The ancient Cinque Ports town of Rye is one of the prettiest towns in East Sussex, perched atop a hill with stunning views across Romney Marsh and the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Just a few miles from the coast in both directions, Rye is a unique and interesting place to visit. Once surrounded by sea, it is now only connected via the River Rother, which runs down past the nature reserve and out to the English Channel.
The town itself is centred around historic cobbled streets dotted with charmingly crooked half-timbered houses rebuilt after French attack, housing quirky antique shops and bookstores, as well as a lovely selection of medieval inns, smart restaurants and upmarket cafés.
WHY COME TO RYE?
Rye is the perfect base for a holiday as not only can you walk everywhere within the town, you can also hop in the car and find yourself in the midst of some wonderful towns and villages, including Rye Harbour, Winchelsea, Pett and Hastings in one direction, and the stunning dunes of Camber Sands and the vast expanse of shingle at neighbouring Dungeness in the other.
Many fabulous annual events take place in Rye and visitors return year upon year. Don't miss the Rye Bay Scallop Week in February, the Rye Society of Artist's Summer Exhibition and Rye International Jazz & Blues Festival in August, the popular Rye Arts Festival in September, and the famous Rye Bonfire in November. There are also some fabulous Christmas events, including the much-anticipated Christmas Festival in December. There are also some excellent golf courses near Rye if you have come to tee off with a view, as well as opportunities for water sports at Camber, horse riding and many other sports.
Our Rye accommodation is an ideal base from which to explore both Rye and the surrounding towns and villages; being situated near the Kent and East Sussex border, you'll have the best of both worlds as you explore the beautiful hop fields and orchards of the 'Garden of England' and discover the romantic castles and magnificent abbeys of East Sussex. Just a couple of hours from London by train or car, it's not surprising that Rye is one of the best-loved tourist destinations on the south coast of England.
DISCOVER THE ANCIENT TOWN
Cobbled streets bursting with little antique shops, vintage bookstores and historic houses are on the agenda when you visit Rye. The town is centred around two main streets, from which hilly cobbled alleys and passageways branch off to the historic quarter at the top of the town or down towards the station at the bottom.
You can park in any of the short term car parks and walk to pretty much anywhere - even if you have a five or ten-minute walk to get to where you are going, you will always find an enchanting shop window to glance into or a little café to pop into for a tasty treat.
Many people come to Rye just to walk around the streets rather than to visit anywhere in particular. The town is enough in itself, but don't be fooled as it takes full advantage of its popularity with a wonderful selection of quirky stores - traditional country outfitters, bookshops with creaking shelves laden with dusty books, and tiny antique shops where you may just uncover a little piece of forgotten history.
The main high street leads to the famous Mint area and then tumbles down towards the quay - again, filled with pubs, restaurants and maritime-themed gift shops, as well as some excellent arts and crafts stores housed in beautiful old buildings. Everywhere you go, you will pass by well-preserved historic cottages (some of them for rent with us!) squeezed between commercial entities.
You can walk from the quay along to Rye Harbour, but beware - it's a very long walk! Many people confuse Rye and Rye Harbour thinking that they are close, when in fact it's a good 2 to 3-mile walk to Rye Harbour and the nature reserve.
UNCOVER ANCIENT HISTORY
Rye has a fascinating past and has historic buildings to tell the tale. Originally granted to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy in 1017, the town was reclaimed by Henry III over two centuries later in 1247. It went on to be very successful as a Cinque Port, defending England against invasion from the Continent. You'll be transported back to those days with a visit to the impressive Ypres Tower (above) as well as Rye Castle Museum, the Landgate and the Monastery.
A favourite with visitors is the 12th-century St Mary's Parish Church - climb up to the top of the bell tower where you will be greeted by breathtaking views across the town's rust-coloured rooftops and countryside. Afterwards, take a walk around the churchyard, looking out for the Town Water Cistern, built in 1735.
It's not all medieval history in Rye - one of the most delightful places to visit is Lamb House, once the home of Henry James and later, E.F. Benson. Looked after by the National Trust, this handsome Georgian house and walled garden welcomes visitors to its charming rooms, which have also played host to various famous writers and royalty over the years.
Don't leave Lamb House without stopping for a slice of cake and a pot of English breakfast tea in The Courtyard Tea Room - the garden offers a tranquil contrast to the bustle of the town and is a wonderful place to sit back for a few moments before heading back to the crowds.
It's also important to remember that smuggling was a huge affair in this area back in the 18th century. The towns of Hastings, Rye and Hawkhurst (the latter was known for the notorious Hawkhurst Gang) were part of what was called the smuggling capital of England. Check out the old vaulted cellars which hoarded the smugglers' treasures, as you pass through the town.
If you want to uncover all of this fascinating history but don't know where to start, book a spot on the Rye History Walks guided tour where Mike Carver, a local historian, will bring the magic of this ancient port alive for you.
Check out our Guide to National Trust properties in Sussex if you would like to see some more fascinating Sussex history.
STOP FOR A BITE TO EAT
Rye is home to a host of excellent places to stop for a bite to eat, or indeed, a pint of the local ale. From ancient smuggling inns to upmarket restaurants, coastal pubs and cafés, you'll always find somewhere to rest during or after a busy day. Many establishments are dog-friendly, so you don't need to worry about leaving Fido at home on your trip to Rye! Here are some of our favourites:
- The Globe Inn - a pretty little clapperboard dog-friendly pub with a roaring fire and charming beer garden. It also has a great selection of unusual gins - the ideal end to a summer evening on the coast.
- The Ship Inn - another dog-friendly historic inn with a building dating back to 1592, once a warehouse for contraband seized from smugglers.
- The Mermaid Inn - a 600-year-old reputedly haunted building which serves up some fabulous history, including wall carvings and secret passageways.
- The Fig - a great vegetarian café serving simple wholesome food - famous for its fabulous brunches, you'll want to stop off here before starting a day of shopping and history.
- The Apothecary - a marvellous café with a unique atmosphere, offering mouthwatering cream teas and huge slices of sticky cake, right in the heart of the town.
- Tuscan Kitchen Rye - stop off here for yummy Mediterranean food, with ingredients sourced straight from Italy. Try the excellent truffle ravioli.
- Bosun's Bite - a secret amongst locals, this no-frills café in Rye Harbour is the best place in the county for a fried breakfast and a steaming mug of tea before a walk in the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Dogs are welcome, so no worry if Rover is coming along for the trip.
PLACES OF INTEREST WITHIN 5 MILES OF RYE
A vast expanse of golden sand backed by huge dunes; Camber Sands is one of the most beautiful beaches on the South Coast. With neighbouring Dungeness to the east and Rye Harbour to the west, it is a wonderful place to walk along the shoreline when the tide is out. It does get busy in the summer when it becomes a top holiday resort, but out of season, it turns into a magical winter wonderland where you can just sit and relax, or take a walk with a willing dog along its tranquil shores.
Read our guide to Camber Sands.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Over 450 acres of salt marsh, beach and woodland await you at this renowned nature reserve. Stretching along to Winchelsea Beach and Pett Level, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and one of the most important conservation sites in the UK. You can walk through a maze of paths over a range of coastal habitats that includes grazing marshes, freshwater gravel pits, and reed beds. The nature reserve at Rye Harbour has five wheelchair-accessible hides providing brilliant spots to appreciate the wintering and sedentary birds that make this lovely coastal area their home.
Winchelsea is famously known for being the smallest town in the UK, though this always seems to be under debate! Rising high up above sea level, and just 3 miles away from Rye, the town is sectioned into uniform squares packed with beautifully preserved houses and a church, part of a ruined monastery. Enter the town through the medieval gate on one side and exit through the other - just be careful not to confuse it with Winchelsea Beach which is on the coast. It's a five-minute trip to the sea by car if you do want to go, but like Rye and Rye Harbour, you wouldn't want to walk it unless you are prepared!
Dungeness (actually 15 miles away but well worth including!)
Situated on a vast expanse of shingle and stretching for miles along the Kent coastline, the bleak landscape of Dungeness, with its unconventional and arty vibe, is a popular place to spend a few tranquil hours. Famous for being home to Derek Jarman's house, Prospect Cottage (above), and the famous nuclear power station which offers tours, it is technically a desert and home to over 600 species of plant and many insects. An excellent place to spot migratory birds in the spring and autumn, it is also a National Nature Reserve.
CHOOSE YOUR PERFECT RETREAT IN RYE AND RYE HARBOUR
Choose one of our cottages in Rye to base yourself for your East Sussex adventures. We have a superb collection in Rye, including charming cottages and Georgian townhouses in cobbled streets right in the heart of the town, stylish apartments in historic buildings and contemporary houses situated on the quay.
Just a few miles down the road in Rye Harbour, you'll find sweet fishermen's cottages a short stroll from the harbour, as well as gorgeous weather-boarded cottages which make a great coastal hideaway. Just steps away from Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, you'd do well to take your canine family member with you - check out our dog-friendly properties to find one that's just right for all the family.
Imagine cosying up to a roaring log fire, glass of red in hand, dreaming of your plans for the days ahead. This can be yours when you come and stay in one of our cottages in and around Rye. Just a few miles from the beautiful stretch of beach at Camber Sands and within driving distance to other Cinque Ports towns and historic landmarks, you'll be well placed with a cottage or apartment in Rye as a base.
Whether you are looking for a town pad nestled in between galleries, upmarket shops and contemporary cuisine, or if you want to go back in time with a vintage-style traditional beach holiday at a nearby seaside resort, you’ll be sure to find a wonderful selection to choose from with our portfolio of cottages for a holiday in Rye in Sussex.
Have a browse through our self-catering accommodation in Rye and start your adventure with Bramley & Teal.