Rye, in East Sussex, is one of those pretty little market towns that time seems to have passed by. Nestled between green rolling hills and the English Channel the Cinque Port town is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in England. Higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses line a muddle of steep cobbled lanes, beach walks and ancient inns make Rye the perfect place for a chilled weekend break.
A Weekend Break in Rye – Day 1
Start your weekend break in Rye with a wander through it’s quaint little streets. With names like Watchbell Lane and Wish Street you can’t fail to be enchanted. Start at Landgate and make your way down the High Street exploring the cobbled lanes leading off it. Listen out for the ghostly footsteps of smugglers running through the alleyways.
Today Rye sits two miles away from the coast, however, before the river silted up the town used to be right on the shoreline and was a prime spot for smuggling. You can see a smuggler’s signalling lamp on display at Ypres Tower home to Rye Castle Museum. The tower, which is known as Wipers tower to locals, is also worth a climb to take in the views over the town and out to the estuary of the river Rother.
Shopping in Rye
Check out the shops in and around the High Street. Four Doors (East Street) is great for bits and pieces you don’t really need but can’t leave without buying. The Shop Next Door (to The George in The High Street) stocks gorgeous home ware and gifts.
Next, head down to Strand Quay where you can delve through the antique and up-cycled furniture shops. There’s always a gem to be found there. I love Crock and Cosy, a vintage kitchen shop, where you can find retro kitchenware – just like Grandma used to have. There’s a thriving art scene in Rye and you’ll find art galleries full of work by local artists.
Lunch in Rye
For a light bite the High Street is overflowing with quirky tea rooms and cafes; both The Fig and Edith’s House are worthy of a stop. If you’re looking for atmosphere then there are pubs with history stretching back hundreds of years. The Mermaid Inn and Ye Olde Bell Inn used to be connected by a secret passage used by smugglers. Not so secret is the great food they serve in beautiful ancient settings. Both pubs have pretty little gardens – perfect if the weather’s behaving itself. Knoop’s Cafe by Tower Forge serves up the best hot chocolate and milk shakes in the South.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
After lunch head over to Rye Harbour, which runs alongside the river Rother, to walk off your lunch. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal. Drive or take the number 312 bus from Rye train station. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is just a few minutes walk from the harbour. So far over 280 species of bird have been recorded in the conservation area.
A network of paths take you past freshwater gravel-pits, lagoons, areas of shingle and salt marsh habitat. Hides are dotted around for wildlife watching or you can just enjoy the fresh sea air and the coastal flowers. Look out for ‘Little Red’ an iconic hut which has been on the site since 1904.
Dinner in Rye
There’s no shortage of restaurants in Rye but two of my personal favourites are The Ambrette Rye where Deb Biswal serves up subtle Indian food with a British twist. Read my review here. For the freshest fish from the local fleet head for Webbe’s at The Fish Cafe.
What to do in Rye – Day 2
Rye must inspire creativity because it’s had many literary and artisitic connections. Visit Lamb House which was home to Henry James who wrote three of his novels whilst living in Rye. The Mapp and Lucia novels by E.F. Benson were based on the town and Lamb House, where he also lived, was the film location of ‘Malllards’, the home of Miss Mapp. Conrad Aitken and Radclyff Hall were both residents in Rye as was John Ryan who created the Captain Pugwash stories. Spike Milligan was another famous resident of the town.
If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air… Pack up a picnic (Simon the Pieman’s bakery in Lion Street might be able to help you) and head to the beach. Camber Sands is a huge, glorious stretch of pale sand with a backdrop of massive dunes. Take buckets and spades for epic sandcastle-making opportunities or just chill out on the beach. The beach can be quite windy so take a wind break. Precautions should be taken when going into the sea as there are sandbanks under the water. A regular bus service from Rye to Camber Sands means you won’t need a car to get there from the town.
Kino Boutique Cinema
If you’re looking for after-dinner entertainment Rye has it’s very own two-screen boutique cinema. Kino has state-of-the-art, digital high definition projectors and sound equipment. The larger of the two seats 96 and the other just 48. Kino is fully licensed which means you can enjoy your drink as you sink into your lovely armchair-style seat and immerse yourself in the latest blockbuster. Due to the bijou size you’ll need to book. There’s a cafe bar and outdoor terrace for pre and after-show drinks.
Holiday Cottages in Rye
Cadborough Farm Cottages are a collection of six converted farm buildings and stables dating back to the late 1800s. Each brick-built holiday cottage and studio has been beautifully restored and sleeps two people and are perfect for a weekend break in Rye. Each one is unique and individual; Buttercup and Daisy are two studios in the old dairy, then there are three cottages; Brandy’s Cottage, Dairy Cottage and Stables Cottage. Each cottage comes with its own kitchen, en-suite bathroom, courtyard or garden, wifi and a TV/DVD player.
The Coach House is the most recent addition which has been renovated to a luxurious standard. The open-plan design is light and spacious with modern decor in calm muted colours. There’s a well-established garden with BBQ and sunbathing areas.
The cottages are all located in a quiet area with panoramic views towards the medieval town of Rye, the coast and Camber Castle. Rye town centre is around a fifteen minute walk from the farm following the 1066 bridle path or, alternatively, from the farm entrance by footpath. Rye train station is a 20-minute walk away or 5 minutes by taxi.
Prices start at £75 for the studios, £95 for the cottages and £120 for the Coach House with a three-day minimum stay. Children over 12 and small, well-behaved dogs are welcome. Call 01797 225 426 for further information and to check last minute availability for weekend or mid-week breaks in Rye.
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What’s on in Rye
There’s always a reason to visit Rye and there’s always something going on. Tie in your visit with one of the town’s festivals which take place throughout the year.
Scallop Festival – February
Jazz Festival – August
Rye Arts Festival – September
Christmas in Rye – December
High-speed trains run from London to Ashford International with a journey time of 38 minutes. A further train to Rye takes 21 minutes which makes this pretty and historic town the perfect option for a day out from the city or a weekend break.
Have you been to Rye? What’s your top tip for visiting the town?