With the summer bank holiday approaching next week, Rye is a very good idea for a day trip, far away from noisy London. It is only 2 hours drive, 1 hour by train with tickets starting from 30 GBP return or 3 hours by bus with tickets starting from 15 GBP return. The small city has a rich history tracing back as far as Roman times and it was once an embayment of the English Channel and almost entirely surrounded by water, now it is 2 miles from the open sea still keeping its maritime atmosphere. You will also find here cobbled streets dating from the eighteenth-century as well as timbered houses and historic fortifications from the same century which are faithfully preserved and restored. The beauty and isolation of the city attracted many writers, painters or craftsmen such as novelist Henry James, E F Benson and artist Paul Nash.
We arrived early morning in the city and were straight away mesmerised by the beautiful architecture. The first stop was the Information Centre to get the best maps and tips. Here you will also find the Heritage Centre, the Town Model and the Story of Rye in dramatic sound and light for those interested. The Rye Heritage Centre is also home to a rare collection of over 30 working “Old Seaside Pier” amusement machines and games. Looking for somewhere to have breakfast we went up the street on Mermaid Street, one of Britain’s most famous and picturesque streets where you can find the Mermaid Inn, founded in the eleventh century being the headquarters of the notorious Hawkhurst gang of smugglers.
From a recommendation from the Information Centre, we had breakfast at Haydens Coffee Shop, Restaurant and Bed and Breakfast. They are only serving organic food and food that is bought from local producers. The view from the restaurants’ terrace is breathtaking, the food was amazing and appropriately priced and the service was excellent.
If the weather allows it, definitely go to Camber Sands, only 5-10 minutes drive from Rye. The white sandy beach has a wide bay and a large dune system. It is perfect for children as the sea level is very low for a good few meters; however, the tide gets in very fast so this is something that needs to be taken into account before finding a place to settle and tan.
After spending a few hours enjoying the water and the sun, we returned to Rye to visit some more of its places of interest. Strolling again on Mermaid Street, you can find the Lamb House where author Henry James and E F Benson both lived in. The tickets cost around 6 GBP and it is worth checking their website for the opening times.
A few minutes from the Lamb house you can find the Church of St Mary, which is dating from 1150 and it is the house of one of the oldest still working clocks in Britain. For 4 GBP you can go up the tower and enjoy some amazing views of the city.
Close to the church, you will see the Ypres Tower and Rye Castle Museum. It was built to protect Rye against the French invaders in about 1250, this is one of the towns oldest remaining buildings. A ticket to visit it costs 4 GBP per person and again, it offers incredible views of the harbor, River Rother and Romney March, you can see where prisoners were chained and kept, a rare smugglers lantern and a relief model of Romney Marsh showing changes to the coastline and the defense against Napoleon.
The last sight that we visited was the Landgate which is an impressive medieval gateway built in 1329 by Edward III to fortify the town. At high tide, Rye was surrounded on three sides by the sea and the only means of entry being via the Landgate.
For dinner, we had some fish and chips as it is impossible to go so close to the sea and not have this traditional meal. It is important to note that all the restaurant serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner at exact times and it is quite a challenge to find somewhere to eat outside those times.
We visited a few antique shops as well as they are not to be missed and we wondered around the city before returning back to London.