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Photograph: Loop Images/Slawek Staszczuk

17 things to do in Rye

Planning the perfect day in this pretty corner of East Sussex? Find historic streets, nature walks, charming pubs and more lovely things to do in Rye

By Georgina Lawton and Ellie Walker-Arnott
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Rye is as postcard-perfect as towns come. The quaint East Sussex settlement is planted two miles from the sea and, despite a rich history of smuggling and maritime conflict, is nothing short of serene. Rye’s labyrinth of winding streets and passageways, dotted with quirky shops, medieval inns and cafés, are begging to be explored slowly. A day here is guaranteed to have a soothing effect on the soul. Stressed-out Londoners, take note.

A perfect day in Rye

First up

Grab coffee from Café des Fleurs and shake off the city by exploring Rye Nature Reserve, a pretty patchwork of grassland, saltmarsh and woods. Find huts that jut into the water to get closer to the wildlife. Spot seals or (more likely) sheep grazing besides Camber Castle as you head back to town.

Stop for lunch

Book a table at the pretty Globe Inn Marsh for generous portions of mussels, prawns and smoked makerel, as well as great veggie options. Their Bonfire Pizzas are a winner too. Dessert? Have cream tea at Mermaid Street Café.

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Soak up the vibes

Take a trip to Camber Sands: so wide and golden you’ll feel like you’re anywhere but England. You can hop on a bus or take a brisk stroll from Rye. It’s more than three miles each way, but you’ll probably be glad of the walk after lunch.

Drink like a local

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to boozy boltholes in Rye. Usually we’d say try The George Inn for a glass of local Chapel Down wine but it’s closed until 2021. 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

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 Crock and Cosy and the Confit Pot sell retro kitchenware and pottery from across the Channel.

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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