The beautiful market town of Rye in Sussex is one perfect for a day trip exploration. Between rolling hills and the English channel, it is abundant in history and charm. It is a short hop from Hastings, that of the battle, trapped in a moment in time; timbered houses, little lanes, cobbled streets, quirky shops, vintage, and fantastic ice cream. You know I will always find ice cream wherever I can, so stop by Rye for ice cream of a summer afternoon. Long lazy walks abound, fish and chips like no other and an atmosphere most welcoming.


Set off in the morning on the train, now I must warn you, there are changes and a bit of a wait to change… not sure if this was the norm the several times I have been there or there was one those weird strike actions, but it’s a peculiar little journey to make and whilst on the way there, sit by the window for wonderful views of the seaside towns that pass you by.

So Rye, it is a charmingly delightful town in the South of England, more a village or a small town than a town-town if you know what I mean. Cast your mind back to Harry Potter 7 part 1, Godric’s Hollow where Harry’s parents lived, remember when he and Hermione went to visit Batilda Bagshot… why am I telling about Potter? Well because Rye typifies the timbered houses of Godric’s Hollow also home of one Godric Gryffindor. Rye is the place that time preserved, not forgot or left behind because whilst it is not stuck back in time, there is something beautiful about how finely preserved it has been whilst keeping up but not pin sharp spruce-ness but a soft kind of blur, you know, a lovely soft of hum that tells you it is ticking along just fine.

Located up on a hill overlooking the marshes right the way to the sea, you would be hard pressed to believe this town was once a busy seaport, one of the busiest in England, that is until the estuary slowly but surely silted up making navigation quite impossible. But no matter, the sea is a mere two miles away and it’s worth the journey.

Rye once enjoyed the privilege of being an Ancient town which were a core part of the Cinque (pronounced Sink) ports that made it benefit from trades along the Channel and defence from presumably the French. Cinque ports were a collection of harbour towns that were deemed imports to the economy of England but in 1377 Rye would suffer a French raid that saw the town practically reduced to cinders and rebuilding would mean enforcements that made it impossible for the port to be as bustling as it was once.

But don’t be deterred there is still plenty to do here. For day? I’ve got you babe.


Mermaid Street: is the star attraction here, a cobbled street, flanked by old inns and Georgian homes. Mermaid Inn, one of the oldest buildings in Rye is as the infamous street, a star attraction as well, but don’t be deceived by the genteel name and the timbered façade this building is besieged by a wild history. Ghosts and smugglers, dark deeds and wicked nights. Jack Sparrow will be home here. So, to do in Rye, first things first, go for a wander, the streets are paved with history and rickety houses and charm. You know we love charm around here.

Mermaid Inn: The Norman constructed mermaid inn was part of the casualty of the French raid in 1377 hence it too was burned down but the cellar survived. The building today dates back to 1420. At one point in its history it was a Jesuit refuge and at another it was a meeting place for the seediest people in society that a port town can bring; smugglers, and gang men. It was no secret the sinister trades and goings on, so much so, none was challenged because to challenge would mean death.

Jeakes House: where the American poet Clay Aiken once lived and is now a lovely little hotel on Mermaid Street. Samuel Jeake was a puritan who led his life astutely according to God’s guidance but was also enamoured by astrology. The building itself has had many iterations; a chapel, a minister’s home, a wool store etc. It also played guests to several visitors: T.S Elliot, Elizabeth Fry among them.

YPRES TOWER: This is one of the few buildings to have survived the French raid of 1377, the sire of Tudor gun emplacements which were key to Rye’s defences. Within the town is one of two parts of the Rye Castle museum where one can learn an essential history of Rye.

Lamb House: A red brick 18th century Georgian that once belonged to Henry James and was at one point a meeting point for the literary cognoscenti. The Lamb family were the first owners of the property, a short walk from Mermaid street, behind the local parish, it is a home that holds history both royal and literary. In 1726, King George I was caught in a storm and had to dock in Rye, where it was deemed the Lamb House was the only one suitable for a king, hence the patriarch, James Lamb offered his bedroom to the king. In 1832 the house was sold to a banker and it became associated with the literary world. Henry James came to Rye to visit a friend in 1897 and was immediately taken with the property. When it came on the market in 1899, he bought it and wrote several of his novels there. Parts of the house was destroyed during WWII. Rudyard Kipling and HG Wells were amongst the literary guests to the house. The house remains persevered to James’ memory.

ST MARY’S CHURCH: Dating back to the 12th century St Mary’s stands atop Rye’s hill with its stained-glass windows by William Morris. There is a 16th century clock that has an 18 foot pendulum. The church is the reason why Rye was given the Cinque church status; it was under the Royal deed of gift by the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy. The church was also casualty of the French raid of 1377. The bells were stolen and taken off to France by looters (WHO STEALS A CHURCH BELL?) but was recovered the following year, in a retaliatory raid in Normandy by men from Rye and Winchelsea who sailed to make right what the French stole. I love this fight so much, such moral fibre. The clock was installed in 1562 made by the Huguenot Lewys Billiard.

THE QUARTER BOYS: are a pair of gold painted cherubs that reside on the belltower of St Mary’s Church. Their mechanism allows them to chime at a quarter past the hour hence the name given them by the town, THE QUARTER BOYS There is an inscription above the clock: Our time is but a shadow that passeth away” a reminder whether innocent or sinister to either remind the townsfolk to cease the day for our time on earth is finite. Sinister because it could also mean that the town be more fastidious in its relationship with God, considering the presence of the Hugenots; reminding them to dedicate their lives to God or be damned to hell. You can see the cherubs from outside the church but also visit the church and slime to the top to see the Quarter Boys up close and the entirety of Rye which is stunning from this view.


Besides the written word, there a healthy art scene in Rye. Stop by the Purdie Art Gallery for original works and beautiful prints by David Purdie. Rye Art Gallery also has a wonderful contemporary collection from several artists. Its worth a pop in.


MARINO’S FISH & CHIPS: You’re near enough the sea, so eat some fine fish and chips of which there are plenty cafes to do so but the one I tried is Marino’s fish and chips with fish as big as your head.

The Cobbles Tea Room: Afternoon tea is often always a MUST when you are in towns like Rye. Yes, the Ritz is lovely and what not, but this is authentic local tradition the way it ought to be observed without all the fuss. It’s down home, country filling atmosphere and it is delicious.

Rye Bakery: delicious pastries and also the perfect spot for lunch if you are staying that long. The bread is fresh, the bakery is delicious and it smells like the kind of bakery you will find in heaven.


Have a butchers at the Mermaid Inn or the Ye Olde Bell Inn both buildings used to be connected by a secret passageway used by smugglers. Hence there are wild ghost stories abound in Rye so listen out for the ghosts right behind you. You simply never know. If the sun is inclined to come out the beer gardens in both are superb.