown sofas give a cosy rustic atmosphere.

Meanwhile the garden – complete with numerous picnic benches and a children’s playground – slopes down towards a stream and is only a stone’s throw away from the beach.

They serve a selection of ales, mainly sourced from the local Ringwood Brewery, while the menu centres on home-cooked food and fish dishes such as the Smugglers fish pie and seafood platter.

Guy catches some of his mackerel, pollock and bream locally and also offers fishing trips for people to help catch their dinner.

Susie added: “We have a mix of people from locals to tourists in the summer and you can’t beat living and working by the sea.

“We try to keep it as traditional as we can and are family and dog friendly and everyone is welcome.”

They also have an outdoor bar which can be booked for weddings, Christenings and other events and will host a Caribbean Barbecue and party from 2pm on Saturday, August 24.