A Mini Guide to Rye, East Sussex

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

a girl stands in the cobbled street


 If you're looking for a place to holiday in the UK this summer where you can shy away from the crowds, but still take in some culture and gorgeous sights, the tiny town of Rye in East Sussex may be just the place for you. Nestled between Hastings and Camber Sands, and just a couple of miles from the South-East coast, Rye is a hidden gem, filled with historic charm, quaint pubs and cobbled streets. It's hard not to feel like you've stepped back in time while you're wondering its winding roads and taking in the views of the medieval houses, towers and ruins.

Rye has a rich history as one of England's oldest ports, and is drenched in timeless tales of smugglers, invaders and even haunted inns. Today, Rye is the perfect UK holiday destination,  and its history, art, independent shops and variety of restaurants will keep you busy whether you're only visiting for a day, or for a full weekend. However long you decide to stay, here are some recommendations on how to spend your time in Rye.

Top of our list of places to stay in Rye was The Old Borough Arms, situated very centrally, right at the bottom of the famous Mermaid Street. The Old Borough Arms is a pub and restaurant with a small number of boutique hotel rooms attached to it. It was the perfect stay for us - a central location, right next to a carpark, and without a huge price tag attached. It's also situated directly next to The Mermaid Street Cafe, which offers the perfect spot for your morning coffee and breakfast, and a good place to sit and watch the world go by.


front of The Cobbles tea room in Rye

a hand is holding a chocolate milkshake

cobbled streets and buildings of Rye

a hand is holding a coffee and croissant

a hand is holding a soft serve ice cream

sign reading 'tower forge' outside shop

Restaurants and Cafes


Knoops

Knoops is the place to beeline to if you're a hot chocolate fan. They expertly craft hot and cold chocolate drinks from their chocolate flakes, with a wide variety of options on the menu, all at different percentages. They cover the whole spectrum, from 28% white chocolate drinks, to 100% dark chocolate drinks, with anything over 54% being vegan friendly. The team in Knoops are really knowledgable too, so if you're a little overwhelmed by the menu, they can advise you on what to order depending on your taste. I can definitely recommend the milkshakes - the chocolate orange one was absolutely divine!

Whitehouse

Whitehouse is both a hotel and a restaurant in the middle of Rye, and their breakfast menu really stands out. From pancakes, to topped toasts, they've got options for meat eaters, veggies and vegans at an affordable price. If you don't get to go to Whitehouse for a full meal, it's definitely worth stopping by to grab a soft serve from their window. With lots of different sweet toppings and at just £4 a pop, they're some of the best ice creams we tried in Rye.

The Apothecary 

The Apothecary is another spot which is definitely worth stopping in to when you need a break from exploring the cobbled streets. They're a coffee house who stock cheap and cheerful breakfast options, cakes, pastries, paninis and  and hot drinks. It's worth visiting this one early in the day, because they do seem to sell out of food on busier days. 

The Fig

The Fig is an independent cafe in the centre of Rye, which prides itself on its healthy and fresh food. Their menu is extensive and you can pop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a coffee if you fancy it. They're a popular spot in Rye, so definitely worth booking in advance if you know you want to go! From whipped feta to pickled cauliflower, they offer fun flavours to try, and a variety of options for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

Tatner's Street Kitchen

Rye boasts a number of restaurants with luxury and specialist menus, although a lot of them are very fish and game based. If you find yourself looking for a good vegetarian dinner option in Rye, or you're just in the mood for a burger, fries and a good beer, look no further than Tatner's Street Kitchen. A very casual joint with friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere, Tatner's hits the street food spot and will leave your belly feeling very satisfied.

Simply Italian

Simply Italian does exactly as it says on the tin - good, simple and fresh Italian food at a good price, and with friendly service. Pizzas, pastas, good wine and blankets for when the evenings start to get a little cooler, Simply Italian is a fab dinner spot whether you're dining with friends, as a couple, or as a family with little ones.


Girl walking cobbled street

photo of ypres castle pub

a man holds a pint outside pub

sign reading 'the mermaid inn'

tables in a pub garden


Pubs


The Ypres Castle Inn

Rye isn't short of quaint pubs, nestled into side-streets and hidden spots. One of its best kept secrets is the Ypres Castle Inn, tucked away in the grounds of the town's historic castle itself. It's a must visit spot if you're in Rye, not only to soak up the ambience and the history of the area, but to try their selection of craft beers from independent producers. Their menu will tell you exactly what you're in for, with drinks from female brewers helpfully flagged up, and the stronger beer varieties available to sample at 2/3 of a pint.

The Olde Bell Rye

The Olde Bell is situated right in the centre of Rye, and is known as being the town's oldest pub, dating back to the 15th century. They have a sun terrace where you can sit and watch as people potter along the cobbled streets, and an interior which hasn't been stripped of any of its historical charm. They've got a number of different beers to try. Laine Ripper IPA comes highly recommended.


Rye Waterworks Micropub

Another must visit if you're in Rye is the Waterworks Micropub. The first micropub to open is South East Sussex, Waterworks sits in a building which has seen trade as a pump house, a soup kitchen, and even a public toilet. The atmosphere at Rye Waterworks Micropub is second to none, with friendly staff and locals, and plenty of people to have a chat to should you wish for one. They boast a number of local ales, ciders and gins to try, and if you're lucky you might catch a sing song from some of the regulars inside!


sand and sea at camber sands beach

the hill lift in Hastings

a selection of plants in a shop

a pub and hill in hastings

Things to do: Rye and further afield


The beauty of Rye and its winding streets is that it's small enough to explore in a day. Once you've taken in the sights of the Ypres Castle, wandered along Mermaid Street, peaked through the windows of the Mermaid Inn and visited the old churches, you may be wondering where to venture next. If you've got longer than a day in Rye, you might want to explore some of the below places.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

A huge coastal nature reserve with miles and miles of footpaths to explore, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a definite gem of the Sussex coast. Housing thousands of species of plants and more than 200 rare or endangers birds and animals, the nature reserve is an astounding place to wander around if you have enough time to do so. It's free to enter, but it's worth visiting the discovery centre, or consulting a map of the area and planning a route before venturing in. 

Hastings

Around a 30 minute coastal drive from Rye lies Hastings, a much bigger seaside town to visit if you have more than a day in Sussex. Hastings Old Town is especially worth the visit, lined with quaint independent gift shops, tucked away antique dens and a huge assortment of restaurants and cafes to pop into. Grab some chips or an ice cream on the beach, wander along the pebbled shore, and take the East Hill Lift or West Hill Lift up to the top of the town to explore the ruins and history of the Battle of Hastings.

Camber Sands

Coined as the most beautiful beach in England and one of the only non-pebble beaches on this stretch of the Sussex coast, the vast expanses of Camber Sands are definitely worth a visit if you're staying in Rye. The huge size of the beach means its never too busy, and the blustering winds mean that even on the hottest of days, you'll never feel too warm. A word of warning, despite its beauty, the waters at Camber Sands can be dangerous due to riptides, so if you're going for a swim, make sure you check the lifeguards flags to see if it's safe to do so.

Dungeness

A little further along the coast from Rye sit Dungeness beach, a weird and wonderful place which couldn't be any more different from its neighbouring Camber Sands. With miles and miles of open expanse, Dungeness has a shingle beach which is scattered with rare plants and desert flowers. It's overlooked by a towering power station and two lighthouses, giving the whole place an imposing look. It's also home to Prospect Cottage, a black fisherman's cottage situated in the middle of the shingle, with desert flowers growing all around. It's a sight to behold, and well worth the visit!

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