The Ancient Town of Rye

A small ancient town atop a sandstone promontory that was once a strategic port, Rye is one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in England.

Home to the enchanting cobbled Mermaid Street, the impressive Norman church of St Mary’s, Ypres Tower, the National Trust’s Lamb House and a rich selection of intriguing shops and cafes, all are clustered together on a hill. They make for a very laid-back, gentle day of exploring on foot. You may just feel suspended in time. 

Rye offers a wonderful blend of the traditional (try the famous Mermaid Inn or the old bookstore and newsagents Adams of Rye) with the more contemporary boutique-style establishments including The George Inn, The Lion Street Store and Laura Oakes' gallery). 

Rye has always been a magnet for writers and artists. Lamb House was once the home of Henry James and E.F.Benson, creator of the Mapp and Lucia books. Artists Paul Nash, Edward Burra and Captain Pugwash creator, John Ryan all lived in Rye. Today a wealth of art and photography galleries thrives in the town as well as a welcome abundance of antique and vintage stores. 

Major commercial developments are a complete No-No in Rye. Tesco continues to fail to get close. The newest entry to town has been a cinema, Rye Kino. It has discretely made home in an old community building, adding modern chic into a beautifully refurbished building. Quaint. 

Rye not only offers the “everyday” with wonder, it also plays host to many annual events, including Rye Scallop Week, Wild Boar Week, Rye Arts Festival, Rye Jazz Festival, Rye Sea Pageant and the Rye Bonfire parade. The town embraces the festivals admirably, making the town an even bigger draw across the year. 

Venture to the edge of town, stroll along the quay to a thriving fishing fleet and fishmongers, and take a longer stroll to Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII located in the dramatic Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Just a few minutes drive on is the hugely popular Camber Sands with its expanses of sands and dunes. Looking for something quieter? Winchelsea Beach and Pett Level (a fossil hunter favourite) are close by too.  Perched on its hill overlooking the Romney Marsh, Rye is a distinctive medieval gem with so much to offer. It’s the perfect place to spend time when on holiday. 

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