The Rye Experience
The tower of St Mary’s Church at the top of the hill has wonderful views across the rooftops of the town’s many beautifully preserved Medieval, Tudor, and Georgian houses. These ancient buildings, cobbled streets, and secret passageways were once the haunt of smugglers and highwaymen.
Rye Castle Museum and the Ypres Tower are an excellent point to discover some of the history of the town.
History seeps through the walls at Lamb House, which was once lived in by the American author Henry James who wrote some of his most highly regarded works while a resident of the town. Later the house was home to British writer E.F. Benson famous for his Mapp and Lucia novels which were loosely based on Rye.
Rye Bay covers some 91 square kilometres with fantastic views, wonderful countryside, and largely unspoilt coastline. To the east is Camber Sands – home to the only sand dunes in the county. This family favourite picnic spot, with its dramatic landscape, has often also been used as a location for films and TV shows.
For the adventurous you can Kite Surf, Kite Buggy or Kite land-board at the Kite Surf Centre at Camber.
You can hire e‑bikes from Rye Bay E Bikes and pedal down to Winchelsea; or visit Rye Harbour Nature reserve – one of the most important conservation sites in Britain. In fact it’s recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area for Birds, a Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site.
If you’re planning a day at the reserve there’s a café, two pubs and a tearoom in Rye Harbour Village. The new visitor centre at the Reserve is currently in development and will offer a wonderful new resource for visitors when it opens later in the year.
Places to eat & drink
Webbes at the Fish Café is all about sustainably sourced ingredients and locally caught seafood. Run by Paul and Rebecca Webbe their ethos is ‘Sussex by the season’. A love at first bite experience is guaranteed. www.webbesrestaurants.co.uk
The Globe Inn Marsh – a pretty clapperboard gastro pub on the outskirts of Rye, where the Military Canal meets the river Rother. They describe themselves as ‘sheep-shack-chic’. Their breakfast menu is superb. www.ramblinns.com
The Fig – is a charming, independent café on the high street selling fresh, health food and locally roasted coffee. They support local suppliers and advocate using the highest quality ingredients. www.thefigrye.com
Knoops Chocolate Bar – is a smashing little hot chocolate shop offering expertly crafted chocolate drinks and coffee. It’s hugely popular with visitors of all ages, their milkshakes and hot chocolates are unrivalled. www.knoops.co.uk
The Rye Lodge – has a pretty lounge and a sunny deck for an afternoon tea – daily noon-6pm
Cobbles Tea Room just off The Mint in Rye, has cream teas to eat in or takeaway.
Oxney Organic Estate is the largest single estate organic vineyard in the UK. Located just outside of Rye in the village of Beckley. They have a tasting room, a wine shop and offer weekly tours and tastings along with post-tour gourmet picnics.
The Rye Deli has a wonderful selection of fresh foods, cheeses, antipasti, homemade quiches, pies, and pâté. Along with excellent coffee, chocolates and cakes. You can have a picnic boxed up to take out for the day. www.ryedeli.co.uk
Rye Farmers market happiness every Wednesday 10am-1pm in the car park of the Cinque Port Arms. – its stallholders offer everything from cheese, meat, fish and eggs through to plants and jewellery.
Interesting places to shop
Simon Milne is a highly respected, family owned manufacturing jeweller who has been established in Rye since 1994. www.simonmilne.co.uk
Herald and Heart Hatters – a milliner on Rye’s high street, offering everything from ready to wear hats, and hat hire, through to bespoke millinery. www.heraldandheart.com
Hunter Jones – is a lovely lifestyle store just off the high street — high-end items for high-end homes.
Ethel Loves Me is a quirky shop showcasing original and limited editions and collectables – they work with local makers, artisans, craftspeople and creatives. www.ethelloves.me
WJ Bennett is a high-end gentlemen’s outfitters on the high street. Their collections of shirts and shoes will keep you returning. www.wjbennett.co.uk
Niche sells seasonal collections of womenswear and accessories. It is run by Lesley Farrow, who shares the premises with her husband, Peter, who is a goldsmith – so the boutique also showcases his jewellery.
The Mermaid Inn is Rye’s most famous hotel and has been welcoming guests for 600 years. Rich in history and ghost stories, the hotel also has a sumptuous restaurant and bar. www.mermaidinn.com
Jeakes House is another historic Rye gem. This luxury B&B, also on Mermaid Street, was built in the 17th century and has jaw-dropping views across Rye’s red rooftops. www.jeakeshouse.com
Haydens B&B is a small eco-friendly guest house on the high street, with an organic restaurant which opens for breakfast and lunch only. www.haydensinrye.co.uk
The Gallivant is a luxury beachside boutique hotel at Camber, complete with fine dining, a spa and yoga on the beach. www.thegallivant.co.uk
Swallowtail Hill is an award winning glamp-site in 40-acres of rewilded landscape and is just outside of Rye. www.swallowtailhill.com
Photos by Cindy-Lou Dale