A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
Explore the charms of Rye, including the quaint, cobbled Mermaid Street [Photo: @visit1066]

Cobbled streets, a medieval castle, superb seafood and a beach just down the road… it’s easy to see the attraction of Rye.

This pretty town, near the coast in East Sussex, is packed with quintessentially English charms. You only need to stroll up the gently sloping Mermaid Street – one of Britain’s most photographed roads – to see why. Or admire the views of Romney Marsh from St Mary’s Church.

Walking through the town is like stepping back in history – you’ll find a jumble of fine Georgian houses rubbing shoulders with medieval buildings, traditional pubs and independent shops. And if you want to embrace nature, it’s right on your doorstep.

Here’s our guide to where to stay and eat, plus what to do, in Rye.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

Snug and richly furnished, Jeake’s House is a 17th-century small hotel in the centre of town. The building has previously been a wool store, school and a chapel, and its famous former guests include the Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry and writer T.S. Eliot. Inside you’ll find beamed ceilings, antique furniture and pretty printed bedding. Bed and breakfast for a double room costs from £45pp, based on two sharing.

Book the hotel here

The beautiful bar and library at Jeakes House Hotel [Photo: Jeakes House Hotel]

If you’re looking for luxury

For a beach vibe with added pampering, head to The Gallivant, which is just down the road in Camber. Located just across from the dunes, this boutique hotel has bright, modern rooms with private decks. There’s also a spa offering a range of treatments, as well as free yoga classes for guests. B&B doubles from £73pp, based on two sharing.

Book the hotel here

A garden bedroom at the The Gallivant [Photo: The Gallivant]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

On the main high street, Whitehouse is a contemporary cafe and bakery that serves great breakfast and lunches and excellent coffee (from £2). Pick up a fresh pastry or go all-out with the light and fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes (£9.50).

The fresh pastries at the Whitehouse [Photo: Whitehouse]

If you’re looking for luxury

Head to Webbe's at the Fish Café to sample seafood caught by local trawlers. Menu highlights include surf and turf (£28) and steamed Rye Bay plaice (£15). The Globe Inn Marsh is a pretty clapperboard pub serving great food, like Sussex steak and triple cooked chips (£22.50) and pork with watermelon (£15.50).

Webbe's at the Fish Café [Photo: Webbes Restaurants]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

Immerse yourself in nature for free. Start with a trip to Rye Beach or Camber to feel the sand between your toes and maybe go for a refreshing dip in the sea. Then head to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (free entry) for some bird watching. Look out for oystercatchers, lapwings and other nesting birds from the five wooden hides, or simply stroll through the landscape of shingle and saltmarsh, which teems with wildlife.

Rye Bay Nature Reserve [Photo: Tousism SE]

If you’re looking for luxury

Step inside the National Trust-owned Lamb House (£7.50 for adults; £3.75 for children). Once the home of Henry James, who wrote The Ambassadors here, it was later it was owned by EF Benson, who based the Mapp and Lucia stories in Rye.

Or try Rye Castle – also known as Ypres Tower – which is now a small museum. Find out more about the once thriving contraband trade and learn about the history of crime and punishment in Rye (£4 for adults; under-16s go free).

The front of Lamb House in East Sussex [Photo: National Trust Images/ Andrew Butler]

How to get there

With a railway station right in the heart of the town, it’s easy to reach Rye by rail. Trains run from Rye to Ashford International (21 minutes), which has high-speed trains to London (38 minutes), then beyond.

You can catch the number 312 bus from the town centre to the nature reserve at Rye Harbour. Driving is easiest if you want to explore the nearby beaches of Camber and Rye Bay, or Romney Marsh.

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Prices were correct at time of publishing.

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