Top things to do in Rye, East Sussex

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Only 75 miles away from the busy streets of London lies Rye – a hilltop town in East Sussex. This picturesque town has charm, history and is easily reachable from London. Whether you plan to spend a weekend in Rye or just a short day trip, it is is well worth exploring. There is so much to see and do, and we hope this article will help you discover the best things to do in Rye.

 

Is Rye in East Sussex worth visiting?

If Rye isn’t on your travel list, well, it should be. This beautiful little town that time forgot is one of the prettiest towns in southeast England. Rye remains frozen in time and feels like a slice of the Cotswolds on the coast. Therefore, it’s certainly worth a visit.

Rye, East Sussex: Rye in East Sussex is one of the most attractive and best-preserved walled medieval hill towns in England. One of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex is strolling along iconic Mermaid Street because it is considered to be one of the most picturesque streets in England.

What is Rye famous for?

Rye is famous for tales of smuggling, rich history, and its streets are a photographer’s paradise. It’s one of the most attractive and best-preserved walled medieval hill towns in England. The old town has medieval houses, quirky shops, art galleries and cosy cafes. They are perfect for a weekend break.

 

The best things to do in Rye, East Sussex

 

1. Landgate

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Seeing Landgate is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex because this archway is the only surviving gate from the medieval fortification in the town. The monument has a chamber between two towers with stairs inside.

You might not know it, but many years ago, Rye was an island, surrounded by water on all sides. Today it is hard to imagine it because this hilltop town is about two miles from the coast. But for centuries, Rye was a medieval seaside town with an important port.

In the past, Rye had four gates around the town, which provided protection against attacks. Only one from the original four gates remains visible today. It is an impressive Landgate. This stone archway was the only land connection to the mainland at the high tide. It is a part of the original town walls from the 14th century which intended to protect the town from the French.

Seeing Landgate is one of the best things to do in Rye because this archway is the only surviving gate from the medieval fortification in the town. The monument has a chamber between two towers with stairs inside. Even though you cannot go inside, you can see a plaque with a brief history.

 

2. Explore the streets of Rye

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Exploring the streets of the historic Rye town centre is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex because this charming town is one of the most complete medieval towns in England. It has a labyrinth of beautiful cobblestone streets with wonky timbered buildings. It is the perfect place for a peaceful escape.

Your next stop should be the historic Rye town centre. Wander streets of the historic centre and travel back in time. Rye in East Sussex is pretty enough to be a movie set. This charming town is one of the most complete medieval towns in England.

It has narrow lanes, half-timbered houses, even haunted inns. There are quirky shops, art galleries and independent traders – all these are making the perfect shopping experience. Rye is the perfect place for a peaceful escape – it has charming restaurants, coffee shops and rustic tea rooms. It is also famous for its pottery (you can find a few within the town).

Rye, England: Rye in England is a beautiful little town that time forgot. It is also one of the prettiest towns in southeast England. What's more, Rye remains frozen in time and feels like a slice of the Cotswolds on the coast.

It is easy to fall in love with Rye. This lovely little town has a labyrinth of beautiful cobblestone streets with wonky timbered buildings.

Do not miss Church Square – it has beautiful half-timbered buildings dating back to the 15th century. Also, Watchbell Street has gorgeous houses and is a photographers delight.

 

3. Mermaid Street, Rye

 things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Walking down Mermaid Street is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex because it is one of the most beautiful streets in England. The iconic Mermaid Street is a pride of Rye and possibly the most photographed street in England. It is also Instagrammers dream.

You will probably recognise bits of Rye even if you have never been before. It’s thanks to Mermaid Street, which you can see in all pictures of this town. Why is Mermaid street famous? The iconic Mermaid Street is a pride of Rye and possibly the most photographed street in England. This leafy street with half-timbered Tudor buildings lining either side ranks among the most picturesque streets in Britain. It’s Instagrammers dream, especially in May when the wisteria is in full bloom.

Mermaid Street: Mermaid Street is a top attraction in Rye in East Sussex. This leafy street with half-timbered Tudor buildings is one of the most picturesque streets in England. It’s Instagrammers dream, especially in May when the wisteria is in full bloom.

Walking down Mermaid Street is one of the best things to do in Rye because it is one of the most beautiful streets in England.

Mermaid Street is not only gorgeous, but this quaint, cobbled hill also has a fascinating past. Here you can find the famous Mermaid Inn – it has a rich and colourful history. It is one of the oldest buildings in the town and one of the famous inns in southeast England. It has smugglers roots, and some even say that Mermaid Inn has ghosts within its walls.

 

4. St Mary’s Church

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: There are two reasons why visiting St Mary's Church is one of the best things to do in Rye, East Sussex. It's because St Mary's Church has the oldest functioning church turret clock in the country still functioning. Also, it offers beautiful views from its tower.

There is more to Rye than iconic Mermaid Street, though. With that in mind, head towards St Mary’s Church. It is one of the most historic buildings in the town, dating back almost 900 years. St Mary’s is a Grade 1 listed building and certainly one of the attractions in Rye in East Sussex. You can find it at the heart of the town on top of the hill.

There are two reasons why visiting St Mary’s Church is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex. It’s because St Mary’s Church has the oldest functioning church turret clock in the country still functioning. Also, it offers beautiful views from its tower.

Climb the bell tower at St Mary’s Church to see the clock mechanism, the bells and gorgeous views of the town and the surrounding countryside. On a clear day, you can see as far as France.

GOOD TO KNOW:

St Mary’s Church is open daily, and there is a small charge (£4) to climb the tower. The staircase is narrow in places and the wooden steps at the top are steep.

Do not miss the Rye Water House. It is an ancient cistern, which lies in the churchyard.

 

5. Ypres Tower (Rye Castle Museum)

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Visiting Ypres Tower is one of the best things to do in Rye, East Sussex because King Henry III ordered its construction as a protection against French invaders. Today this grade I listed building is a part of Rye Castle Museum, where you can learn more about the history of this medieval town.

The history does not end there, however. Merely a stone’s throw away from the church is Ypres Tower. King Henry III ordered its construction as a protection against French invaders.

Back then, Rye was the medieval seaside town and one of the most important harbours in the country. During medieval times, Ypres Tower directly overlooked the harbour. Today, it sits about two miles away from the coast.

Ypres Tower: Ypres Tower is today a Grade I listed building and one of two sites of the Castle Museum. Look at relics of the past and see exhibits such as local pottery, medieval artefacts and a model showing how the shoreline has changed. Do not miss the prisoner cells and a rare smuggler’s signalling lamp near the Castle Museum.

Ypres Tower even became a prison in the past. Today it is a grade I listed building and one of the best attractions in the town.

Visiting Ypres Tower is one of the best things to do in Rye if you would like to learn more about the history of this town. Explore Ypres Tower – it is one of two sites of Rye Castle Museum. Look at relics of the past and see exhibits such as local pottery, medieval artefacts and a model showing how the shoreline has changed. Climb the tower for the views of the town and the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Also, do not miss the prisoner cells and a rare smuggler’s signalling lamp near the Castle Museum.

Afterwards, visit East Street Sites, which is the main exhibit area of the museum and learn even more about the history of the town. Cannons and balls in front of the tower remind us of the tower’s role in the past.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Both Ypres Tower and Rye Castle Museum are kids friendly and make learning history fun at any age. The museum opens 7 days a week throughout the year. An entry ticket to Ypres Tower costs £4.00 (adult).

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6. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

things to do in Rye: Exploring Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex because it is one of the most important wildlife conservation sites in Britain. Therefore, visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a popular attraction for wildlife enthusiasts. Part of the attraction to this coastal nature reserve is its low-key vibe and miles of paths.

Go bird watching at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Just south of the town, you will find Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. It is one of the most important wildlife conservation sites in Britain. Part of the attraction to this coastal nature reserve is its low-key vibe and miles of paths.

Take a leisurely walk through the network of paths. They will take you to wetlands and salt marshes. Here you can see thousands of plants and animals, including rare ones. Do not miss the information boards about salt marshes. They will help you to understand more about the area.

Exploring Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of the top best things to do in Rye for wildlife enthusiasts. It’s because this coastal nature reserve with birdwatching hides is home to many wildlife species. Hence, do not forget to pack binoculars and a camera with a good zoom. If lucky, you might even spot a seal in this natural wonderland.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is free to visit. Drive or take the number 312 bus from the train station in Rye. There is a free car park and a visitor’s centre where you can learn more about the reserve.

 

7. Camber Castle

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Visiting Camber Castle is one of the best things to do in Rye because this castle is a rare example of its kind. This symmetrical stone building, which is now in ruin, is an example of a unique fortress that guarded the port of Rye. Henry VIII’s Camber Castle protected the south coast against invasions from French invaders. Today Camber Castle, with the flower-like shape of the curtain wall, is a Grade I listed building.

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After exploring Rye Nature Reserve visit Camber Castle (also known as Winchelsea Castle). This symmetrical stone building, which is now in ruin, is an example of a unique fortress. Henry VIII’s Camber Castle protected the south coast against invasions from French invaders. An artillery fort, which guarded the port of Rye, was once overlooking the shallow sea. Today Camber Castle, with the flower-like shape of the curtain wall, is a Grade I listed building.

Visiting Camber Castle is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex because this castle is a rare example of its kind.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Camber Castle lies between Rye and Winchelsea in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. There is no access by car, only by foot through the nature reserve. Hence, pack comfy shoes.

Camber Castle is open to the public on the first Saturday of August, September and October for guided tours. There is a small admission charge for entry for adults.

 

8. Camber Sands beach

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: A trip to Rye in East Sussex would not be complete without visiting Camber Sands beach. This gorgeous wide sandy beach is home to the only dune system in East Sussex, and it is also one of the best beaches in England. Therefore, visiting Camber Sands beach is one of the best things to do in Rye.

A trip to Rye in East Sussex would not be complete without visiting Camber Sands. What is Camber Sands famous for? Well, this gorgeous wide sandy beach is home to the only dune system in East Sussex. Golden Camber Sands with giant sand dunes is one of the best beaches in England. Therefore, visiting Camber Sands is one of the best things to do in Rye.

Camber Sands is not famous only for unspoilt views and swimming in the sea. It is popular between horse riders, dog walkers and is perfect for picnics, too. Camber Sands bordering Rye Harbour Nature Reserve lies only a couple of miles from the town.

Camber Sands beach: Visiting Camber Sands beach is one of the top things to do in Rye because it is one of the best beaches in England. Camber Sands beach is famous for unspoilt views and swimming in the sea. It is popular between horse riders, dog walkers and is perfect for picnics, too. Besides, Camber Sands is home to the only dune system in East Sussex.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Hop on a bus (line 102) – there is a regular bus service from Rye to Camber Sands. Alternatively, walk, or cycle along National Cycle Network Route 2 from Rye to Camber Sands. Also, there is a trail near the train station in Rye, passing alongside Camber Road.

 

9. Rye Heritage Centre

Another unique experience is Rye Heritage Centre, operated by an independent charity. Rye Heritage Centre is not large, and you will not spend more than 30 minutes there. Top attractions here are the town model of Victorian Rye and a sound and light show which gives you a brief history of the town. Also, the centre has a collection of Old Pier arcade games.

Watching the sound and light show in Rye Heritage Centre is one of the popular things to do in Rye if you are interested in history. The sound and light show helps to understand 700 years of Rye’s history and geography. It is a fun way to learn more about the town before heading into the town itself.

 

10. Bodiam Castle

things to do in Rye, East Sussex: Visiting Bodiam Castle with a carp-field moat and lovely gardens is one of the best things to do in Rye, East Sussex. It is because Bodiam Castle is one of the most impressive moated castles in England, and its grounds are perfect for a picnic. Plus, Bodiam Castle is only a short drive away from Rye.

If there is one place you cannot miss after exploring Rye, it’s the beautiful Bodiam Castle. When visiting this gorgeous castle, you notice that Bodiam Castle lies only a short drive from Rye. Bodiam Castle is rather small but easy to walk around.

Bodiam Castle unique is one of the most impressive moated castles in England. It is also one of the most picturesque castles in England. Yes, that is right, visiting Bodiam Castle with a carp-field moat and lovely gardens is one of the best things to do in Rye in East Sussex. It might be in ruins, but this National Trust property offers you a glimpse into medieval life. Also, Bodiam Castle has splendid grounds -they are perfect for a picnic during the summer months.

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11. Lamb House

Another worthwhile place to visit is Lamb House. It is a National Trust property and a popular tourist attraction in the town. This lovely Georgian house was originally the home of a local wine merchant and politician. But that is not the reason why visiting Lamb House is one of the popular things to do in Rye in East Sussex. It is because Lamb House has important connections to the literary world. It was once home to writers Henry James and E. F. Benson. Even King George I stayed here almost three hundred years ago when a storm drove his ship ashore at Camber.

Lamb House is also famous for its private walled garden – it is one of the largest in the town. Lamb House is open daily from Friday to Tuesday, and the entry ticket for an adult is 8.00.

 

Have you visited Rye in East Sussex? What was your favourite thing to do there? If you have any tips and what to do or see, let us know in the comments below.

A secret is OUT! Visit Rye in East Sussex and discover the best things to see and do in this beautiful medieval town. Gorgeous places to visit in Rye in England.

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