With an abundance of stunning Tudor buildings, quirky independent shops, cobbled streets and hidden treasures, the medieval town of Rye is a must-visit this summer.
This ancient, medieval citadel town in East Sussex sits on a hill along the coast between Hastings and Folkestone. Rye’s beaches, hiking tracks and incredible views are stunning and highly Instagram-able. Its streets are laden with eclectic shops, galleries, several delicious bakeries, a delicatessen, many a quaint pub and restaurants to choose from offering locally sourced produce. Rye even has its own fishing fleet!
After spending my whole life local to this town, and having worked here for a year too, I’ve done some thinking and come up with what I believe to be the top 5 things to do in Rye this summer.
1. Adventure up the bell tower at St Mary's Church or visit the Ypres castle!
If you’re looking to get to know Rye, being at the very top is a great place to start! Head into the church to grab a ticket, and then begin the ascent up the stairs to the top. (It can get windy, so be sure to wrap up) The view from the top is breathtaking and a spectacular place to start your journey and prepare you for the exciting day ahead. The way up can get narrow at times, so keep that in mind!
St Mary’s Church has stood proud in the oldest part of Rye for over 900 years. Over its vast timeline, this church has survived through lootings from French invaders, devastating arson and even having its precious bells stolen. There’s lots of information inside the church to explain its fascinating history in-depth and all the incredible things that have happened there.
If you can’t get enough of the historical architecture Rye has to offer, you need to visit the Ypres Tower... plus, it’s just a few steps away from the church! King Henry the III ordered the construction of this castle in 1249 as added protection against a French invasion. It served as a defensive outpost for many years before being heavily damaged in 1377 following a raid from French forces. Long after the raid, once it was in the hands of the state, it was utilized as a prison and courthouse, which is what you can expect to see evidence of when you visit. Check the website here for info on admission fees.
(Please note that like most places built long ago, the castle and church bell tower may have uneven floors, low doorways, uneven steps and no lift, which makes it a difficult attraction for visitors with accessibility needs.)
2. Grab a famous Knoops chocolate milkshake!
Knoops is the perfect place to refuel after your dive into history, especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth! You’ll be spoilt for choice choosing between their extensive range of different chocolate percentages and special add-on flavours! If milkshakes aren't your thing (even in summer), then why not opt for one of their classic hot chocolates? They even have a range of soft drinks and sweet treats to choose from.
3. Indulge in some retail therapy!
If vintage is your vibe, head down to The Strand. Not only are there some great restaurants and pubs but there’s a great collection of eclectic stores full of hidden treasures. Drop into Tallulah & Rose Vintage for all your unique clothing needs or maybe into Halcyon Days for some revamped furnishing.
If you prefer the mix of a charity shop, head down to the high street. Here, you’ll also find some shops such as Byzantium which offer the perfect range of unusual gifts and trinkets from around the world. There’s also an old-fashioned sweet shop nestled on the high street filled with all the classics, so be sure to bring your pennies!
4. Hire an e-bike and cycle down to the Nature Reserve!
If you fancy getting amongst the wildlife, there’s no better place than Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. What’s more, you can hire a bike from Rye Bay E-bikes to get you there! The journey down to the harbour, whether by bike, foot or car is easy, so grab your binoculars and get ready to spot some thriving wildlife in this wonderful patchwork of coastal habitats.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of the largest and most important wildlife sites in England. It’s set in an incredible coastal and wetland landscape and home to more than 4,355 species of plants and animals, including 300 that are rare or endangered. It has also recently opened its Discovery Centre, complete with a cafe that looks across the stunning views, which is the perfect place for tea and cake after your scenic adventure along the waterfront.
5. Grab some lunch at The Fig!
After all that cycling, castle climbing, chocolate consumption and shop browsing, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Head along the high street for a bite to eat at The Fig, and you’ll be sure to be leaving with a happy stomach! Whether you drop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s always a range of delicious dishes- including tasty vegan options too. I highly recommend the pulled pork tacos or something to share with the whole table… there's no doubt you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Simply put, there are so many things to get up to in Rye this summer… and this list is just a few of them! Being at the seaside is always a wonderful place to be, regardless of where you come from, and Rye offers a balanced dose of history, action and relaxation. So, if you're looking for a new place to explore- consider our wonderful town. You won't regret it!
Written by Elise Garner