A Rye-high weekend

PUBLISHED: 13:45 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 February 2013

The town is also famous for its colourful fishing fleet

The town is also famous for its colourful fishing fleet

With this month's Rye Arts Festival raring to go, now could be the perfect time to discover why the historic town of Rye is an ideal destination for that special weekend away. Matthew Williams narrows down some of the excellent options...

With this month's Rye Arts Festival raring to go, now could be the perfect time to discover why the historic town of Rye is an ideal destination for that special weekend away. Matthew Williams narrows down some of the excellent options...

The little hilltop town of Rye, with its heritage, cobbled lanes, red roofs and ancient timber-framed buildings, will always be top of many a traveller's list. Whether on the search for a little solace or the opportunity to step back to a more relaxed time, Rye is a real treat in the waiting for the uninitiated.

September brings even more reasons to plan that weekend away to 1066 Country, with the Rye Arts Festival (01797 224442) taking pride of place and running from Saturday September 12 to Sunday September 27.

For two weeks, beginning with the London Mozart Players and ending with Sacconi and Navarra Quartets joining forces, Rye will be bursting at the seams with music this month.

Famous faces who will be coming to town this year include the legendary Barry Cryer and a whole host of guest speakers, including the broadcaster Edward Stourton, Stanley Johnson, father of London mayor Boris, and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh.

The town has a something of a history of attracting those with an interest in the arts. The National Trust's Lamb House (01580 762334), on West Street, was home to writers Henry James, EF Benson and Rumer Godden before becoming a popular attraction - the property is open until Saturday October 24.

Comedian Spike Milligan spent his later years as a resident, too, while Rye author John Ryan, who died in July, created Captain Pugwash, Sir Paul McCartney lives just down the road at his Peasmarsh farm and even the actor Johnny Depp was rumoured to be interested in moving to the town.

In fact, some of the historic penny arcade machines from the Rye Heritage Centre were used for the party after the European film premiere of Sweeney Todd last year. A high calibre of resident and tourist, indeed.

Town of renown

That's the thing about Rye, festival or no festival, it really is a magical place to visit. Renowned for its pottery, you can see the largest collection at Rye Castle Museum (01797 226728), on East Street, or get a feel for the process at Rye Pottery (01797 223038), a small family-owned business on Wishward. The town's medieval centre, the Citadel, is home to the Landgate Arch and the Ypres Tower, while there are enough shops to keep an ardent shopaholic satisfied - if you manage to find time during the packed festival line-up, of course.

The family owned HG Gasson (01797 222208), in Lion Street, is one of the oldest antiques shops in Rye, established since 1909, and the perfect place to stop off for that special something. Established in 1973, The Golden Fleece (01797 224271), in Lion Street, is another family-run shop, this time specialising in traditional quality British country wear. Shopped out, why not grab a pot of tea at Cobbles Tea Room (07815 734665), in Hylands Yard, which has been operating for more than 50 years.

If you're going to an evening performance, you'll be spoilt for choice for great places for a meal. The glorious Mermaid Inn (01797 223065), in Mermaid Street, has often hosted the rich and famous, while Webbe's at The Fish Café (01797 222226), on Tower Street, which once housed a toy factory, offers a fantastic range of seafood. Both restaurants are included in this year's AA restaurant guide.

Being something of a tourist haven, there shouldn't be any problem finding accommodation for your weekend away and there are numerous hotels and bed and breakfasts for you to choose from.

Hayden's (01797 224501) on the High Street is an eco-friendly bed and breakfast set up by Richard and Kate Hayden, who abandoned the London commute for this more sedate venture.

Jeake's House (01797 222828), in Mermaid Street, is a five-star award winning establishment and you can live the life of luxury minutes from Rye at Flackley Ash Hotel (01797 230651) in nearby Peasmarsh or at the George Inn (01797 222114) in Rye High Street, voted one of the top five hotels in the UK by Observer readers last year.

So, whether you're going for the arts festival, a shopping trip, an antiques hunt or just looking for a moment's peace away from the stresses of your week in the office, Rye offers the perfect weekend for you.

And if you're going, why not tell us about your experiences by e-mailing us here at Sussex Life

Five of the best from this year's Rye Arts Festival

Saturday September 12 7.30pm

One of the world's finest ensembles, the London Mozart Players, will be playing at St Mary's Church. Tickets are from £8.

Monday September 14 3pm

Presenter Edward Stourton manoeuvres through the pros and cons of political correctness with It's a PC World at the Methodist Church.

Saturday September 19 8pm

A trip down comedy's Memory Lane with Barry Cryer and Colin Sell at Rye College. Tickets are £15.

Thursday September 24 7.30pm

Gardening presenter Alan Titchmarsh brings his memoirs to Rye College with his book The Knave of Spades.

Sunday September 27 7.30pm

The prize-winning Navarra and Sacconi Quartets join forces for what promises to be a real treat at St Mary's Church. Tickets are £16.

To buy tickets for any of these events, visit www.ryefestival.co.uk

Lively Saturday

Get on your bike

Get out and about in and around Rye by hiring a bicycle from Rye Hire (01797 223033) at 1 Cyprus Place for just £10 a day - an easy way to explore the beautiful surrounding coast and countryside in your own time.

Wet and wild

Possibly the last chance for anyone but a hardened watersports fanatic to try a little high octane fun before the winter takes hold: visit Rye Watersports (01797 225238) at North Point Water for everything from kite surfing lessons to their dinghy sailing classes.

Visit a castle

Camber Castle lies between Rye and Winchelsea and is opened on Saturday and Sunday afternoons until the end of September (2pm to 5pm). One of Henry VIII's castles, which originally protected this stretch of the coast, renovation work was completed in 1995.

Relaxing Sunday

Explore history

Explore Rye's history at Rye Heritage Centre (01797 226696) on Strand Quay, and go on to Rye Castle Museum (01797 226728) on East Street, which houses the largest collection of Rye pottery, for which the town is famous.

Get in the swing

One of the best courses in England, Rye Golf Club's (01797 225241) first captain in 1894 was Harry Colt - who designed the first 18-hole course and went on to design many of the world's most famous, including Wentworth.

Take a stroll

The nature reserve (01797 227784) at Rye Harbour provides the perfect opportunity to explore the area's natural history and wildlife. Join the Rye Festival Camber Castle Circular Walk (book at www.ryefestival.co.uk) on Sunday September 13 at 10am to visit Henry VIII's castle and see the local wildlife.

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