A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: A 48-hour itinerary

A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: A 48-hour itinerary

A hilltop town with a picturesque jumble of cobbled streets and historic buildings, Rye in East Sussex is a British costume drama set come to life. It’s got the charm and beauty to match England’s most popular spots, but somehow it’s escaped a huge influx of visitors. So you’ll find unique shops, historic pubs and local restaurants instead of chain stores and tacky tourist attractions. Rye’s just an hour from London too, so would make a great weekend getaway from the capital. So here’s my 48-hour itinerary for the perfect weekend in Rye.

Read more: 10 Great British weekend break ideas

How to spend a weekend in Rye

Cadborough Farm Cottages in East Sussex

Cadborough Farm Cottages

Friday evening

Start your weekend in Rye by checking in to Cadborough Farm Cottages, a group of four self-catering cottages each sleeping two people in the countryside outside of town. The buildings date back to the 1800s, so each cottage’s layout is different – from the cosy old dairy to the luxurious, newly renovated Coach House with its open-plan living area and private garden. They all come with a kitchen, courtyard or garden, wifi and a TV/DVD player. Prices range from £95 for the cottages to £120 for the Coach House, with a three-day minimum stay.

Take the footpath across the fields for a 15-minute walk into Rye with great views along the way. Have dinner at The Standard Inn, a restored 15th-century pub in the centre of town that’s bursting with character, especially in winter when the fire’s roaring. Specialities on the menu include lamb from nearby Romney Marshes and Sussex beef and chorizo burgers.

Rye Castle, East Sussex

Rye Castle gardens – and a previous resident

Saturday morning

Spend the morning exploring Rye, starting with the Ypres Tower. The tower’s origins are a bit of a mystery, but it was probably part of the town’s 13th-century defensive walls. It’s been a house, prison and mortuary over the years since then, but it’s now the home of the Rye Castle Museum (open from 10am, £4 for adults, £3 for seniors or free for under 16s).

Inside are exhibits about the tower and town’s history. There’s also a recreated medieval herb garden and from the rooftop terrace you can look out over the old harbour. In the 16th century Rye was a major port, though it’s hard to imagine now as the sea’s over a mile away.

Next head to Chapel Down vineyard, eight miles north of Rye. It’s one of the best-known English wine producers and does good sparkling wines and rosés. They’ve also started making their own beers and ciders if you prefer. Chapel Down run guided tours from April to November (book ahead for weekend slots) or you can just try some of their wine in their tasting room. Have lunch in their Swan restaurant, which serves seasonal produce with great views over the vines.

Mermaid Street in Rye, East Sussex

Pretty Mermaid Street

Saturday afternoon

Back in Rye, spend the afternoon wandering around the town’s cobbled streets. Don’t miss Mermaid Street – voted one of the most picturesque streets in Britain. It’s overflowing with charming half-timbered buildings draped with leaves. Stop for a drink at The Mermaid, a 15th-century inn with sloping ceilings, creaking floorboards, secret passages and the odd ghost.

There are also lots of quirky antique and gift shops to check out around Rye. Try Glass Etc for vintage glassware and stained glass, Byzantium for jewellery and fossils, Rye Pottery for handmade ceramics, and the shops along the Strand for antiques and interiors.

Mermaid Street in Rye, East Sussex

Cobbled streets in Rye

Rye has a starring role in the book Mapp and Lucia, which made into a BBC TV series a few years ago. Author EF Benson rechristened the town Tilling for the book but used a lot of real-life locations from around Rye. If you’re a fan you can do a self-guided tour of locations from both the book and the two TV adaptions. Or there are private guided tours available by appointment.

Lamb House in Rye features in the series but was also the home of EF Benson in the 1920s. That’s not its only literary connection either as Henry James lived there too 30 years earlier. It’s now run by the National Trust and is open to visitors (summer only, £7.50 for adults or £3.75 for children). Then finish off your day with drinks and dinner at The George in Rye, a stylish gastropub with a grill restaurant that serves local meat and seafood from Rye Bay.

Antique shops on the Strand

Antique shops on the Strand

Sunday morning

Start the day with a coastal walk in Rye Harbour, guaranteed to blow away any cobwebs. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a couple of miles out of town, and is made up of 475 hectares of wetlands, salt marshes and coastline. It’s a conservation area that’s home to 4500 different species, including 91 types of bird and rare British wildlife like the water vole.

There are lots of footpaths through the reserve, with a two-mile short walking route or a five-and-a-half-mile longer one. The ruined Camber Castle is also part of the reserve, and if you’re visiting on the first Saturday of the month in July, August or September you can take a guided tour (£3 adults, £1.50 seniors, free for children up to 16 or English Heritage members).

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop for lunch at the William the Conqueror pub in Rye Harbour. It has lots of cool design touches like decorated oars along the edge of the bar and seaside memorabilia. They serve pub food with a Greek twist, with souvlaki and stifado alongside the gourmet burgers and Sunday roasts. They also have a good range of real ales.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve – photo credit VisitEngland/1066 Country

Sunday afternoon

From Rye it’s half an hour by car (or 50 minutes by train) to the town of Battle. This was the site of one of the most famous battles in English history when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in 1066. Yes confusingly the Battle of Hastings took place in Battle, not Hastings!

You can visit the battlefield and Battle Abbey, which was built by William as penance for killing so many people in the fighting (£12.30 for adults, £11.10 seniors, £7.40 for children or free for English Heritage members). Then finish your weekend in Rye with a walk around Battle and tea in Bluebell’s Café with traditional afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes.

The ruins of Battle Abbey, Sussex

The ruins of Battle Abbey

Have you visited Rye? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

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How to spend a weekend in Rye in East Sussex, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to the pretty historic coastal town #Rye #Sussex #EastSussex #VisitEngland #weekend #weekendbreakA guide to spending a weekend in Rye, East Sussex, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in this a 48-hour itinerary, including cobbled streets, castles, battlefields and more. #Rye #Sussex #EastSussex #VisitEngland #weekend #weekendbreak

Thanks to Cadborough Cottages for hosting me in Rye. All views and opinions are, as always, my own.

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  • Reply
    theRedPhoneBox (@redphoneboxblog)
    July 28, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    another gorgeous place!:)

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 11:55 am

      It’s a beauty isn’t it!

  • Reply
    July 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    So much history!! A great itinerary and fabulous photos.

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      We get so spoilt for history here in the UK it’s easy to take it for granted but 1066 is an extra special date – one we all learn at school!

  • Reply
    July 28, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Somewhere I’ve never considered before, but I could imagine stuffing my face with chorizo burgers and souvlaki while my wife studies all the history.

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Sounds like a good division of labour (on our trip I did a lot of photography while my husband did a lot of beer tasting in pubs!).

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    July 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Lovely to see my local towns through the eyes of a visitor – great post Lucy. I’m biased but the area makes the perfect weekend break!

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 11:57 am

      It certainly does. And it was lovely to see your part of the world – we’ll have to get you to Cheltenham next!

  • Reply
    Familclub Invitations
    July 28, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    So many Fond Memories of Rye – also Aylesford on the Medway for a Quaint weekend getaway Try the little gem Pub or Malta Inn then go on a River Cruise and a real hidden secret tour the Allington Castle

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Thanks for the tips – it’s not an area I knew at all before this trip but sounds like there’s a lot more to see.

  • Reply
    Browsing the Atlas
    July 28, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    What a beautifully, quaint town. Especially Mermaid Street. It’s exactly how I imagined a small town in England to look.

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Mermaid Street really could be the set for a film, it’s unbelievably scenic!

  • Reply
    July 30, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I love Rye. I’d recommend a trip to Dungeness, which is just down the road – incredibly beautiful and desolate place.

    • Reply
      July 31, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Sounds great – we only had a short time on this trip but will hopefully be back soon and will check it out.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Looks beautiful! Your weekend guides are great! It’s a long way to go to Rye just for a weekend from where I am, but it’d be a definite part of a week long itinerary to East Sussex.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Thanks so much – I do love a good weekend trip! I’ve got a Canterbury guide too and am heading down to White Cliffs Country this month so maybe you could do an East Sussex/Kent combo?

  • Reply
    February 25, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    So glad I found your blog! Planning a trip to rye next weekend and Amsterdam next month … not to mention marakesh is right up there so think I’ve stumbled across a great resource. Thanks!

    • Reply
      February 28, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      Thanks Dara that’s great to hear! Hope it comes in useful and hope you have fab trips to Rye and Amsterdam too.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Rye definitely is on top of the list of places i’d like to visit once. You wrote it beautifully. Wish it had never ended.;).
    Thanks a lot Lucy!!

    • Reply
      May 14, 2019 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks, it is such a charming place!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2019 at 2:19 am

    Had the best fish and chips of my life in Rye…way back in the ‘90s…And I believe we stayed in a b&b on Mermaid St. So magical…glad to see it hasn’t changed much!

    • Reply
      December 12, 2019 at 9:39 am

      No it’s definitely still kept its charm – glad to bring back some good memories!

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