The low-down on Rye in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 16:59 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 17:44 20 February 2013

looking up the hill to St Mary’s Church and its famous clock which was installed in 1561-2 and is one of the oldest turret clocks in the country still functioning. 
Its “Quarter Boys” which strike the quarters but not the hours were added in 1760

looking up the hill to St Mary’s Church and its famous clock which was installed in 1561-2 and is one of the oldest turret clocks in the country still functioning. Its “Quarter Boys” which strike the quarters but not the hours were added in 1760

Dating back to before the Norman Conquest, Rye is full of historic buildings and shops that can occupy the visitor for many an hour, bringing people from afar to search for antiques and to dine in the town's many quality restaurants...

Dating back to before the Norman Conquest, Rye is full of historic buildings and shops that can occupy the visitor for many an hour, bringing people from afar to search for antiques and to dine in the towns many quality restaurants.


Past times


Once a small fishing community lying within the Manor of Rameslie, this charming East Sussex town, perched on a hill overlooking the River Rother and Romney Marsh, has many beautifully preserved buildings from its fascinating history.
Rye was reclaimed from the French by Henry III in 1247 and transformed into a Cinque Port, contributing to Britains maritime power. In the 18th century it was a haunt of smugglers, the hoards being stored in the old vaulted cellars and transported through secret underground tunnels.
Many of the towns ancient defences are still evident, particularly in the citadel Ryes medieval town centre which is home to the famous Ypres tower and Landgate.


FIND IT: Set your satnav to TN31 7AB Rye railway station

Shopping for treasures


Now a thriving market town, its renowned cobbled streets are lined with a fabulous array of unusual shops, selling everything from clothing to records.
Famous for the quality and quantity of antiques available, there are certainly lots of gems to be found. H G Gasson on Lion Street specialises in mahogany and early English oak furniture as well as stocking a selection of other curios.
On the high street you can find Sweet Memories, the perfect place to take a step back in time with a selection of sugary treats from humbugs to peanut brittle. For those who like to be pampered Organ-ics provides luxury skincare, fragrances and cosmetics which make for ideal gifts. Alternatively, for the men, W. J. Bennett, founded in 1919 offers an eclectic range of classical and fashionable menswear. Even if youre not planning to shop, Rye makes for a very interesting browse.

Off the beaten track


Those who dont mind going a little off course can find Camber Castle a mile South of Rye. Built to defend the harbour, it dates back to the early 16th century and is located in the middle of a sheep-filled field between Rye and Winchelsea.
The ruins have been extensively restored over the years enabling limited public access to the castle, the outside of which can be visited daily. It is definitely worth going the extra yard to see.


Where to fill up


You dont have to walk far to find somewhere to fill up, whether its for a light snack or a full meal there are plenty of places to choose from.
Simon the Pieman claims to be the oldest tearoom in the area and is ideal for a light lunch. As well as serving a range of pies they also have a cake shop on their premises in Lion Street.
For a cosy brew The Cobbles Tea Room on Hylands Yard has a wide variety of loose leaf teas and ground coffees available
Every Wednesday on Strand Quay a farmers market is held between 10am and 1pm and is the ideal place to buy locally produced foods and beverages for the making of a perfect picnic.
A great location for either lunch or dinner is Ypres Castle Inn, surrounded by Gun Gardens it serves an array of tasty dishes to suit every palette alongside the traditional Sunday roast.
At the Webbes Restaurant Fish Caf in Tower Street you can see your food cooked to order in the open plan kitchen area. As its name suggests, the ambience of the Riverside Restaurant on Quayside is helped by its fine views. Both these restaurants use local produce as much as possible, including the catch of the day.

Things to see


Jam-packed with things to amuse visitors and locals alike its beautifully preserved town centre is home to many historical buildings. Mermaid Street remains virtually untouched, lined with elegant Georgian and Medieval buildings, some with unusual and quirky names such as the house with two doors.
The old vaulted cellars, dating back to the 18th century are also a popular attraction.
These smugglers caves and connecting tunnels are best viewed on the blue badge guided tour of the town. A climb to the top of the tower of St Marys church provides for stunning views across the Sussex countryside and if its natural history you prefer, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a beautiful location for pleasant walk or a spot of bird watching. Guided tours are on offer throughout the year and are led by experienced wardens with vast knowledge of the local area.

Where to stay


If youre planning to visit for a few days, and why not, then why not do it in style? Rye has many top quality hotels that have catered to the discerning traveller for many years, in some cases centuries. Here are just two you could try:
Experience the unique atmosphere of one of Englands oldest inns at the Mermaid Inn on Mermaid Street. Originally dating from 1156, it was rebuilt in 1420. The hotel has a definite olde world charm and is one of the enduring symbols of the town. TN31 7EY Tel: 01797 223065.
Another classic is The George on High Street. This is a bit newer than the Mermaid but, as everything in Rye, this is relative, the hotel dates back to 1575! It was completely refurbished in 2006 and has all the modern creature comforts and then some. TN31 7JT Tel: 01797 222114.

Dates to remember


Rye Country Market
Every Friday
Stalls offering a selection of items including local home grown produce, preserves, cakes, crafts, plants and cut flowers. Entrance to the market is free and opening times are 10am to 10.45am weekly.
Rye Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye TN31 7LE 01797 222850


The 39th Rye Arts Festival
Saturday September 11 to Sunday September 26
A 16-day celebration jam packed with music, guest speakers and creative activities, a full programme of events is available from www.ryefestival.co.uk
Around Rye 01797 224442


Telling Tales
Saturday September 11 to Sunday October 10
Coinciding with the Rye festival the work of artists Janet Crosby and David W Slack will be on show, their work portraying dreams, occurrences, imagination, fact
and fable.
The Easton Rooms, High Street, Rye TN31 7JE 01797 222433
Exotic Gardening
Monday September 20
Fergus Garrett will give visitors an insight into the design and plant choice of Great Dixters Tropical Garden.
Great Dixter House and Gardens, Rye TN31 6PH 01797 252878


Open Studios
Friday September 10 to Sunday September 12
Open Studios at The School Creative Centre, Rye, is a three-day celebration full of surprise, mystery, and glamour, featuring performances, exhibitions and the sale of arts and crafts from our resident artists open from 10-6pm.
On the Saturday and Sunday evening Radiator Arts will provide visitors with a series of magical encounters, as they transform the grounds of The School into a garden of delights, with projections, soundscapes, illuminations and an array of fantastical creatures. Free parking and a bar serving soft drinks, wine and beer, visitors are invited to bring a picnic and experience the full magic of The Lost Plot. Gates open 6.30pm
The School Creative Centre, New Road, Rye TN31 7LS 01797 229797

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