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When the sea left this town, its charm remained. Guaranteed to please, Rye is an ancient, port town lined with half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and curious little shops. One of the original Cinque Ports, Rye was once a fort almost totally surrounded by the sea. However, the silting of the harbour in the 16th century resulted in the sea receding two miles from the town. Nevertheless, the harbour has seen a rebirth and fishing is still an important industry here. Indeed, the Rye Herring has been dubbed one of the seven, culinary wonders of Sussex!

The town's charm is evident on the cobbled, Mermaid Street. The Mermaid Inn was founded in the 11th century but rebuilt in 1420. This was part of the extensive rebuilding of the town which occurred after yet another French attack which burnt the town to the ground in 1377. The Mermaid Inn, is the largest medieval building and it was here, that the notorious, Hawkhursts met and drank with their loaded pistols upon the table. On one occasion, they unloaded a hoard from three cutters which required the services of 500 pack horses. The Hawkhurst Gang seemed to be able to get away with murder. Or so they thought. In the belief that a gang member had turned informer to a Customs Officer, they plied the two with alcohol and then beat them half to death. They then proceeded to accidentally bury one alive. The other was stabbed, thrown down a 30ft well shortly followed by some large stones to polish him off. Once deemed as benefactors, public opinion turned against the gang and the ring leader was executed for the murder. So famous was Mermaid Inn, that a similarly, old house which fronts it is simply called, 'The House Opposite'.

Mermaid Street is quite steep and you might want to take a longer but more gentle way up through the high street. From here turn into West Street, where you'll see the former home of Henry James which was partially blasted in WWII but has now been converted into a museum. Head down down the road and you'll find yourself in Church Square with the 12th century St. Mary's Church boasting the oldest, church turret clock in the country. Just round the corner is the Rye Castle Museum housed in the 13th century, Ypres Tower. From here you'll see canons which once pointed out to sea but now look onto some peaceful countryside.

You'll find yourself wanting to linger in this quaint town with its fantastic tea rooms, cosy restaurants and antique shops. The more energetic will prefer a trip to the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve which is home to Camber Castle and a large, variety of fauna and flora.

  1. Attractions
  2. Accommodation
  3. Photos
  5. Transport

Rye : Sightseeing and Attractions

Camber Castle
Built by Henry VIII as part of a chain of defences to protect the south coast of England, Camber Castle protected the Rye anchorage. Construction began in 1539 and incorporated in its design a circular tower that had been built on the spit some 35 years earlier by Sir Edward Guldeford. .. more
Admission: £2.00 Adults £1.00 Children
Address: 1 mile walk across fields, off the A259, 1 mile S, Rye, East Sussex
Postcode: TN31 7RS Street Map
Contact: PH 0179 7223 862

St. Mary's Church
Although it's over 900 years old, most tourists visit this church to see the oldest, functioning church clock in the country. Dating to 1562, it also has an 18ft pendulum which you'll see keeping time as you enter the church... more
Admission: £2.00 Adults £1.00 Children
Address: Lion Street, Rye, East Sussex

Rye Festivals
Rye hosts a medieval weekend in July, the Rye Festival of Music and the Arts in September and a bonfire night in November.

This ancient monument was built in 1329 when Edward the Third supplied grants for fortifying the town. It is the only survivor of the four gates which were built at the time. .. more

Lamb House
An 18th century house which was home to Henry James from 1898 to 1916. He wrote many of his novels in a garden house which was unfortunately destroyed in a WWII air raid in 1940. .. more
Admission: £2.90 Adults £1.40 Children
Address: West Street, Rye, East Sussex
Postcode: TN31 7ES Street Map
Contact: PH 0137 2453 401

Martello Tower
Located near the carpark at Rye Harbour, this Martello Tower is one of the 25 survivors of the original 70 structures built in fear and protection against French invasion. .. more
Address: Rye Harbour, Rye, East Sussex

Rye Castle Museum and the Ypres Tower
This private museum is housed in two separate buildings. The Ypres Tower, is a medieval fortification which fortunately survived the the town's burning at the end of the 14th century by the French. Built as a fort in 1250, the building has been used a private residence, a prison and a mortuary prior. Today, displays include smuggling memorabilia, ironwork, medieval pottery and the unique Romney Marsh Sheep. At the other half of the museum on East street, you'll see the old fire engine, displays of Rye's famed pottery such as the Sussex Pig. You'll also find relics of Rye's days as a Cinque Port such as uniforms and ship models.
Admission: £2.50 Adults £0.80 Children
Address: 3 East Street, Rye, East Sussex
Postcode: TN31 73F Street Map
Contact: PH +44 0179 7226 728

Walks in the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
For a bit of fresh air, gentle walking and historic fortifications from the 16th, 19th and 20th century. You'll find a good network of footpaths which begin at Rye Town , Winchelsea Beach and Rye Harbour. There are 3 circular walks from Rye Harbour which take between one and three hours. The reserve is a protected home for fauna and flora and a good spot to do some birdwatching (Redshank, Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Oystercatcher). On your trip, you can also visit Camber Castle. Developed by Henry VIII as part of his extensive fortifications against the French, the castle now lies two miles inland providing a peaceful home for some specialised flowers. On the walls, you'll see Wall Pennywort, Wall Germander, Wall Pepper and Pellitory of the Wall. For more information on routes, pick up a leaflet from the Rye Tourist Information Centre.

Info CentreRye Tourist Information Centre
A good place to start your tour, take a trip to yesteryear and visit the penny slot exhibition. A precursor to arcade games, these machines were a popular feature at seaside resorts and piers across Britain. You'll see the Laughing Sailor, the English Executioner, the Haunted Churchyard and What the Butler Saw. Other features include a sound and light show which takes you on a brief history of the town illustrated by the town model. Alternatively, there's an audio-tour or a ghost tour. You can also book your accommodation, tours, Hoverspeed or Seafrance trips here.
Address: Heritage Centre, Strand Quay, Rye, East Sussex
Postcode: TN31 7AY Street Map
Contact: PH +44 0179 7226 696

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