Discover the well-preserved medieval town of Rye
If we go back hundreds of years ago, Rye used to be surrounded by water on all sides. It was part of the medieval Cinque Ports. It was easy to detect and repel invaders because of its hilltop vantage point. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, Rye was key in the smuggling trade with loads of tunnels, secret passages and hidden caves. Rye has also been the home of many literary figures like Henry James, who lived at Lamb House.
While exploring the town, see art shops, cosy pubs, and a mix of independent shops and contemporary restaurants where you find the best Sussex has to offer from land and sea. Pay a visit to the Ypres Tower built-in 1249 to defend Rye from intruders, overlooking Rodney Marsh.
Include Rye on a private driver-guided day tour from London, Brighton or the Gardens of Kent. Stay overnight in the area and discover the fascinating East Sussex region.
A Perfectly Preserved Hill Top Town
A brief history of Rye
A French Town
Normandy was returned to the French in 1205 and Rye with it. The authorities reunited the town with the English Crown in 1247. Afterwards, King Edward III improved the defences by constructing four gates and a wall. Parts of these fortifications are still around, like the Landgate and castle.
The Charter of the Cinque Ports united the kingdom's defence, together with towns along the coast of Kent and Sussex, which provided safe harbour, ships and men. In return, towns such as Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea were exempted from taxes and customs duties, trading concessions and rights to hold judicial courts.
Rye was attacked regularly by the French to test the defences and to raid the port. In 1377 a devastating attack happened where fire almost destroyed Rye, and someone stole the bells of St Mary's Church. The following year, a revenge voyage occurred with the return of the bells and other stolen loot.
During the 18th century, smuggling was common in Rye; there were networks of secret tunnels and passages so people could store their stolen booty in old, vaulted cellars.
Highlights of Rye
Known as the most picture-perfect street in Rye, Mermaid Street runs down a cobbled hill and is packed with half-timbered Tudor buildings like "The House with Two Front Doors" or "The House Opposite".
Rye Castle Museum
Visit Ypres Tower, where you'll learn about Rye's history. The Tower has had different roles throughout nine centuries, starting as a defence and currently housing a museum. Feel free to climb the Tower and marvel at the views over the town and the River Rother. This place has various exhibits from Rye's past, such as a model showing the changing shoreline, a medieval herb garden and even prisoner cells.
Rye is known for its array of independent shops, from homeware and gifts to quaint antique shops with furnishings and décor. Make sure to have a browse, and who knows what gems you'll find here.
St. Mary's Church
This church is known for having the oldest functioning turret clock in the country, but that's only one reason to visit. Challenge yourself to climb the Tower where you'll see the clock mechanism, bells and be amazed by the spectacular view of the town and its surroundings.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
If you're a lover of nature, take a walk from the harbour to the nature reserve where so far over 280 bird species have been recorded in the conservation area. A network of paths takes you past freshwater gravel pits, lagoons, and salt marsh habitat. Go wildlife watching or enjoy the coastal flowers and the fresh sea air.
Touring and Accommodation
Rye is situated in the Rother district in East Sussex; combine a day tour of Rye with Great Dixter or Sissinghurst Castle. Brighton's vibrant seaside resort is about two hours away and can be paired perfectly with a trip to Rye. If you're planning on visiting Rye, make sure to pay a visit to both Pevensey Castle and Battle Abbey, these two towns are filled with history and make for a lovely time.
There are several accommodations close by, such as Eastwell Manor, a luxury spa hotel in Ashford. If you'd prefer to stay in Rye, we would recommend the Mermaid Inn, a hotel known for its history. Another option is South Lodge, a luxury hotel and spa near Horsham overlooking the South Downs National Park.
Beautiful Town on the South Coast
Old Pubs, Quaint Shops and Curious Merchandise
- Independent Shops
- Historic Church and Castle
- Preserved Streets
- Private Day Tour from London
- Large Choice of Restaurants
Famous Mermaid Street and Hotel
Cobbles Tea Rooms
Thatched Cottage, Sussex
Plenty of Interesting Shops
Oldest Pub in Rye (15th Century)
The Old Bull Pub
Mermaid Street Details
Main Street, Rye
Henry James's Home, Rye
Fish and Chips!
St Mary's View
Church Square, Rye
St Mary's Church, Rye
Half Timbered Old House
The Borough Arms Pub
Rye Antique Shops
Longman of Wilmington
Battle Abbey Medieval Gate
Battle Abbey - Old Door in the Gate
Battle Abbey Undercroft
Battle Abbey Prep School
Battle Abbey - The Monks Dorms
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