By Zoe West
While it’s tempting to board a plane once the sun makes an appearance, there are many reasons to stay closer to home – and Rye is most certainly one of them.
Just two miles from the sea it’s no surprise Rye has a swashbuckling past – notorious in the 13th century for its pirate port. Though these days you’re more likely to come across someone enjoying a fish and chip lunch from Marino’s Fish Bar.
Hailed by many as one of the prettiest villages in the UK, this medieval gem perched high on a hill in East Sussex is a firm favourite for a UK staycation - and here's why...
Wonderful things to do in Rye
1. Meander down the beautiful cobbled lanes
With the promise of summer just around the corner what better time to amble around this picturesque old town? The cobbled lanes, narrow passages, ‘secret’ steps, fine Georgian houses and hidden areas of green are irresistible. Be sure to walk down the historic – and steep– Mermaid Street, spotting quaint names such as The House Opposite and The House with the Seat. Then explore St Mary the Virgin church, stopping to look at its 16th-century tower clock, before heading down to the old harbour known as The Strand.
2. Browse the charming shops
Rye is packed with a charming blend of great shops, selling everything from luxury goods, hand-made crafts, secondhand books and quality fashion – with not a chain store in sight. Ceramics fans should head for Rye Pottery, and music lovers Grammar School Records, sited – as the name suggests – in an historic 17th-century building. Antique lovers will be spoilt for choice, with furniture, glass, jewellery, china and other bits and bobs on sale everywhere.
The much-loved George In Rye pub has even opened its own shop, aptly named The Shop Next Door giving you the chance to buy your own little piece of boutique-hotel chic.
3. Take in the sea air at Camber Sands
On a warm day, take the short trip out to Camber Sands - a stunning stretch of sandy beach and picturesque dunes - to relax, and gaze at the sea. With three miles of golden sands, it’s the perfect place to beachcomb, walk, picnic, bird-watch and even spot seals. It’s also a popular wind and kite surfing spot - and whilst spring may be a little chilly for a dip in the sea, it does mean that out of season you won’t have to share those wide beaches with too many people.
Finish off with an incredible snapshot of the sun setting in the blood-red sky and the bleakness of winter will seem a distant memory.
4. Brush up on your medieval history
Everywhere you look there are stunning medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings. Rye Castle, also known as Ypres Tower and built in 1249 as a defence against the French, is well worth a visit. And literature fans will enjoy a visit to Lamb House, a Georgian building that was home to both Henry James and EF Benson
It may be a 25-minute drive away, but if you’re visiting for the weekend, Bodiam Castle is more than worth the jaunt. This 14th century building with its iconic moat, splendid towers and beautiful grounds is picture-perfect.
5. Immerse yourself in art and culture
Art and photography galleries are plentiful here. Checkout Rye Art Gallery with its changing display of contemporary art and crafts to view and buy, as well as its permanent collection. The boutique Art & Soul Gallery also houses contemporary art, while Purdie Gallery has photos, prints, posters and greetings cards. For film fans, there’s a stylish cinema, Kino Rye, on Lion Street.
6. Eat the local, world-famous fresh scallops - they are divine!
Book yourself into one of the many fine restaurants for a truly mouth-watering experience. Planning to be in the area in February? Then don't miss the Rye Bay Scallop Festival. The local scallops are said to be at their best towards the end of February, and Rye's world-famous succulent scallops are celebrated in style during a nine-day festival.
There's scallop shucking demonstrations, scallop-themed menus and tasting events - and it's all managed carefully to ensure sustainability.
If you're not going to be there for the festival but still want to eat well then the Michelin Guide recommends Tuscan Kitchen.
Where is Rye?
Now convinced to you need to take a trip to this medieval gem, but not sure where it is?
Rye is a small town, in East Sussex, England. It's close to Kent and is just two miles from the sea at the confluence of three rivers: the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede.
The nearest motorway is the M20, and the closest large town is Folkestone. If you're not driving then Rye has a small train station and is a scenic two hour train journey from London St. Pancras International, making it an easy day trip.
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