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15 truly amazing things to do in Rye

Planning a day out in this beautiful corner of East Sussex? From historic streets to charming pubs via amazing antiques shops, these are the best things to do in Rye

Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
,
Georgina Lawton
&
Joe Minihane
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Once one of south-east England’s most important ports, Rye retains a historic charm. With a rich history of smuggling and maritime conflict, there’s plenty here to sate culture buffs as well as those keen on eating and drinking the very best in local produce. Whatever your tastes, Rye’s quirky shops, medieval inns and cafés are begging to be explored. Throw in sensational outdoor spaces and a day here is guaranteed to have a soothing effect on the soul. 

RECOMMENDED: More brilliant things to do around Sussex

Best things to do in Rye

First up

First up

Grab coffee from Café des Fleurs and shake off the urban grit by exploring Rye Nature Reserve, a pretty patchwork of grassland, saltmarsh and woods. The recently opened Discovery Centre will give you a steer on what wildlife you can expect to find. Check the website for upcoming guided tours and events, run by Sussex Wildlife Trust rangers.

Stop for lunch

Stop for lunch

Book a table at the pretty Globe Inn Marsh for generous portions of mussels, prawns and smoked mackerel, as well as great veggie options. Their Bonfire Pizzas are a winner too. Be sure to leave room for cream tea at Mermaid Street Café.

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Soak up the vibes

Soak up the vibes

Take a trip to Camber Sands, one of England’s finest beaches. You can hop on a bus, but the three-mile hike from the centre of Rye will help you walk off lunch. Keep an eye out for marsh harriers and seals popping their heads out above the waves.

Drink like a local

Drink like a local

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to boozy boltholes in Rye. Unfortunately The George Inn, the ideal spot for a glass of local Chapel Down wine is closed for refurbishment, with plans to reopen in late 2021. Instead, step back in time at The Mermaid Inn, which is as enchanting as it is ancient (600 years). Sip super-local craft beers at the tiny Rye Waterworks Micropub – a 300-year-old former waterpump. Or grab a table in the Ypres Castle Inn’s epic beer garden beneath the ramparts of Rye Castle. 

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Splash the cash

Splash the cash

Love bargain-hunting? Prepare for some serious temptation in the sleepy antique shops around Mermaid Street. Strand Quay boasts unlimited bric-à-brac, too, while the Confit Pot sells retro kitchenware and pottery from across the Channel. For something truly out there, head to Alex MacArthur Interiors, found in a sprawling fourteenth-century monastery on Conduit Hill.

If you only do one thing

If you only do one thing

Rye feels a little like it’s suspended in time – so get lost in the town’s history. Explore ancient Rye Castle’s Ypres Tower before climbing the bell tower at twelfth-century St Mary’s Church for views across Rye’s rust-coloured rooftops. Marvel at Mermaid Street’s story-book charm – it’s all cobbles and wonky half-timbered houses.

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And if you stay the night, stay at Rye Windmill

Perched on the banks of the River Tillingham, this idyllic four-star B&B is in – you guessed it – an actual windmill. Rye Windmill is a Grade II-listed building with ten characterful rooms. Owners Toby and Kat dispense local recommendations with a delicious cooked breakfast in the original mill bakery, where the exposed brickwork, beams and old ovens are still in place. Book the Windmill Suite with two floors linked by a spiral staircase. There’s a luxurious standalone bath and sleigh bed large enough to get lost in, plus panoramic views of Rye from a private balcony. Total Rye candy.

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