If you have been to York, then you will love Rye, East Sussex. If you have never been to York, you will still love Rye. This picturesque town with cobbled streets, cute independent shops, crooked half-timbered houses, and the right amount of cute gift, books and antique shops is the perfect location for a relaxed day out from the city or a weekend break.
Rye, located to the north-east to Hastings, is less than an hours train journey from London St Pancras with a change at Ashford International. The usually easy trip was made a little more difficult, as it seemed that every Londoner decided to visit Rye on that day. The train was packed, and we were unable to find a seat. However, our frustration about the journey stopped as soon as we arrived at Rye station. It only took us a few minutes to reach the high street.
We arrived in Rye around noon so decided to explore a little before settling down for lunch.
Rye Castle Museum
Our first spot was the castle, better known as Ypres Tower. Built in 1249, the castle used to be a defence against attacks by the French. The grade I listed building is now home to Rye Castle Museum. There you can learn all about the history of the town as well as see some medieval artefacts. The castle had a beautiful little medieval garden, but we didn’t explore it.
Ypres Tower is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm (until 3.30pm, from November until end of March). Adults, £4; children, free.
On the way to see the tower, we stopped by the church. Its tower offers a great view of the city should you decide to go up it.
Where to eat in Rye, East Sussex
After our little walk and exploration of the castle’s surroundings, we stopped by a little garden and enjoyed the view over the estuary. As our stomachs started grumbling so we headed south on the High Street. It has cute tea shops on one side and old pubs on the other.
We stopped by the lovely tea room called The Cobbles Tea Room. It is what you would expect from a British tea room in a quaint little town; quirky, cosy and comfortable. My sister settled on a tuna jacket potato and a gluten-free chocolate cake. I went for an afternoon tea with a scone, lots of jam and clotted cream, followed by a humongous slice of lemon drizzle cake.
A Stroll along the quaint streets
Rye is a well preserved medieval town with an array of half-timbered houses which are a delight to see. A wander around Rye’s quaint streets is the primary activity you should do in the town. Even more, on a full stomach.
All the roads in Rye are pleasant, but the most charming of all has to be Mermaid Street. The half-timbered and Georgian houses are decorated with flowers, some have cute little signs on their doors.
Shopping in Rye, East Sussex
For a small town, Rye has a lot of independent shops. One thing that we noticed is that the town resisted the “invasion of the coffee chains like Starbucks”. Instead, you have small independent coffee shops and tea houses. There are antiques, books and gifts shops aplenty.
We stopped by Hunter Jones for a look and ended up buying a couple of incense sticks. The newly opened store stocks gorgeous homeware and gifts. They offer a great selection of ceramic items, rugs, sheepskins and home fragrances including candles and soaps. You can tell that the owners took time to decorate with carefully selected items that make it a welcoming little store.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
In the afternoon, we decided to visit Rye Harbour Nature Reserve located about 3 km from Rye and near the estuary of the River Rother. The conservation area is made up of 475 hectares of wetlands, salt marshes and coastline and home to more than 4500 different species including 91 types of birds. It’s a great place to discover wildlife, experience the landscape, enjoy a nice walk, and appreciate the fresh smell of the sea by the beach. There are lots of footpaths along the reserve, but we walked the 2 miles to the shore.
You can get to the reserve by driving or by taking bus 312 from Rye station. However, be mindful of the timings as the bus runs only every hour and stops at around 5 pm on weekends.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and birdwatching hides are open at all times along a network of footpaths. Entry is free.
Accommodation in Rye, East Sussex
If you decide to spend the night at Rye, then why not stay at the Mermaid Inn. This perfect medieval cottage located on the cobbled Mermaid Street (one of Rye’s most photographed streets) will be the perfect hotel to complete your discovery of the medieval Rye. Alternatively, you can find a list of all the hotels in Rye here.
Planning your visit
Should you need more information to plan your visit, please check the Tourist Information Centre.
What’s on in Rye
With so many events happening throughout the year, you have lots of reasons to visit. Why not plan your trip around one of the many festivals?
Rye Bay Scallops Week – February
Jazz Festival – August
Rye Arts Festival – September
Christmas in Rye – December
Getting to Rye
High-speed trains run from London St Pancras to Ashford International with a journey time of 38 minutes. A further train to Rye takes about 21 minutes which makes the historic town the perfect option for a day trip from London or a weekend break. Check out Trainline for the best train deals.
Parking in Rye
We took the train but if you are driving, please note that the train station has parking spaces at £14 per day.
Have you been to Rye? What’s your top tip for visiting the town?
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