Newest Review: ... and poet Conrad Aiken) a lovely looking bed and breakfast, is about half way up, and just past that is 'The House with Two Front Doors'... more
Rye - A lovely place to spend the weekend
Member Name: AlmshoeRachy
Advantages: Historical town full of lovely shops
Disadvantages: Not easy for the elderly or disabled to get around
Rye is a small medieval town in East Sussex., with a population of about 5,000. It is one of the original Cinque Ports, a series of towns along the Kent and Sussex coast formed for military and trade purposes, although Rye itself is 2 miles from the sea. Smuggling has played a huge part of Rye's history. The Mermaid Inn and The Olde Bell Inn were apparently connected by a secret underground passageway from the cellars, and the Ship Inn was built in 1592 as a warehouse to store contraband seized from smugglers.
My husband and I recently visited for a weekend, staying at the historic Mermaid Inn. We drove down from London on the Friday night - a fairly easy drive once we had got under the Blackwall Tunnel - arriving in Rye just after 6pm.
Upon arriving in Rye, we followed Tom Toms directions to the hotel with not really a clue where we were going. We finally got to the hotel and found that the car park was full (we knew parking was on a first come first served basis) but luckily found a parking space just at the bottom of the hill with no parking restrictions over the weekend. Mermaid Street is a beautiful narrow cobbled street. It is very difficult to walk on, and I am glad I didn't have to do it in heels! There is a narrow path on one side to walk on, but often it is busy so you end up on the cobbles avoiding people anyway. The buildings on either side are wonderfully old and all interesting to look at. Jeakes House (the former home of the American novelist and poet Conrad Aiken) a lovely looking bed and breakfast, is about half way up, and just past that is 'The House with Two Front Doors'! Unfortunately I didn't manage to see anyone going in or out to see which door they used!
The Mermaid Inn is a real gem. With beams everywhere and roaring fires in the main bar, plus two guest lounges it was incredibly warm and welcoming. A porter took us to our room where we unpacked and had a good look around. The room itself was fairly small, but the en suite bathroom was spacious.
We decided to go out and find something to eat and then have an early night. We walked down the hill and found a choice of four eating places serving dinner within metres of the hotel. These included Baileys restaurant which seemed to be more hip and happening with a younger crowd hanging around outside, The Ship Inn, Careys Sea Food & Steak Bar and Simply Italian.
We chose to go to the Ship Inn for a drink and to check out the menu. The pub is spacious with a main bar area, and then a separate room with a fire in. There was a good choice of beer and wine, and local cider and perry which OH was thrilled about and got stuck into! Having looked at the menu, we decided to stay there for something to eat. The food was delicious! I had a Smoked Haddock Dipping Pot with Soldiers to start off with, and the OH had a large bowl of Steamed Mussels. I then had a huge Fish Pie, and OH had Scallops with Black Pudding and Bubble & Squeak. Even though mine was delicious, I must admit I had food envy! The food was well priced and dinner and (several) drinks costs us about £60.
The following day we had a lovely breakfast and then went for a wander around the town. It is only small (Tom Tom had made it deceptively large the night before - I think we must have done a couple of loops!). We walked from the hotel up to the Ypres Tower, built in 1429 with the permission of Henry III to defend against the frequent raids made by the French. You can go in to the Tower, but it wasn't open whilst we were there so we wandered round outside. There are canons in the garden outside pointing out to sea, and there is a picnic are for the summer (or just warmer) months. We then headed to the large parish church of St Marys and from there in to the main shopping streets. Much of Rye is set on a hill, with single lane roads for the cars. There was a variety of shops. Our favourite was Forget-Me-Not on Church Square which had some lovely gifts - I think it would be a great place to go Christmas shopping. We stopped mid morning for tea and cake in Fletchers Tea House for a cup of tea and cake (there are several tea rooms to choose from - it was a cold day and went for the one we found with a roaring fire) and then went for a late lunch in Carey's Sea Food & Steak Bar - this was OK, but not a patch on The Ship Inn the night before.
The choice for food a drinks is great - I think one of the bar staff in the ship said for a town with a population of around 5000 there is over 20 drinking and eating establishments. Later that evening we ended up back at The Ship Inn, where I was able to get over my food envy by having the dish my OH had the night before whilst he went for a pork belly dish.
All in all we had the most amazing stay. The weather wasn't great, so the walking had intended to do went out the window and was replaced by relaxed pottering, and eating and drinking far too much! For us it was a great way to escape from London for the weekend without having to travel for too long. There are many things to do, but as with all places these are limited or reduced out of season. We had planned on climbing the tower of St Marys Church to see the spectacular views, but decided we will do this when we return and the weather is better ( we will definitely be going back). It is a peaceful and relaxed place and all the locals we spoke to were friendly and keen to share their local knowledge.
Rye seems to be fairly easy to get to from many locations, and the train station is very local. Trains from London have a change at Ashford International. Things to look out for include the Rye Scallop Festival (February time) which unfortunately started the week after we left, were all the pubs offering a variety of scallop dishes and the Rye Arts Festival from 10th to 25th September 2012. Activities you can partake in include kite surfing, and other water sports, cycling (central bike hire place) and walking tours.
Summary - a lovely little town to go and spend a few days, lazy ones or active ones.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to ask if you have any questions. Rachel
Summary: Great place to spend the weekend doing lots, or doing nothing!