With romantic cottages, cobbled streets, postcard-pretty restaurants and pubs, and a photo opportunity at every turn, the glorious Sussex town of Rye is invigorating as it is relaxing.
It is on Tripadvisor’s Best Places to Visit list in 2023 and it’s not difficult to see why. Best of all, it’s just over an hour’s train ride from London.
This gem of a town is home to the UK’s highest concentration of historic buildings with the Grade II listed buildings lining the charming streets in this medieval town. Half-timbered houses are framed in creeping roses, there’s not an inkling of anything resembling 21st century life, except for the tourists.
In the Middle Ages Rye was a bustling trading hub with tales of smuggling and wartime conflict. These days, its main ‘industry’ is tourism. The lead ‘thoroughfare’ Mermaid Street has been voted one of the most Instagrammable streets in the UK.
Take your time, strolling down towards the port, imagining yourself living in one of the charming cottages. We guarantee you’ll be checking out the nearby estate agent’s windows. The town is also home to lovely little quirky boutiques, smart cafes, and beautiful restaurants.
At the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve there are five bird-watching hides and miles of footpaths to explore. Climb to the top of Ypres Tower Museum, with its canon placed outside to warn off possible marauding invaders, for a fabulous view across the medieval rooftops.
The Parish Church of St Mary also serves up sweeping views along the Sussex coast.
Artist types have long been drawn to the area. The likes of the great First World War artist, Paul Nash lived and painted here. Henry James penned The Wings of a Dove here and Spike Milligan was a proud resident too. Others include Johnny Depp, Vic Reeves and the Cheeky Girls.
If you want that beach wind in your hair, Camber Sands is just two miles away and the cobwebs will be well and truly dispersed after a walk along the wide sandy beach.
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Things to do in Rye
Whitehouse Rye is best for brunch and Marino’s Fish Bar is an institution. Tillingham in Peasemarsh is a vineyard, cafe, and restaurant with rooms. Go for the superb wine and sourdough pizza served in an atmospheric converted barn.
Pop into the Old Bell built in 1390 for a pint in their cozy, low-ceilinged bar or The Mermaid Inn, on Mermaid Street, built in 1420. The cellars date back to 1156.
Try Rye Old Books for a tome on the history. The interior style features heavily here. Try McCully & Cane for quirky finds as well as pieces by local artists.
The Confit Pot has an impressive array of Provencal stoneware and Strand House Interiors has industrial-style lighting. Merchant & Mills is one of those rare shops selling beautiful rolls of fabric and trimmings.
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