Rye, a seaside town where the sea is nearly two miles away! Explore the labyrinth of cobbled streets all steeped in history, secrets stowed away, ghosts uncovered. The physical location means this town has seen all the action.
In medieval times the town was an important member of the Cinque Ports, providing safe anchorage and harbour for military and trade. Its historical association with the sea has included providing ships for the service of the King in time of war, and being involved in smuggling - The notorious Hawkhurst Gang used its ancient inns The Mermaid Inn and The Olde Bell Inn, which are said to be connected to each other by a secret passageway.
Things To Do
Hours can be spent wandering the cobbled streets, following in the footsteps of the smugglers. Starting at The Landgate, these towers date back to about 1340, during the reign of Edward III. When the French attacked in 1377, burning practically every building in the town only a few stone buildings survived - one being The Landgate.
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 (a play on Ypres) to locals, is also worth a climb to take in the views over the town and out to the estuary of the river Rother.
From here you can head south towards the High Street, filled with quaint shops there is something for everyone. The Shop Next Door (to The George in The High Street) stocks gorgeous home ware and gifts. Further down, on The Mint you will find Curious & Curiouser is great for unique gifts for family and home which won't break the bank!
Next head down to The Strand Quay where you will find antiques, collectable 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.
Places To Eat
The High Street is overflowing with quirky tea rooms and cafes, perfect for a light bite; 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.
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
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is just a few minutes walk from the harbour. 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. If walking is not your thing then fear not! Drive or take the number 312 bus from Rye train station. So far over 280 species of bird have been recorded in the conservation area.
If you have some more time to spare and are happy to travel a little further a field, then there are a number of places to visit within a 30 minute drive.
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) 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.
Enjoy a guided tour around this historic castle built by Henry VIII. Camber Castle lies between Rye and Winchelsea. The ruin of an unusually unaltered artillery fort designed to guard the port of Rye. There are monthly guided walks round Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, including the castle and local farm.
Lying East of Rye, Dungeness is one of the largest expanses of Shingle in Europe, it is also famed for being the only desert in the UK. Despite it's seemingly 'baron' landscape Dungeness can boast a wealth of wildlife treasures - but it's the sheer oddness of this unique shingle landscape that makes it truly special. If you are travelling along the coast from New Romney you will pass through the Dungeness National Nature Reserve, home to many uncommon plants, insects and wildlife.
Dungeness is unique – although a desolate landscape of abandoned wooden huts and expansive gravel pits towered over by lighthouses and a nuclear power station might not sound like the ideal place to enjoy the great outdoors, this spit of land jutting out into the channel is loved by those who know it well.
On the beach you’ll find remnants of bygone fishing methods, military installations dating from WWII and the Napoleonic wars, sound mirrors and radio research stations – all dotted incongruously about the landscape as a result of the fact that the shingle beach continues to expand as the tides deposit ever more material in its shores.
Dungeness is also the last stop on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway line, while the RNLI Lifeboat station is open to the public most days of the week.