A weekend in Rye, East Sussex

by Jan

Rye is a delightful, medieval town in East Sussex in the South of England.  Not only is it as pretty as a picture, but Rye has retained its original old-world charm.  However, on our recent weekend in Rye, we discovered that this charming market town has far more to offer than just its looks.  Rye also has its own nature reserve, historic ruins, and a medieval castle.

Historic Rye

Cobbled Street, Historic Rye, East Sussex, England

Our first port of call for our weekend in Rye was a walk round the town.  Now, Rye has everything you would hope for in a quintessential English village.  Cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, ancient pubs, and secret passageways.

We went early and were able to stroll slowly around the town, without many crowds.  There are plenty of quaint traditional houses, pubs, and coffee shops.  It is also very easy to waste time looking in the galleries and independent shops.

Lamb House

Henry James, Memorial stone, Rye, East Sussex, England

On the corner of West Street, we passed Lamb House, which is now owned by the National Trust.  This Grade II listed Georgian house was the home of US author Henry James, who wrote several books in his garden room.

Over the decades this historic house has been the resting place for King Henry III and has attracted several other literary personalities, including E F Benson.

Mermaid Street

Family posing for picture, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex, England

The most famous of Rye’s picturesque streets, Mermaid Street, did not fail to deliver.  Mermaid Street is truly very pretty and it’s no surprise that everyone flocks to it for a photograph.

At the top of the cobbled street is the ancient Mermaid Inn.  This building was rebuilt in 1420 after much of Rye was burnt to the ground.  Today, Mermaid Inn is an elegant hotel and restaurant, with many traditional features still intact.

Mermaid Street also has its own café.  However, we crossed opposite to The Old Grain Café, where we indulged in some delicious homemade lemon cake and tea.

Strand Quay

Shop front at The Quay, Antiques and Collectables, Rye, East Sussex, England

At the bottom of Mermaid Street, we stumbled upon Strand Quay.  Here, we took a trip down memory lane as we browsed the bric-a-brac and antique shops on the corner.

It was intriguing to see how the toys of our childhood are now collectables.  Maybe, I should have been a better hoarder!

Rye Harbour

Grey day, Boats moored in Rye Harbour, Rye, England

Rye Harbour is 2 miles outside of the town.  It’s possible to walk from town, but it’s not a particularly picturesque trail, as it leads down a road in an industrial estate.  We took the car and it was easy to park at the Rye Harbour car park.

On arrival, we walked up to the RNLI Lifeboat Station, past Bosun’s Bite Café and to the River Rother, where a few people were crabbing.  We had a look at the boats, but then moved on for a visit to Rye Nature Reserve.

Rye Nature Reserve

View across wetlands at Rye Nature Reserve, Rye, East Sussex, England

Nature-lovers visiting Rye shouldn’t miss out on a visit to Rye Nature Reserve.  This Site of Special Scientific Interest covers miles of wetland, salt marshes, freshwater gravel pits and sand dunes.  With such a varied habitat, the nature reserve is an important area for wildlife and has over 4,200 species of plants and animals.

We followed one of the way-marked routes that leads past the pits and lagoons.  It is very flat and ideal for hikers and cyclists.  It was easy to spot lots of different sea birds and we stopped at one of the bird-watching hides for a closer look.

If you want a longer walk at the nature reserve, you can extend it with a circular walk to Camber Castle.

Camber Castle

Camber Castle, Rye, East Sussex, England

The shortest option for a walk to Camber Castle is from the Brede Sluice at the corner of Rye Harbour Road.  This route is an easy walk of about a mile, which follows the route of a stream, then sheep fields.

Henry VIII built Camber Castle to protect the English coast from invasion by France.  However, as the castle became landlocked and further from the sea, its role as a stronghold became redundant.

Nowadays the English Heritage manages this medieval fortress, which is solely for tourists.  Admission is free, and you can visit during any daylight hours.

We walked all the way round the castle, as the interior is currently closed.  However, it is easy to peer inside and get a good idea of what the castle would have looked like.  Its walls are solid and have clearly stood the test of time against the elements.

Winchelsea Beach

Pebbled beach and old Groynes, Winchelsea Beach, East Sussex, England

A short walk to the west of Rye Nature Reserve is Winchelsea Beach.  This is a long, pebbly beach, with groynes sticking out on the shoreline.  However, as the tide goes out you will see patches of sand.

Winchelsea is a very natural beach and less commercial than some of its neighbours.  We stopped for a picnic on the beach and some shell collecting.

There doesn’t appear to be an official car park.  However, if you drive along Pett Level Road, you’ll find plenty of layby parking.  You can then walk directly to the beach.

Camber Sands

View of Camber Sands from dunes, East Sussex, England

On the second day of our weekend in Rye, we took a trip to Camber Sands. Just 3 miles to the east of Rye, Camber Sands is very accessible.  Plus, there’s a car park in front of the beach.

As its name suggests, Camber Sands is an enormous sandy beach.  In fact, it stretches for about 5 miles to Kent.  Set against a backdrop of the sand dunes Camber Sands is a very pretty beach.  In fact, it is the only sand dune system in East Sussex and plays an important role for the habitat and wildlife.

When the tide is out, this immense beach gets even bigger.  You can walk a long way out to sea without the sea reaching knee height.   However, you need to be careful of the sand banks, which can be dangerous.  Remain within the safe bathing area, which is patrolled by lifeguards.

Cheeky seagull, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England

Watch out for the sea gulls.  We met this very cheeky one, who went in our bag and helped himself to our banana cake!

Best things to do near Rye

Battle

There are plenty of other places you could visit if you are staying in Rye.  Head to Battle to see its beautiful Abbey and discover the events of the 1066 Battle of Hastings.  Battle is about 15 miles from Rye and takes about 30 minutes in the car.

Dungeness

Abandoned Boat and rail lines, Dungeness, Kent

Just 13 miles east of Rye, it was worth making a visit out to Dungeness in Kent.

Dungeness is a National Nature Reserve with a difference and is a unique experience.  Although it’s in the shadow of the great Dungeness Nuclear Power Station the place retains a unique charm and beauty.

With 2 lighthouses, desolate fishing boats and quirky wooden cabins, there is plenty to look at in Dungeness.  What’s more, Dungeness has the largest shingle beach in Britain, and this creates a habitat which is perfect for wildlife.

Bodiam Castle

Wooden Walkway across moat to Bodium Castle, East Sussex, England

History lovers could visit the medieval Bodiam Castle.  This magnificent 14th Century castle was built to defend the area from French invasion.

Bodiam Castle is now owned by the National Trust.  The castle is currently closed, but we had a lovely walk round the moat to see some of the original features.

Hastings

Alternatively, head to the seaside town of Hastings, where you can visit the historic fishing area, the Old Town, or the new pier.

Or you could take one of the funicular railways up to the two hills to see the castles, Smugglers Adventure or Hastings Country Park.

You can read what we got up to in our family weekend in Hastings.

Practicalities

How to get to Rye

By car:-

Rye is easily accessible by car.  From the M25, follow the A26 and then A21.

By train:-

Trains from London leave from St Pancras International.   You must change at Ashford International.  It takes less than 1.5 hours, so is ideal for those wishing to escape the city.

Accommodation in Rye

We spend two nights glamping in a yurt at Freshwinds Farm in Pett.  The campsite was only 7 miles from Rye and was an ideal base for visiting the town and local area.

Have you been to Rye yet?  Please feel free to comment below.

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3 comments

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3 comments

Lannie Travels 8th September 2020 - 8:19 pm

What a delightful place, Jan! I’d love the little shops with antiques and bric a brac in strand quay. Totally my thing! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I’ve pinned this for later!

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Bernie and Jess Watt 8th September 2020 - 7:57 pm

This is like England encapsulated in one post. Cute chocolate box towns, paved streets, pebble beaches, castles and forts – it looks like a fascinating part of the country to visit.

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Riana Ang-Canning 8th September 2020 - 7:05 pm

What a cute spot! Mermaid Street has my name all over it. Glad it lived up to the hype!

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