tours in rye uk

Rye Guided Walks  

Rye, east sussex.

tours in rye uk

Rye Guided Walks

Walking tours of this historic & picturesque cinque port, the "antient town" of rye is one of england's prettiest and most historic towns with the best preserved medieval town centre in britain; what better way to discover it than on a walking tour led by an expert guide rye guided walks offer a two-hour walking tour around the heart of our quaint, quirky and picturesque little town, revealing the town's amazing hidden history and telling true tales of the smugglers, kings and queens, grisly murderers, witches, poets, writers and artists, monks, ghosts and pirates who have all contributed to make rye the unique and historic place it is today. when available: tours may include - by special permission of the town council - entry into rye's grade ii* listed, 18th century town hall, and its secret attic museum containing the infamous gibbet cage, skull and pillory, which are not usually accessible to the public a unique opportunity to view these normally-private relics of rye's turbulent past  nb - the gibbet cage & skull are currently on loan elsewhere - returning dec 2024.

tours in rye uk


Guided historical walks with the town crier: april & may 2024 (for ghost walks see further down), sun 7th april 11am, thurs 11th april 11am, sun 14th april 11am, thurs 18th april 11am, sat 20th april 3pm, tues 23rd april 11am, sun 28th april 11am, sun 5th may 11am, thurs 9th may 11am, sat 11th may 11am, thurs 16th may 11am, sun 19th may 11am, thurs 23rd may 11am, thurs 30th may 11am, starting outside rye heritage centre on strand quay (tn31 7ay), join rye's town crier on a 2 1/2-hour guided walk and learn the strange, fascinating and occasionally grim story of england's best-preserved medieval town and ancient cinque port., £15 per person , meet outside rye heritage centre  before the advertised start time. tickets available from rye heritage centre (01797 226696) or online at:,, ghost walks with the town crier: april - june 2024, sat 13th april 7pm, sat 27th apr 7pm, sat 4th may 7pm, sat 18th may 7pm, sat 1st june 7:30pm, sat 15th june 7pm, sat 29th june 7pm, starting outside rye town hall, market street (tn3 7la), let rye's town crier lead you on a spooky walk through one of england's most haunted towns and hear chilling tales of ghosts, spectres, dark deeds and witchcraft..., £15 per person, tickets from:,, private group tours available outside these times by arrangement (01797 223902) or email [email protected].

tours in rye uk

Where the walks start:

tours in rye uk

Top Tours in Rye, England

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tours in rye uk

1. e-Scavenger hunt Ypres: Explore the city at your own pace

tours in rye uk

2. Full Day Wine Tour in Sussex and Kent

tours in rye uk

3. Rye: Gem of East Sussex

tours in rye uk

4. Dover private Shore Excursion

tours in rye uk

5. Brighton Tour App, Hidden Gems Game and Big Britain Quiz (1 Day Pass) UK

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

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Official Canterbury Guided Walking Tour - 11.00 Tour

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Air Rifle Shooting - One Hour

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Official Canterbury Guided Walking Tour - 14.00 Tour

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Tour & Tasting Experience

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Isle of Wight - Day Tour from Brighton

  • e-Scavenger hunt Ypres: Explore the city at your own pace
  • Full Day Wine Tour in Sussex and Kent
  • Dover private Shore Excursion
  • Rye: Gem of East Sussex
  • Brighton Tour App, Hidden Gems Game and Big Britain Quiz (1 Day Pass) UK
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Rossi Writes

10 Best Things to Do in Rye – England’s Medieval Citadel

By Author Rossi Thomson

Posted on Last updated: 4th September 2022

Categories Days Out in England , East Sussex

Here are the ten best things to do in Rye in England.

Rye is a pretty as a picture town in the english county of east sussex..

It’s built on top of a small hill at the meeting spot of three rivers and nowadays, it stands about two miles inland from the English Channel. In the distant past, Rye was an island. During the Middle Ages, the town became an important seaport and a constant point of contention between the English and the French. Surrounded by strong defensive walls, Rye was a powerful citadel that, throughout the centuries that followed, attracted seafarers, shipbuilders, smugglers, and even famous writers.

The old churchyard cemetery with a seagull - Rye, England -

Today, the town is a dream of crisscrossed cobbled lanes and picturesque houses in different architectural styles. From half-timbered facades in black and white to proud Georgian and Victorian buildings, Rye is a great place to visit in order to immerse yourself in the history and the beauty of England.

Easy to reach by train or car from the capital London and from anywhere in the counties of East Sussex, Kent , and West Sussex, Rye is the perfect English day trip or weekend break. Expect historic sights, unique natural landscapes, and plenty of quirky shops and eateries. And while the town is no longer an island due to the silting of the river estuary, in its immediate vicinity you will find some of England’s prettiest beaches. Great for topping up your Vitamin D reserves in summer and for windswept walks in any season.

Cambers Sands - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, England -

Rye was one of the first day trips we took when we moved back to England after spending six years in Italy . The town charmed us with its pretty hilltop centre, deep layers of history, and the perfect ratio of quirkiness to modern amenities. There is lots to do and see here, yet you can take it very easy. Simply walking up and down the cobbled streets and taking in the beauty of the many centuries-old facades is the best part of sightseeing here.

You can stop for a meal in a pub that existed back in the Middle Ages, scale the narrow steps of the parish church’s bell tower for breathtaking views, explore a Tudor fort, and go for a walk in the nearby nature reserve right on the shore of the English Channel. Or you can shop in the local boutiques stocking whimsical items that make imaginative gifts for friends and family or simply to yourself.

It is so easy to fall in love with Rye. It is one of England’s still hidden gems. While its historic Mermaid Street has lately become an Instagram favourite on account of the ivy-clad Mermaid Inn with its iconic sign, the town is very much underrated and yet it has so much to offer to the curious traveller.

The facade of Mermaid Inn - Mermaid Street - Rye, England -

So, in this blog post, I want to share with you the ten best things to do in Rye in England. In any season and weather, this small town in East Sussex is an exciting destination. No matter what your interests may be – history, photography, shopping, food or nature – Rye delivers on all accounts.

In addition, at the end of this blog post, I have also included a section with lots of practical travel tips. From how to reach Rye to where to park and how to navigate this ancient town, all sorts of useful details are covered. This way you can easily and quickly plan your day trip, weekend break or longer stay in Rye, England.

Have a look!

10 best things to do in rye – england’s medieval citadel.

10 Things to Do in Rye, England -

1. Explore the Ancient Town Citadel of Rye, England

The town of Rye seen from the belltower of its parish church - Rye, England -

Rye is a very interesting English town from many different points of view. When I first saw it, the thing that made the biggest impression on me was that Rye is built on a small hill that, centuries ago, used to be an island. As you drive into town, you see the houses going uphill and the ancient part of Rye seems to have a somehow oval shape giving you an idea of what the town must have looked like in the Middle Ages.

Medieval Rye was a heavily fortified citadel with a defensive wall around its perimeter. While only remnants of the wall survive to this day, Rye’s old town is still known as the Ancient Town Citadel.

Rye’s old town is a very picturesque place. Here, cobbled lanes crisscross the hill and are lined up with centuries-old houses. Every corner here hides a different surprise and every step reveals yet another small detail to intrigue you or a dramatic view to take your breath away.

Going for a walk through Rye’s old town is a must even if you have only a limited amount of time to spend here. In any way, most of Rye’s major sights are within the confines of the Ancient Town Citadel. Yet, don’t simply rush from one sight to the next. Here, simply walking the streets and taking in the beauty of the historic facades is already an experience in itself.

The best way to see for yourself how the geography and the urban plan of Rye have changed throughout the centuries is to visit Rye Heritage Centre . The star attraction in this small yet must-see place is a model of the town. A special light and sound show illustrates the evolution of Rye over the millennia.

2. Walk Up Mermaid Street in Rye, England

The ivy-clad half-timbre facade of the historic Mermaid Inn - Mermaid Street - Rye, England -

Mermaid Street is the most famous and iconic street in Rye, England. Photos of its cobbled lane and its ivy-clad half-timber houses circulate on social media drawing gasps of admiration. It’s not in vain that Mermaid Street has been named one of the most instagrammable places in the whole of Britain!

You will find Mermaid Street right in the heart of Rye’s old town. It starts from the Strand (where there is a convenient car park) and it scales the elevation of the hill on which Rye stands. It stretches almost all the way up to the town’s parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

Walking on the cobbles here is akin to visiting an open-air museum. On both sides of Mermaid Street, there are houses that date as far back as the start of the 15th century. Had it not been for the French who raised Rye to the ground in 1377, the houses here would have been from the 11th century.

Such is, for example, the case of the famous Mermaid Inn on Rye’s Mermaid Street. Originally built in the 11th century, it was then burnt in 1377 with only its cellar surviving the attack of the French. The inn was rebuilt in 1420 and it is still going strong to this day. Its sign with a mermaid with a twisty tail features in all iconic photos of Rye.

Yet, there are many more beautiful and wonderful buildings along Mermaid Street in Rye. My favourite one had a stunning black and white half-timbre facade and in a former life had been a hospital.

3. Visit the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Rye, England (and Enjoy the Views from Its Bell Tower)

The main entrance of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin with the Fletchers' House on the right - Rye, England -

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin is Rye’s main Christian sanctuary. It stands on top of the small hill of Rye’s old town. If in the world all roads lead to Rome, in Rye all roads seem to lead to St. Mary’s Church.

The church was built in the 12th century. Its oldest part is the chancel. It was completed around 1120. At the time, Rye was under the rule of the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy, France. In 1247, Henry III reclaimed Rye for the British crown. When the French attacked the town in 1377, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin was badly damaged. Yet it was one of a handful of buildings that survived the almost complete destruction of the town.

Since then, the church has had a central role in the history of Rye. After the Second World War, it underwent significant restoration and reinforcement. Nowadays, its large stone body feels spacious and light inside. This feeling is elevated by the church’s large windows with stunning stained glass compositions.

Stand in the middle – the so-called Crossing – of the church and you will hear a constant tick-tock, tick-tock. Lift your gaze and you will see an 18 feet long pendulum moving tirelessly from side to side. While the pendulum dates back to 1810, it is part of a clock from 1561/1562. It is one of the oldest church tower clocks still in use in England. Some even say that it’s the oldest! You can see the clock’s mechanism up close if you decide to climb to the top of the church’s bell tower (currently, £4 per adult).

For this, you will need to navigate about 80 steps and a couple of very narrow passages. It’s very exciting! Once you reach the top of the bell tower, you can enjoy gorgeous 360-degree views of Rye’s rooftops. Beyond them, you can see lush green hills, the rivers Rother, Tillingham, and Brede, and even the English Channel. Standing up there and taking in the panoramas was my most favourite experience in Rye.

If you have a special interest in religious buildings, then make sure that you also visit the Catholic church in Rye. It’s dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. I spent six years living in Italy in a city very close to Padua . I used to go to Padua all the time to explore its sights and spend time in its lovely coffee shops. Padua’s Basilica of St. Anthony was one of my favourite destinations in the city. So, coming across the name of the Paduan Saint in Rye was a great surprise. Somehow, I felt that our visit to this beautiful English town was a great link to our former Italian lives.

4. Marvel at the Ancient Water Cistern in Rye, England

The water cistern of Rye's Ancient Water Supply - Churchyard of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin - Rye, England -

Rye is full of whimsical details. Everywhere you look, there is something surprising waiting for you to discover the history and the traditions behind it.

One such sight in this small English town is its Ancient Water Cistern. It stands right next to Rye’s Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The cistern is built of bricks and has an oval base that protrudes from the ground. It is then topped by a short oval tower with a door in it. Below ground, there is a large water tank.

There was a water cistern in the churchyard as far back as 1548. The one we see there nowadays was built in the first half of the 18th century.

The local annals testify that in 1733, the Mayor of Rye asked permission to place a water cistern for public use in the corner of the churchyard. The Bishop swiftly agreed with the proposal. By 1735 the structure was completed. In April of the same year, a committee was appointed to enquire the households of Rye if they wished water to be supplied to their houses.

A prime example of Georgian brickwork, Rye’s water cistern was a great technological advance for its time. At its heyday, it stored over 90,000 litres of water at a maximum depth of 2,4 m. Nowadays, it is a Grade II listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

5. See Rye Castle Museum and Ypres Tower in Rye, England

Ypres Tower - Rye Castle Museum - Rye, England -

Rye Castle Museum tells the story of Rye from pre-Roman times through Norman and medieval events to our days. The museum has two locations:

  • RCM Ypres Tower – this is a sturdy 13th/14th century castle just a step away from Rye’s parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Over the centuries, the castle was used as a fortress, prison, courthouse, mortuary, and private residence. Nowadays, it has a replica of a medieval herb garden and an interesting collection of artefacts. Its rooftop terrace opens panoramic views over Rye’s old town and the estuary of the River Rother.
  • RCM East Street – this is an old building that stands just up the road from Landgate (see point 7 below). A visit here is a must if you want to learn about Rye’s history from shipbuilding to smuggling.

6. Get to Know the Story of Lamb House in Rye, England

Lamb House - Rye, England -

Lamb House is a red-brick Georgian building that stands in the very heart of Rye’s old town. Just around the corner from the top end of Mermaid Street and a stone’s throw away from the parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the house commands the gaze with its solid symmetrical facade.

Built in 1722 by the prominent local politician James Lamb, the house has hosted King George I and many writers. The most well-known of them is the American novelist Henry James – the acclaimed author of The Portrait of a Lady .

King George I spent a night in Lamb House – at the time Rye’s principal mansion – in 1726 after a storm run ashore his ship. The story goes that James Lamb gave his bedroom to the king while on the same night Mrs Lamb gave birth to the couple’s baby boy. The boy was named George and the king became his godfather.

Henry James first leased Lamb House in 1897 and bought it in 1899. It is here that he wrote three of his novels – The Wings of the Dove , The Ambassadors , and The Golden Bowl .

Nowadays, Lamb House is in the ownership of the National Trust – a charity for heritage conservation in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The house and its walled garden are open for visits. They tell the stories of Henry James’ years in Rye as well as of the many other writers and personalities who have called Lamb House home over the years.

The house itself has been featured in books and TV films and, they say, there have been ghost sightings in it throughout the years. Thankfully, I didn’t see anything of the kind when there, as ghosts terrify me.

7. Walk Through Landgate in Rye, England

Landgate - Rye, England -

Langdate is a stone arch gateway on the edge of Rye’s old town. Built in 1329, it is all that survives of the original four gates in the ancient defensive walls that used to encircle the citadel on the then-island.

Many centuries ago, Landgate provided the only connection with the mainland during high tides. Its centuries-old name testifies to its original purpose. Nowadays, this sturdy gate is one of Rye’s historic landmarks. Cute houses with windowsills draped in blooms flank the gate.

It’s a lovely place to see on your walks around Rye’s town centre. It’s very close to Lucknow Place car park (a convenient spot to leave your car at for the day) and to a large playground (if your kids need a bit of a runaround after all the sightseeing).

8. Browse the Shops and Stop at the Eateries of Rye, England

A cute gift shop on a side street decorated with plants and potted flowers - Rye, England -

Rye is truly a wonderful place to visit if you like shopping for quirky gifts and whimsical art. As well as if you like good food!

Rye’s town centre is dotted with wonderful art galleries and independent shops selling carefully selected lines of gifts. English towns often have these soulless high streets crowded by multinational companies selling cheap fashion and homewares. Rye, however, has managed to preserve its original character by fostering small, independent boutiques and galleries.

In terms of food, you will be spoilt for choice, too. The local eateries, restaurants, and pubs serve traditional English grub and many different world cuisines with Italian food being particularly abundant. Elegant coffee shops are easy to find here, too. The Apothecary is particularly atmospheric.

There are also a couple of historic pubs in town. I already mentioned Mermaid Inn under point 2 above. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a 600-year-old setting where centuries ago powerful smuggling gangs would meet to plan their raids. The Giants’ Fireplace Bar and the Tudor Bar are very popular with locals and visitors of Rye. The Mermaid Inn serves fine food and wine, a great selection of local ales, 52 gins and over 90 whiskies.

The Old Bell Inn is the other historic pub in Rye, England. It was built in 1390 and an 80-year-old wisteria tree provides a pleasant fragrant shade on its terrace. The Mermaid Inn and the Old Bell Inn are connected by an underground tunnel that in the past was used for the smuggling activities of the 18th-century Hawkhurst Gang .

Rye Waterworks Micropub is nestled in a former water pump house. It’s a very popular place serving local ales and it makes for cute photos with traditional English pub charm.

Simon The Pieman is Rye’s oldest tearoom. It stands right next to the parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The tearoom was opened in 1920 and it has been run by the same family since 1988. Come here for a light lunch and delicious homemade cakes and fudge. The large fireplace decorated with a selection of old copper pots adds even more character to the premises with exposed beams and vintage photos.

9. Go for a Walk in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve just outside Rye, England

The new Heritage Centre - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, England -

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is in the immediate vicinity of Rye and is a great place for a bracing walk. Here you can see over 4,355 species of animals and plants. 300 of these are rare or endangered. There is even a colony of seals that calls this place home.

The nature reserve includes both wetlands and coastal areas and it’s one of the largest and most important wildlife sites in England. Centuries ago, this was an expansive natural harbour where boats were built, commerce flourished, and military buildings were erected to protect the coast of England from attack. At that point in time, the town of Rye was one of the finest ports in the country and was part of the Cinque Ports – a medieval confederation of important English coastal towns.

In the centuries that followed, violent storms and river silting filled up the harbour and nowadays Rye lies about two miles inland. The resulting flatlands and marshes are a very interesting place from a naturalistic point of view. The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was established in 1970 and it includes a wide variety of different habitats – from saltmarsh and scrub to woodland.

A brand new Discovery Centre was opened here in 2021. Its exhibition area introduces you to the many different species of plants, birds, and other animals which call the nature reserve home. There is also a lovely onsite cafe.

Visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and its Discovery Centre is free of charge. There is a large car park that is also free to use, although donations are welcome. Several footpaths cross the reserve so that you can go for a nice walk through the marshes and along the shore of the English Channel. The footpaths are flat and very easy to navigate by walkers of any age.

The wide-open views of the English Channel are fantastic and there are several historic sites to see on your hike. Among them are:

  • Camber Castle – a 16th-century Tudor fort built by Henry VIII to protect the coast of England from French attack before the silting of the area left the castle inland.
  • Martello Tower – a small defensive fort from the 19th century. You will see it draped in ivy right next to the car park.
  • World War Two Pillboxes – small buildings designed to house gun batteries protecting the shoreline.

There is also a birdwatching hide and an over a century-old beach hut with a red roof and black walls that locally is known as Little Red.

You can easily reach Rye Harbour Nature Reserve from Rye either by car or by public transport (buses 312 and 313). If you are spending a long day or a long weekend in Rye, a walk in the nature reserve is a must. The views are beautiful. The human and the geographic history of the place are riveting. And it is very interesting to see in place how the shoreline has changed throughout the centuries.

10. Top Up Your Vitamin D Reserves on the Beaches Near Rye, England

The beach - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, England -

While Rye nowadays is no longer on the seashore, about two miles away from this small historic town you can find some of the finest English beaches.

Here are four of the most well-known ones:

  • Camber Sands – a wide sandy beach that goes on for miles. It is flanked by a long line of tall sandy dunes. This is a very popular beach that has been featured in many films (most notably, the George Clooney-directed The Monuments Men in 2014). On warm summer days, sun worshippers flock to Camber Sands from all over East Sussex and even London.
  • Rye Harbour – a pebbly beach that slopes towards the water. You can reach this beach after a short walk away from the newly-built Heritage Centre of Rye Harbour (see point 9 above).
  • Winchelsea Beach – an expansive mostly pebbly beach with a gaggle of wind turbines providing a futuristic background.
  • Broomhill Sands – another wide sandy beach which is just past Camber Sands. This is where extreme wind sports like kitesurfing are practiced.

The most convenient way to reach the beaches from Rye is to drive there. Otherwise, bus 102 connects Rye to Camber Sands, bus 313 connects Rye to Rye Harbour, and bus 101 connects Rye to Winchelsea Beach.

Bear in mind that this is a rather windy area. In case you want to sunbathe, for maximum comfort, it’s best to bring a windbreak . If this will be your first beach experience in England, have a look at this slightly tongue-in-cheek list of essential items for a day at the beach here .

The English Channel is rather gelid and even in summer, the water here rarely exceeds 18 degrees Celsius. Make sure that you exercise maximum caution if you decide to dip your toes in the water. There are dangerous rip tides here in addition to sandbanks and fast-rising tides!

Otherwise, the beaches near Rye are wonderful for windswept walks. In proper English fashion, bring a pair of wellies on wet days and always check the tides in advance no matter the weather!

Practical Information about Visiting Rye in East Sussex, England

Where in england is rye.

Ypres Tower seen from the roof of the belltower of the parish church - Rye, England -

Rye is a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants in the county of East Sussex in southeast England. It stands about two miles away from the shores of the English Channel. The rivers Rother, Tillingham, and Brede meet and flow into one another near Rye.

In the past, Rye stood in an indent of the shoreline. During high tides, the water would surround it completely on all sides. Due to the silting of the river estuary and violent storms in the past, nowadays Rye is on dry land. However, right next to the town, there are vast marshy plains. Two miles away from Rye you will find large windswept beaches of which Camber Sands is particularly well-known.

Rye is one of the best places to visit in East Sussex. On account of its quirky attractions and deep layers of history, this small town makes for a great day out both in East Sussex and coming down from either the British capital London or the English counties of Kent and West Sussex. Rye is within close proximity to several of the larger towns and cities in the southeast of England. Among them are:

  • Hastings, East Sussex – about 30 mins away from Rye;
  • Battle, East Sussex – about 30 mins away from Rye;
  • Ashford, Kent – about 30 mins away from Rye;
  • Folkestone, Kent – about 45 mins away from Rye;
  • Dover, Kent – about 50 mins away from Rye;
  • Eastbourne, East Sussex – about 1 h away from Rye;
  • Brighton, West Sussex – about 1 h 30 mins away from Rye.

Rye is about 70 miles away from London, depending on your starting point in the British capital.

How to Reach Rye in England?

The town of Rye seen from the belltower of its parish church - Rye, England -

You can easily reach Rye either by train or car .

If you are planning a visit from London, arriving by train could be the better option, especially if you only have a day to spend in Rye. You can get the fast Southeastern train from St. Pancras International to Ashford International (final destination Dover Priory). Once there, get the Southern train to Rye (final destination Eastbourne).

Ashford International is only three stops (less than 40 mins) away from St. Pancras International. The journey from Ashford International to Rye is just over 20 mins (three stops). Rye station is 0,2 miles or five minutes away on foot from Rye’s town centre.

If you prefer to travel by car to Rye, here are some of the town’s main car parks:

  • The Strand Car Park – perfect for Mermaid Street and the old town, this is a small car park which is flanked by some great shops selling vintage fashions and antique wares. This is where we left our car during our day trip to Rye. There are only 34 spaces here. So, on a busy day parking can be a question of luck. Stilll, for its great location right next to Mermaid Street, this is a very convenient car park.
  • Lucknow Place Car Park – this car park has 61 places and it’s right next to Rye’s cricket grounds and kids’ playground. It’s next door to Landgate and it’s five minutes away on foot to the town’s High Street. There are public toilets here, too. The playground is large and with some very inventive climbing frames and swings. It’s a great place for kids to blow some steam off after a day of sightseeing with their parents.

For detailed information about council-run car parks in Rye – locations, prices, types of payments, and penalty fees – have a look at the official page of Rother District Council. This map also shows you all council-run car parks in the area. Scroll down to the end of the list to see the respective car parks in Rye.

  • Rye Station – this is a privately-run large car park with 98 spaces. It’s right next to Rye’s railway station. Click on the link for details about prices and directions.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Rye in England?

The marshes - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, England -

When to visit Rye in East Sussex, England depends entirely on what you want to do and see here. If it is cobbled lanes, historic houses, beautiful views, and nature walks, feel free to come at any time of the year. The town and its surroundings are gorgeous in any season.

There are many events that take place in Rye throughout the year. From a Christmas festival in winter and a scallop week in February to a Festival of the Sea in September and a bonfire in November, there is always something to do and see here. You can also click here for an up-to-date list of events in Rye. From cookery classes to a large art festival , catching an event from Rye’s annual programme will make a visit to this beautiful English town even more exciting.

In summer, there are several nearby beaches to top your tan at. Camber Sands (sandy beach) and Winchelsea Beach (mostly pebbly beach) are the two most well-known ones. It can get rather windy on the coast here, so bring a windbreaker and other essential items for a day at the beach in England .

In June, July, and August, you can expect average temperatures of about 20-25 degrees Celsius in Rye. Between November and January, rain is a given, although this being England, a drizzle or torrential rain should not surprise you at any other time of the year.

It actually drizzled several times during our August visit to Rye. A couple of times it got uncomfortably close to an icy cold downpour. Yet, the rest of the time, it was lovely and sunny, and even quite warm. Typical English weather! So, bring layers in both winter and summer.

Click for details on average monthly temperatures in Rye in East Sussex, England.

Where to Stay in Rye in England?

Mermaid Street - Rye, England -

You can find all sorts and types of accommodation in and around Rye in East Sussex, England to suit any budget. From a centuries-old town house with a walled garden to cute holiday cottages , from a medieval inn on Rye’s most iconic street to a cozy guest house , there is something for everyone. You can even stay in a typical oast house with round turrets and conical roofs.

I usually prefer to book all my accommodation through . Click to see  all available options for places to stay  in and around Rye, England.

If you need some visual help in terms of precise location and price range, have a look at this map. It gives you a quick idea of the prices and whereabouts of the many hotels and other forms of accommodation you can book for your stay in Rye in East Sussex, England.

You can zoom in and out in order to search for a place to stay. You can also click on the option that interests you to find out more details or to make a booking directly.

In addition, if you click on ‘Accommodation’ in the top right corner of the map and select ‘Experiences’ from the drop-down menu, then you can see some truly exciting experiences you can book directly in the area around Rye, England:

What to Pack for Rye in England?

A small street with red flowers and a sign for Rye Art Gallery - Rye, England -

Above all, come wearing your most comfortable shoes . The historic streets of Rye are covered with cobbles which can be hard on the feet. The old town is also on top of a small hill, so expect some up and down walking and uneven surfaces.

Bring a waterproof jacket – a light one in summer and a thick, warm one in winter.

In summer, don’t forget suncream , especially, if you are planning to head to one of the nearby beaches.

The local independent shops sell a wonderful array of vintage items and antiques next to thoughtfully selected lines of gifts and handmade articles. They will tempt you to shop, shop, shop. To save plastic, I always carry a foldable shopping bag with me that can comfortably fit my impulse purchases.

What Are Some Great Tours and Activities to Do in and around Rye in England?

Sign for the Smugglers' Trail - Rye, England -

Here are a couple of tours and activities to consider for the time that you will be in Rye in East Sussex, England:

  • Rye History Walks – a two-hour guided walk around Rye’s old town. An expert local guide will reveal hidden corners in this beautiful town and fascinating details about its rich in momentous events history.
  • Hawkhurst Trail – this is a self-guided heritage trail spanning many different towns and villages in both East Sussex and Kent . It includes sights and locations connected to the smuggling activities of the Hawkhurst Gang. This was a notorious band of smugglers that was active in 18th-century England. Click on the link to see the official leaflet which lists the relevant places to visit in Rye.

From the comfort of your home, you can also enjoy this virtual tour of the historic Mermaid Inn in Rye.

What Else Can I See Near Rye, England?

Little Red - a historic red roofed hut - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, England -

Rye’s convenient location gives you a chance to easily explore the best sights in three English counties – East Sussex, Kent , and West Sussex.

Here are some suggestions for nearby places of interest to tick off if you are spending more than a day in Rye:

  • Bodiam Castle – a beautiful ruined castle surrounded by a deep moat. Come here for a romantic walk in the English countryside.
  • Battle – a gorgeous small town in East Sussex where the historic Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. You can walk around the battlefield and also visit the partially ruined Battle Abbey.
  • Hastings – one of my most favourite English beach towns. With a ruined castle, smuggling history, and long wide beaches, it’s the perfect day at the seaside.
  • Dover – famous for its White Cliffs and one of England’s largest castles , Dover is the English town that is geographically closest to continental Europe.
  • Brighton – one of England’s most famous seaside resorts, this is a vibrant city with lots to do, see, and enjoy here.

In Conclusion

Beautiful historic houses - Rye, England -

Rye is one of the most beautiful towns in England. A hidden gem, you will find it in the county of East Sussex. It’s only a couple of miles away from the shores of the English Channel and about 70 miles away from London.

Rye has a very interesting history, picturesque historic centre, lots of sights to spend time visiting, quirky shops and great food places. Right next door to it you will also find one of the most important nature reserves in England. Even better, Rye is easy to reach from London and from anywhere in three English counties – East Sussex, Kent , and West Sussex.

Spending a day, a weekend or a longer holiday in Rye is a great way to have an authentic English experience. So, in this blog post, I shared with you the ten best things to do in Rye in East Sussex, England. From local sightseeing to local eateries, from useful travel information to insider tips, everything is geared to help you plan a visit to Rye in a smooth and enjoyable way.

I hope that you feel excited about experiencing this beautiful town in the English county of East Sussex for yourself!

Have a wonderful time in rye, england.

Now get ready quick for your trip to Rye in England!

  • Consult these guidebooks .
  • Book plane tickets to England .
  • Book train tickets in England .
  • Rent a car in England .
  • Research accommodation .
  • Pick local tours and activities .

More Helpful England Links for You

Travel in England:  Best Towns in England London:  Free Things to Do , South Kensington Museums Cambridgeshire:  Cambridge Cheshire:   Chester Isle of Wight:   Alum Bay ,  Carisbrooke Castle ,  Osborne House ,  Pepperpot ,  Round the Island Race ,  St. Catherine’s Lighthouse Hertfordshire:   St. Albans Cathedral Kent:   Kent Life Northumberland:   Lindisfarne English Lifestyle:   Differences Between the English and the Italians ,  Memorial Benches ,  Allotments ,  Charity Shops ,  Beachtime English Food:  Fish and Chips

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The Geographical Cure

One Day In Rye England Itinerary: What To Do And See

Rye is one of England’s best kept secrets and one of my favorite medieval towns in all of England. It’s a quintessential English town that seems suspended in time.

Rye is an ancient seaside town, perched on a hilltop above the Romney Marshes. It’s filled with crooked streets and quirky independent shops.

The poet Patric Dickinson once described Rye as “a beautifully jeweled brooch worn at South England’s throat.”

Tudor building in Rye

Rye is the perfect place to immerse yourself in old world English charm. The upscale town boasts the remains of a medieval castle, an awe-inspiring church, and some of the best preserved medieval homes in England.

Queen Elizabeth I bestowed upon the town the distinction “Royal Rye.” The novelist Henry James and other literary figures lived in Rye. 

Nowadays, the town attracts a fashionable crowd looking for a chic beach getaway, rave-worthy restaurants, and historic inns.

This is the ultimate itinerary for spending one day in Rye. It’s the perfect day trip from London, though you may want to stay longer.

view from the bell tower of St. Mary's Church

A Short History of Rye

Before we dive into what to do in Rye in one day, let’s explore the town’s history. Rye, while charming today, had quite a lively past. Situated nearly like an island, it was a maritime hub with the sea on three sides.

In medieval times, Rye was part of England’s Cinque Ports and was granted a Royal Charter in the 11th century. It played a vital role in shipbuilding for the crown, helping defend against French invaders and pirates.

In return, Rye enjoyed special privileges, like tax exemptions and leniency towards its smuggling activities.

Pinterest pin for one day in Rye England itinerary

In 1377, Rye faced a devastating French raid that left the town in ruins. The French not only burned much of it but also plundered valuable treasures, including the church bells, taking them back to France.

In the aftermath, some of Rye’s residents were accused of not resisting the attack effectively and were executed for treason. However, in 1378, Rye rallied and launched a counterattack on the French, successfully reclaiming the stolen bells.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Rye’s defenses were further improved and fortified. The town gates and Ypres Tower were built.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Rye was the favored lair of smugglers. The notorious Hawkhurst Gang, who operated from 1735-49, had its headquarters at the Mermaid Inn.

Mermaid Inn, headquarters of smugglers

Rye’s geographical landscape saw changes until 1823 when tides surrounded the town. However, rivers gradually silted up and retreated, relocating Rye two miles away from the English Channel.

Rye has literary connections too. Renowned novelists Henry James and E.F. Benson resided in Lamb House, Rye. James excelled in psychological realism, while Benson was known for social satire.

Both authors incorporated Rye, albeit under different names, into their literary works. They also hosted literary luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Hugh Walpole.

The town’s charm attracted other writers like Rumer Godden and Beatrix Potter, who used Rye as a backdrop for their stories.

So pretty is Rye that’s is been a filming location for several movies and TV series, including Monument Men , Season 3 of The Crown , and Mapp and Lucia .

Landgate Arch

One Day In Rye Itinerary, Best Things To Do

Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Rye. In the morning, you’ll see Rye’s medieval sites. In the afternoon, you can visit Lamb House and head to Camber Sands, Camber Castle, or Winchelsea.

Be sure to wear comfy walking shoes to navigate the cobbles.

1. Landgate Arch

If you parked in the public car park, you may already have caught a glimpse of Landgate Arch, one of Rye’s landmarks. It’s the last remaining vestige of the town’s ancient walls and the finest gate in southeast England.

Built in 1340, it’s the only one of three gates to survive. It has two barrel shaped towers and a stone archway, which was once fitted with a drawbridge and portcullis.

The clock above was installed in 1863, as a memorial to Queen’s Victoria’s beloved consort Prince Alfred.

High Street, the main drag in Rye with cute shops, which you should visit with one day in Rye

If it’s a chilly day or you need some caffeine, Knoops is just beyond the gate. The cafe specializes in hot and cold chocolate drinks. I visited in March and started my day with a delicious hot chocolate.

2. Ramble The Old Town

Begin your day in Rye with a leisurely stroll through the cobbled town, past adorable half timbered homes with red brick roofs.

It’s one of the best things to do in Rye and you’ll find beautiful Georgian, Tudor, and Victorian architecture. Some of the buildings charmingly lurch and bulge or have quirks like tiny doorways.

You may want to do some shopping in Rye. If so, head to the main drag, High Street.

You won’t be able to resist its lineup of cute independent shops, which are so different than the plain vanilla chain stores you may be used to.

butcher's shop on High Street

You’ll find everything — artisan wares, jewelry, luxury goods, vintage finds, and art galleries Homeware hunters will do especially well. Strand Quay is where you can hunt for antiques or search for treasure in vintage shops.

My favorite shops in Rye were Rye Pottery (mid-century modern pottery) and Pale and Interesting (lifestyle and homeware shopping).

Are you a literary lover? Take some time to pop into Rye’s many bookshops.

Rye Bookshop is a mainstream and academic book retailer that encourages browsing. Rye Old Books is on Lion Street and is charming inside and out.

Mermaid Street, the best thing to do with one day in Rye

3. Mermaid Street

No one day in Rye would be complete without a stroll (or two!) down Mermaid Street, Rye’s most picturesque lane. The cobbled lane dates from the 10th century. It’s the street of your English dreams and a visual delight.

Mermaid Street is full of crooked half timbered houses and ivy covered walls. In summer, purple clematis and honeysuckle bloom on facades and pots of flowers decorate almost every step and still.

It’s no wonder Mermaid Street is regularly listed as one of Britain’s prettiest lanes and is one of the country’s most photographed streets.

The homes have fanciful names with an old fashioned ring to them like “The House Of Two Doors,” “The House Opposite,” and “Cobble Cottage.”

Mermaid Street

On Mermaid Street, you’ll find one of England’s most historic and charming inns, the Mermaid Inn . It’s Rye’s largest medieval building.

The hotel was once the stomping grounds and drinking den of smugglers and pirates.

It stopped operating in 1770. But, in 1993, new owners purchased the building and refurbished it. It’s since been visited by many celebrities including Pierce Brosnan and Johny Depp.

Today, the Mermaid Inn lives a (mostly) peaceful existence. Inside, you’ll find secrets passages, creaking wood floors, sloping ceilings, and mullion windows. It’s though to be haunted by several ghosts, including a lady in white and spirits of the Hawkhurst smugglers.

Mermaid Street

4. Augustine Friary

The Augustinian Friary, sometimes called the Monastery, was originally part of the Monastery of Friars Heremites of St. Augustin in 1380. It’s on Conduit Hill.

The friary suffered from the French raid of 1377, which destroyed most of the town by fire. In 1538, the friary was closed as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Since then, the friary has been used as a theater, malthouse, barracks, a butter and cheese warehouse, and war hospital.

Disturbing artifacts have been discovered near the friary, including skeletons of people that were buried alive. Because of that, the friary is famous for being haunted.

Today, the friary is a Grade II building that is partly in ruins and deemed “at risk.” Part of the chapel building houses one of Rye’s six pottery shops.

Rye Castle also known as Ypres Tower, a must see with one day in Rye

5. Ypres Tower

Next, walk uphill to Ypres Tower and spend some time learning about Rye’s history. The locals call it the “Wipers Tower.”

Built in 1250, it’s the oldest structure in Rye. Henry III built the tower for defense and it once served as a women’s prison.

By 1430, it had lost its military importance and became the home of John de Ypres, for whom it is named. It was later used as a jail and courthouse.

Today, the tower is home to the Rye Castle Museum, a free history museum. It gives you an overview of the history of Rye. Exhibits include armor, medieval weapons, old jail cells, and smuggler’s equipment.

Don’t forget to step out on the rooftop terrace for fine views of the town.

cobbled lane leading to St. Mary's Church

6. St. Mary’s Church

As you leave Ypres Tower, the St. Mary the Virgin Church looms on the left. This 900 year old church is known as the “Cathedral of East Sussex” and is one of the prettiest churches in southeast England.

Building began in the 11th century and continued for 100 years. Much of the church was destroyed when the French raided Rye in 1377. In time, the church was rebuilt.

It comes complete with the requisite stained glass, intricate stonework, lovely chapels, and a 12th century nave. Of special interest for literary pilgrims is the west window donated by novelist E.F. Benson in memory of his parents.

St. Mary's Church, a must see with one day in Rye

What sets it apart from other churches, though, is its remarkable St. Mary’s Tower, which was built in 1560. It still functions with its original turret clockworks.

If you climb up the steep narrow stairs, you’ll have wonderful views over Rye’s mossy roofs and the surrounding countryside. If you visit in June, you’ll see swaths of yellow rapeseed flowers.

But it’s not a particularly easy trudge. There are 82 stone steps and a ladder to haul yourself up to the top.

In the bell room, you can inspect the bell’s 18 foot pendulum and get a primer on church bells. The church is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, closing at 4:00 pm in winter. There’s even a children’s corner.

Right behind the church is the 16th century brick Rye Water House. This ancient tank negated the need for residents to pump water by hand.

Cobbles Tea Room

7. Lunch at Cobbles Tea Room

Now that you’ve seen Rye’s medieval sites, it’s time for lunch on your one day in Rye itinerary.

I recommend having lunch at the historic Cobbles Tea Room . Opened in 1953, the cafe is covered with roses in summer and serves light lunches and afternoon teas all day.

Another great tea shop is Simon the Pieman, where you can sit down in a cute setting or get a cake from the takeaway shop.

You could also try Fig , a buzzy cafe that serves innovative salads, soups, and quiche. Leave room for ice cream at the Mermaid Street Cafe.

Lamb House and its gardens

8. Lamb House

After lunch, literary pilgrims will want to amble up to Lamb House at the top of Mermaid Street. It’s a National Trust property that gives Rye some literary cred.

The red brick Georgian house was built in 1722 by James Lamb, a wealthy wine merchant and local politician.

Lamb House is definitely one of the best things to do in Rye and was once the home of two literary giants: Henry James and E. F. Benson. 

The Nobelist Henry Janes lived here for 16 years from 1898 until his death in 1916. He wrote three of his novels at Lamb House: The Ambassadors , The Golden Bowl , and The Awkward Age .

Benson first visited the house in 1900 as a guest of Henry James. He took up residence in Lamb House in 1919 and even become Mayor of Rye.

the parlor, with a painting of George I

The house was a great inspiration to both novelists and is featured in their works. Most famously, Lamb House (and Rye) were featured in Benson’s popular Mapp and Lucia book series.

Lamb House also hosted King George I when his ship ran aground on the coast near Rye in 1726.

The house is modest enough, and you can imagine living there. In the center hall, you’ll see portraits of James’ illustrious visitors. You can see some period furniture owned by James and tour several rooms, including where James and Benson worked.

The dining room has French doors opening onto a one acre lawn and lovely garden, which is unexpectedly large for a house of this size. From the parlor, you can see St. Mary’s Church.

Address : West Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7ES

Camber Sands Beach with the town of Rye in the background

9. Hit The Beach At Camber Sands

If it’s a sunny day in Rye, you may want to hit the beach. Rye is a very small town you can visit in a few hours, so you can easily make a beach detour during the afternoon of your one day in Rye.

Camber Sands is one of England’s finest golden sand beaches, set against a backdrop of grassy dunes. It’s beloved by both tourists and locals.

You can hop on Bus 201 to get there in 20 minutes or work off your lunch by taking the three mile walk.

You can lounge in the sun or go kite and windsurfing. Keep an eye out for seals popping their heads out above the waves. Just remember it can get a touch windy, even in summer.

Camber Castle

10. Camber Castle

If you’re a Tudor enthusiast, one of the best things to do in Rye is visit the ruins Camber Castle off to the east. It’s also known as Winchelsea Castle.

It’s a one mile walk from the picturesque town of Rye in Kent. (You can’t access it by car.)

You’ll cross the Rye Harbor Coastal Reserve and come across a bird watching hut. This is a good place to stop and do some bird watching before you visit the castle.

Built in 1512, Camber Castle was once a Henry VIII “gun fort” with curtain walls built in the shape of a flower. It was intended to defend Rye Harbor against French attacks.

But Camber saw little military action. By the end of the Tudor era, the sea had receded 2 miles, making Camber a bit of a dinosaur.

The castle lies in ruins. You can admire the atmospheric exterior and the sheep and cattle grazing nearby. It’s only open to visitors the first Saturday of the month from August through October, with guided tours starting at 2:00 pm.

St. Thomas the Martyr Church in Winchelsea

11. Winchelsea

Another option for the afternoon of your one day in Rye is to visit Winchelsea, a village just 5 miles from Rye. It dates from Roman times, but was wiped out by a great storm in 1287.

Edward I decided to rebuilt the town and it’s one of very few planned medieval communities. Unfortunately, Winchelsea was ransacked a bit in the Hundred years War.

Today, it’s part village and part walled meadow. Three of the town’s original gates still stand.

You should visit the 12th century parish Church of St. Thomas Martyr. Above the door is a carving of the infamous Isabella, the “She-Wolf” of France who plotted the murder of her husband Edward II.

In the church graveyard, you’ll find the famous tomb of Spike Milligan, a British comic. The funeral stone reads “See I told you I was ill!” in Gaelic.

Mermaid Street

12. Cocktails & Dinner in Rye

Rye is loaded with quaint old boozers where you can relax and have a pint before dinner. The George Inn is a historic spot that just reopened in May 2022 after major renovations.

You can also sip local craft beers at the tiny award-winning Rye Waterworks Micropub on Tower Street, which is far and away Rye’s best pub. It’s housed in a 300 year old former water pump.

Or, grab a table in the  Ypres Castle Inn beer garden.

Rye also has a reputation for great restaurants and a hot foodie scene. This area of England is bountiful, with a warm microclimate.

the Standard Inn pub and restaurant

Restaurants get fresh seafood from Rye bay, meat from the sheep grazing the grasslands, and fruit from Rye’s orchards.

Landgate Bistro has been voted the best restaurant in Rye for many years. It serves up locally sourced food with an inventive twist.

Fletcher’s House on Lion Street is housed in a medieval home and specializes in innovative British food. The Mermaid Inn also has highly rated restaurant in a romantic setting.

If you want something more casual, head to The Standard Inn for some pub classics in a cozy 15th century tavern.

cobblestone street leading to St. Mary Church

Tips For Visiting Rye

Here are some must know tips for visiting Rye.

1. How To Get To Rye:

Rye is 63 miles southeast of London and an approximately 1.5-2 hour drive. When you cross the bridge and enter Rye, you’ll see the first of six municipal parking lots on the right.

From St. Pancras Station, the fastest train is just over an hour away. From the Rye Sussex station, turn left on Cinque Ports Street to head into the town.

Rye Windmill

2. Where To Stay In Rye

Why not end your one day in Rye with an overnight stay at one of Rye’s impeccably restored historic inns?

Rye is a place where haste is not recommended. It’s where you can slow down and enjoy leisurely meals and historic hotels.

As I mentioned above, the Mermaid Inn is a lovely hotel in a historic building. It has 30+ rooms that are all unique with four poster beds and wood paneling.

The George Inn is newly restored, quite a spectacle, and probably the best place to stay in Rye. Jeakes House and Willow Tree House are 5 star bed and breakfast in historic buildings.

The George inn and restaurant in Rye

Rye Windmill  is a Grade II-listed building with ten unique rooms serving up a delicious breakfast in the original mill bakery.

If you want to stay near the beach at Camber Sands, you can check out The Gallivant . It’s a Hampton’s style boutique hotel and yoga retreat.

You’ll be treated to roaring fires and sheepskin throws. Plus, the hotel has a kitchen serving up locally sourced food.

3. Is Rye Worth Visiting?

100% yes! Rye is well worth a visit unless you don’t like adorable medieval towns awash in cobblestone streets and oozing old world charm.

Plus, the town offers something for everyone. You can enjoy the seaside, the countryside, and history all in one place. You can ramble the old town, hit the beach, check out castles, shop, and indulge in the amazing local cuisine.

High Street

4. When To Visit Rye

The summer months in Rye are flooded with day and weekend trippers and beach goers.

There are also a fair number of festivals in the summer, including the Rye Jazz Festival and the Appledore Flower Festival.

In the fall, the foliage is beautiful and the Rye Arts Festival is held in September.

In winter, Rye becomes a foodie paradise. Rye Bay Scallop Week takes place every February, and the town is worth a trip just for the shellfish.

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex

5. Places To Visit Near Rye

Do you have more time in Rye? There are plenty of attractions and places to visit near Rye that you might combine on a day trip or weekend getaway.

For example, the counties of Kent and East Sussex are loaded with castles. You can visit Hever Castle (1 hour from Rye), Hastings Castle (30 minutes from Rye), Leeds Castle (45 minutes from Rye), Bodiam Castle (20 minutes from Rye), and Pevensy Castle (45 minutes from Rye).

If you want to visit some of these gems, check out my guide to the best castles in England .

If you’re not a resident in England and want to visit several castles, you may benefit from buying an  English Heritage Pass for Overseas Visitors .

Great Dixter House in East Sussex

Another nice attraction near Rye is Great Dixter House , just 9 miles down the road. Built in 1460, it boasts one of the largest timber framed halls in England.

The real delight is the garden, which features ponds, topiaries, and exotic flowers. You can visit the inside on a guided tour.

My favorite city near Rye is Canterbury, which is about a hour away. Canterbury is a beautiful UNESCO town that’s rich in history and architectural splendor. If you’d like to visit, you can check out my one day in Canterbury itinerary .

I hope you’ve enjoyed my one day in Rye itinerary. You may enjoy these other London and UK travel guides:

  • 3 Day Itinerary for London
  • 5 Day Itinerary for London
  • Hidden Gems in London
  • 30 Day Trips from London
  • Tourist Traps To Avoid in London
  • Best Museums in London
  • One Day In Canterbury Itinerary
  • One Day in Oxford Itinerary
  • One Day In Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Harry Potter Places in London
  • Guide to the Tower of London
  • Guide to Westminster Abbey
  • Guide to St. Paul’s Cathedral

If you’d like to spend one day in Rye, pin it for later.

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4 thoughts on “One Day In Rye England Itinerary: What To Do And See”

This was incredibly comprehensive and exactly what I was looking for to organise a surprise trip for my husband. Thank you so so much for putting all this together!

Thank Riley! Have a great time. It’s such a cute town.

Great resource for a trip my husband and I are planning next spring! The info on the bus to Camber Sands was especially helpful. We have some mobility issues as we get older (78) and can’t do long hikes. We’ll be coming in by train. Are taxis available in Rye?

There are taxis, but not tons of them. I would book them in advance or have your hotel arrange them. There’s a taxi stand at the train station. Still, I would pre-book the taxi or arrange a private transfer to your hotel.

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Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Leslie Livingston

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tours in rye uk

By Emmanuel Barrios on 24/11/2023

Rye, England’s Most Beautiful Village

Table of contents, a journey through time: cobbled streets and tudor facades, unforgettable views: from church square hill, art and culture: rye at its best, palate-pleasing dining: a feast of flavours around every corner, rye, a treasure to be discovered.

Welcome, passionate travellers, to a new adventure of discovery with Tour Travel & More. This time, we dive into the charms of a corner of England that has stood the test of time with grace and elegance: Rye, a true hidden treasure in the county of East Sussex. What makes this place an undisputed candidate for the title of “the most beautiful village in England”? Join us as we explore the reasons that make Rye a unique destination that captivates hearts and enchants souls. Check out our private tours here! 

Rye is like a painted canvas with brushstrokes of history and enchanting architecture. Its cobbled streets wind between houses with Tudor facades that look like they’ve stepped straight out of a fairytale. This picturesque medieval village is famous for its narrow, winding alleyways, each corner exuding an authenticity that transports visitors back in time.

Strolling along Mermaid Street, one of Rye’s most iconic thoroughfares, travellers are surrounded by historic buildings, some dating back to the 15th century. The well-preserved architecture offers a unique insight into life in medieval England, while the leaning facades and ornate windows tell silent stories of centuries of evolution.

tours in rye uk

Rye not only wins you over with its architecture, but also with its breathtaking panoramic views. From the top of Church Square Hill, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the tiled roofs and chimneys that characterise the Rye skyline. St Mary’s Church, with its pointed spire rising majestically, adds a touch of grandeur to this picturesque landscape.

Imagine watching the sunset from this vantage point, as the warm tones of the sky blend with the silhouette of the ancient towers. It is a spectacle that transports travellers to a state of awe, reminding them of the majesty of nature and the human ability to integrate with it harmoniously.

tours in rye uk

Rye not only captivates with its visual beauty, but also offers a rich and varied cultural experience. Art lovers will find in the city a wide range of galleries and workshops showcasing local and international talent. Creativity flows through the streets of Rye, from the art galleries to the studios of local craftspeople working with skill and passion.

The city also hosts cultural events throughout the year, from music festivals to outdoor theatre performances. Immerse yourself in Rye’s rich cultural scene and discover how this small town can be home to such artistic diversity.

tours in rye uk

Culinary delights are also an integral part of the Rye experience. This charming town has a wide range of restaurants, pubs and cafés serving everything from traditional British dishes to international delicacies. From a relaxing afternoon in a café overlooking the harbour to a gourmet dinner in a renowned restaurant, Rye offers dining options to suit all tastes and budgets.

tours in rye uk

In short, Rye stands as the undisputed contender for the title of “England’s prettiest village”. With its medieval charm, breathtaking views, vibrant cultural scene and gastronomic delights, Rye offers a unique experience that transports travellers to a world where time seems to stand still.

Tour Travel & More is proud to introduce this magical corner to explorers eager to discover the true beauty of England. Join us on this journey through history, culture and unforgettable landscapes as we explore Rye, the hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. Welcome to an experience that will captivate your senses and be etched in your hearts forever!

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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Rye

Written by Bryan Dearsley and Shandley McMurray Updated Dec 23, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

A charming fairy-tale-like town, Rye is a picturesque spot to enjoy a day trip or short getaway in East Sussex. Crooked old Tudor buildings, romantic cobblestone streets, and bright floral blooms make it impossible to dislike this quaint locale, which is why so many choose to spend a weekend holiday here. And despite its small size (it has a population of only 15,000), Rye offers visitors an abundance of attractions and things to do.

The town is steeped in history. Many remnants of its medieval heyday remain, some intact and others in ruins, while tales of its exciting past as a smuggling port run wild.

When visiting, you'll find a slew of eclectic shops selling everything from antiques and vintage clothing to trendy fashions, art, home decor, and souvenirs. There are also plenty of rave-worthy restaurants lining the town's narrow passages and paths, cobbled streets, and winding laneways, all making this town irresistible.

The town is easily reachable from London by car or rail (it lies about two hours away, whichever means you use to get here).

Plan your sightseeing itinerary with our list of the top attractions and best things to do in Rye, England.

1. Explore Old Town Rye

2. go bird-watching at rye harbour nature reserve, 3. visit rye castle museum and climb ypres tower, 4. admire the view from the parish church of st. mary, rye, 5. take photos on mermaid street, 6. lamb house, 7. play in the surf at camber sands, 8. take a walk through the landgate arch, 9. rye heritage centre, 10. follow the path along the royal military canal, 11. hike to camber castle, 12. explore bodiam castle, where to stay in rye for sightseeing, map of attractions & things to do in rye.

Old Town Rye

Although now two miles away from the English Channel, Rye was, when it was incorporated in 1289, an important port positioned directly on the sea. Consequently, you'll see many references to this maritime past pretty much everywhere, from street names to its architecture.

The best-known reference is, of course, famous Mermaid Street , which anchors (pun intended) the town's historic old town center. Here, you'll find the Mermaid Inn, a favorite haunt of sailors, and a number of well-preserved old timber-framed homes dating from this period.

At the time, Rye was considered one of the finest of the Cinque Ports, a group of five important harbors that were fortified to defend against potential attack. Pay a visit to Ypres Tower, and you'll experience the commanding views the fortress would once have had over the water.

Numerous other references to this maritime role can be found as you wander the old town's alleys and laneways, from restaurants serving traditional fresh-caught seafood dishes to nautically themed shops and fun guided tours that visit the haunts of pirates and smugglers.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Nature enthusiasts will adore Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, especially those with a penchant for bird-watching. The over 1,000-acre reserve consists of everything from marshland to sand to woods, and it boasts over 4,000 different species of animals.

Choose from one of five comfortable bird-watching huts (a.k.a. hides) to enjoy not just the wildlife, but the spectacular scenery. The one closest to Camber Castle never disappoints, and a visit to enjoy some bird-watching is by far one of the most popular things to do in Rye.

Alternatively, take a hike along one of the many footpaths leading you around the reserve's salt marshes, saline lagoons, and vast grassland. The main paths are flat and wide, which make them perfect for those pushing a stroller, wheelchair, or bike.

The Rye Harbour Discovery Centre opened in 2020, adding a warm and comfortable spot to relax, learn, and observe animals. In addition to its unique design, which blends in seamlessly with its surroundings, the center features useful information and resources, as well as a great little café.

Insider's Tip: Pack binoculars and a camera with a good zoom lens, and plan on spending at least a few hours at this natural wonderland.

Address: Harbour Rd, Rye Harbour, Rye

Official site:

Ypres Tower

Rye Castle Museum is one of the best attractions in Rye. It consists of two sites: The Ypres Tower and the East Street museum itself, which is a short walk away. Ypres tower was commissioned by Henry III as part of a defense strategy against French invaders and was later used as the town's prison.

The Women's Tower, which lies down a small staircase in the garden, acted as the country's first prison for women. The views from the terrace are lovely.

Rye Castle Museum

The East Street site, which opened in 1999, provides visitors with an opportunity to view the museum's collections and learn even more about the history of Rye and the Ypres Tower. It's open from April 1 st to October 31 st .

Both locations are kid-friendly and make learning about history a joy for those of any age. At both spots, children are encouraged to get up close and touch many of the exhibits, including interactive maps and an area where they can try their hands at pulling a medieval arrow and lifting a heavy sword.

Address: 3 East Rye Street, Rye, East Sussex

Official site:

The Parish Church of St. Mary, Rye

The magnificent Parish Church of St. Mary, Rye, also known as the Cathedral of East Sussex, has graced the hilltop on which it stands for over 900 years. Its tall spire can be seen from miles away, welcoming visitors to enter its hallowed stone walls.

The church has the requisite stained-glass windows and magnificent stonework of other places of worship created around the same time. What sets this beautiful church apart, though, is the remarkable St. Mary's Tower.

A climb up steep, narrow steps to its top offers visitors a breathtaking sight. The sprawling vista over the churchyard, town, and countryside below is worth the climb if you can make it. Plus, the tower is a popular spot for marriage proposals, so you may witness history in the making.

Insider's tip: Keep your eye out for the historic Rye Water House , an ancient cistern (a.k.a. water tank) that lies in the churchyard. Address: Church Square, Rye, East Sussex

Official site:

Mermaid Street

Mermaid street is one of the most photographed streets in England and one of the best attractions in Rye. Cobblestoned and lined with crooked timber houses bursting with blooms, it's easy to see why.

Walking along this relatively steep and narrow old laneway transports visitors back in time with photo-worthy treats around every corner. Mermaid Street runs between Strand and West Streets in the old town center and is home to one of southeast England's most famous inns: The Mermaid Inn . This Grade-III-listed historical Tudor inn is adorable, despite its history as a haunt for smugglers.

Brick buildings on Mermaid Street

Also here is the family-run The Mermaid Street Café , a perfect place to visit to relax, indulge in a cake, or full English breakfast. You can also get in some people watching, too, either from a window seat inside or an outdoor table.

And while wandering the street, pay attention to the fun house names. From "The House With Two Front Doors," one of the top bed and breakfast locations in Rye, to "The House Opposite," a Grade-II-listed home that's ideally located directly opposite the Mermaid Inn. Both are delightful and unique, and well worth including as a backdrop for a selfie.

Insider's Tip: Mermaid street can be steep at times, and the cobbled stones get slippery when wet. Leave the stilettos at home in favor of comfortable walking shoes.

Lamb House

Once home to authors Henry James and E.F. Benson, Lamb House provided much inspiration for their famous works. This small yet regal house can be recognized in James' description of Mr. Langdon's home in An Awkward Age . And it's one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rye.

While James did much of his writing in the Green Room, he spent most of his summers working in the Garden Room. Sadly, this was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1940.

Today, visitors can see the Green Room firsthand, or visit the entrance hall, oak parlor, dining room, and King's room, among others. Luckily for those craving an inside peek into the authors' minds, Lamb House was recently revamped to allow more access to their most beloved spaces.

Insider's Tip: Enjoy a cuppa at the Courtyard Tea Room . Borrow a book and enjoy a few moments of solitude with a slice of cake. It's only open from Fridays to Tuesdays, so plan accordingly.

Address: West Street, Rye, East Sussex

Official site:

Camber Sands

Bordering Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on one side and RSPB Dungeness on the other, Camber Sands isn't technically in Rye. But it will only take about five minutes to drive here.

This popular sandy beach is a haven for English weekenders from Rye and London, especially in the summer. While visitors flock here for a calming respite filled with crashing waves and miles of soft golden sand, it's the grassy sand dunes that really take your breath away.

Dunes at Camber Sands

Camber Sands is the longest, and only, dune system in East Sussex. Whether you're looking to soak up the rays, walk along the beach, or swim in the sea (brrr), Camber Sands is a remarkable holiday spot. Plus, lifeguards are constantly on duty, and restrooms and concessions are available nearby.

Insider's Tip: Beware of the tides, which move quickly. The currents can be quite strong when the tide goes in and out.

Address: Camber, East Sussex

Landgate Arch

Built in 1329, this ancient arch, flanked by two large drum towers, was created to help fortify Rye and act as the town's only connection to the mainland. At the time, Rye was an island, and the gate provided the only access to land at high tide.

Once accompanied by a drawbridge, portcullis, and three other gateways, this impressive stone arch and its clock, added in 1862, are all that remains. The Sandgate, Baddings Gate, and Postern Gate were removed after suffering substantial damage.

The Landgate is a Listed Grade 1 Ancient Monument and a highly recognizable feature of the older section of town. Despite its age and somewhat narrow opening, cars are still able to drive under the arch, which is four feet higher than it was originally due to the road being lowered over time. Address: Corner of Landgate and Tower Street, Rye, East Sussex

Rye Heritage Centre

If you've ever wanted to feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, head to the Rye Heritage Centre. Home to a to-scale, handmade model of Victorian-era Rye, this unique center offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into life as it was lived during this time. It's not very large, so you won't need to spend more than an hour here.

Devoted to making learning fun, the center's Story of Rye sound and light show guides guests through 700 years of the town's history. Also on-site is a collection of Old Pier arcade games that remarkably still work.

The gift shop sells an array of gifts to take home, as well as area maps, art, and other fun gifts. Before you leave, book a guided walking tour.

Address: Strand Quay, The Old Sail Loft Rye, Rye, East Sussex

Official site:

Royal Military Canal

Feel any residual stress melt away as you wander along the calming Royal Military Canal. A scenic walking and cycling path makes it easy to follow the water's course as it flows from Iden Lock to the Appledore Dam .

In addition to serving as a well-trodden walking route, the canal boasts an interesting history. It was hand dug in the early 19th century to serve as a defensive barrier between the towns of Hythe and Winchelsea .

The canal is currently used to control water levels in the surrounding marsh and to help protect the region from damaging floods. A haven for wildlife, this is also a wonderful place to enjoy bird-watching.

The Royal Military Canal is stocked with fish including carp, perch, bream, and pike, but you'll need a permit from the Rother Fishery Association (RFA) to try your luck at catching one.

Address: Military Road, Playden, East Sussex

Camber Castle

This unique fortress, also known as Winchelsea Castle , was built in the early 16 th century by Henry VIII. He commissioned the stronghold to protect the surrounding coast from French invaders.

Initially, the castle consisted only of the artillery, which the controversial king realized wasn't enough to offer protection. Over time, more sections were built, creating the concentric circles that make up this interesting stronghold.

Located a mile from Rye, the bold, stone castle appears beautifully from a lush landscape peppered with sheep and cattle. For those craving a closer look, plan your visit carefully. The castle is only open the first Saturday of the month from August to October. The Sussex Wildlife Trust also include tours to the castle in their guided walks of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Insider's Tip: There's no vehicular access to Camber Castle, which is only accessible by foot. Pack comfy shoes and plan on an easy and pleasant trek through the neighboring fields. Just watch where you step!

Official site:

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle lies 13 miles north west of Rye and takes about 25 minutes to reach by car. Although not technically in town, exploring this historic spot is a popular thing to do in Rye. Well preserved as far as ruins go, this 14th-century marvel offers guests a wonderful glimpse into medieval life.

Wind your way up and down the spiral staircases, but be careful: the steps are quite narrow. You can also view the battlements; see the expansive, carp-filled moat; and gaze at the portcullis in the gatehouse before wandering the lush grounds.

Kids adore it here, which is easy to understand, as the castle offers frequent child-centered programs including story time, archery, crafts, quests, bat hunts, and armor displays.

When you're feeling hungry, visit the Castle View Café for a picnic or treat, or enjoy a cream tea in the Wharf Tea Room .

Address: Near Robertsbridge, East Sussex

Official site:

For a small town, Rye boasts multiple hotels and bed and breakfasts, meaning there are plenty of places to choose from; most are in the mid to budget price ranges. We recommend you consider the following delightful hotels and guesthouses for an enjoyable stay close to the top attractions in Rye.

Luxury Hotels:

  • While technically a bed and breakfast, the beautiful five-star Saltcote Place Rye is as close to a luxury hotel as you'll find in Rye. Your first-class experience begins the moment you book your stay. Hosts Alan and Paul will get to know you over the phone or e-mail to create a bespoke menu, as well as share local day trip and dining suggestions. It's worth booking directly in order to receive their personal care, as well as a better price. The suites are spacious, and the grounds impeccable.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Looking for a nice hotel that won't break the bank? Book a stay at Winchelsea Lodge . A four-star gem surrounded by lush countryside, this old Sussex barn is charming, comfortable, and perfectly located for a visit to Rye , Hastings , Battle , and Camber Sands.
  • The Mermaid Inn is one of the most unique mid-range hotels you'll ever book. In addition to intricately carved beds, a secret stairway (behind a bookcase, of course), and creaking floorboards, this historic Tudor inn boasts a large restaurant with linen-paneled walls.
  • The Lookout Rye offers modern amenities and chic décor within the town's ancient walls. It's also the only hotel in Rye to offer an indoor pool, sauna, spa, and hot tub.

Budget Hotels:

  • The Hope Anchor Hotel is a good deal for those on a budget. Staff are friendly, and breakfast is included. Most rooms in this 18 th -century former inn offer unbeatable views. If you want more space, avoid booking the small doubles/twin rooms.
  • A small, family-run establishment, The Regent Motel is centrally located in the heart of bustling Rye.

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A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: 2-day Rye itinerary

Posted on Last updated: December 13, 2023

How to spend a weekend in Rye, East Sussex: Discover the best things to see, do, eat and drink in Rye in a two-day itinerary featuring this historic coastal town’s castles, pubs, beaches and wildlife.

* This site contains affiliate links , where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.

A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: 2-day Rye itinerary

A hilltop medieval town with a picturesque jumble of cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings, Rye in East Sussex has the charm and beauty to match England’s most popular spots. But this Cinque Ports town has managed to escape a huge influx of visitors and keep its unspoilt mix of independent local shops, pubs and restaurants.

Add in historic sights, sandy beaches and even a local winery and you’ve got a great weekend break. Rye’s just an hour from London too, so it makes an easy getaway from the capital. So here’s my 2-day Rye itinerary to help you plan the perfect weekend in Rye.

How to spend a weekend in Rye

Views of hilltop Rye town

Friday evening

Check into your accommodation then start your weekend in Rye in the town’s most famous spot – Mermaid Street, voted one of Britain’s most picturesque streets. Its cobbled streets are lined with crooked half-timbered buildings draped with leaves and flowers. Make a stop at one of the street’s quirkiest spots – the 15th-century Mermaid Inn .

The inn was once a favourite with south-coast smugglers The Hawkwood Gang and it still has secret passageways, as well as characterful sloping ceilings, creaking floorboards and mullion windows – and maybe a ghost or two. Grab a drink by the fire in the Giant’s Fireplace Bar before a candlelit dinner in the Linen Fold Panelled restaurant.

The restaurant’s been awarded 2 AA Rosettes and uses seasonal, local ingredients in a fairly small but interesting menu with dishes like stuffed roasted rabbit and smoked aubergine and tofu parmigiana, along with wines from Sussex and Kent .

Mermaid Street in Rye, East Sussex

Saturday morning

Rye is two miles from the coast today, but back in the 16th century it was one of the Cinque Ports – a series of port towns across Kent, Sussex and Essex who provided ships for the royal fleet. The silting up of the estuary put paid to its seafaring role, but it still has the feel of a coastal town with echoes of its past life as a haunt of sailors and smugglers.

Spend the morning learning about Rye’s history, starting at the medieval Ypres Tower – nicknamed the ‘Wipers Tower’ by locals. The origins of the tower are are a bit of a mystery, but it was probably originally part of the town’s 13th-century defensive walls.

It’s been a house, prison and mortuary over the years, but is now home to Rye Castle Museum. Inside the museum are exhibits about the tower and town’s history, including a smugglers’ lamp, medieval weapons and the old jail cells. There’s also a recreated medieval herb garden and a rooftop terrace where you can look out over Rye’s old harbour.

Rye Castle or the Ypres Tower, East Sussex

Call in to the Rye Heritage Centre in a converted 19th century sail loft which has a 1:100 scale model of Victorian Rye with a sound and light show which tells the town’s history, as well an old-fashioned penny arcade with retro seaside amusements.

Then carry on to the Church of St Mary – known as the ‘cathedral of East Sussex’. Climb to the top of the church tower for a bird’s eye view over the rooftops of Rye to the surrounding countryside and the Channel, and maybe even as far as France.

It’s a narrow spiraling climb to the top of the tower, but along the way you can see the mechanism of the historic church clock. It was built in 1560, making it the oldest church turret clock still in use. But it’s still known as the ‘new’ clock as it was added 400 years after the church was built, after the original was destroyed by French invaders.

View of Rye from the tower of St Mary’s Church

Saturday afternoon

Next head back to Mermaid Street and the Strand to explore some of Rye’s independent antique, art and vintage shops. Try The Confit Pot for French pottery and homewares, Halycon Days for upcycled furniture, Rye Pottery for handmade ceramics, Marsha by the Sea for gorgeous seaside-inspired gifts and Crock and Cosy for vintage cookware.

Stop off for a decadent hot chocolate at Knoops , who started in Rye and now have seven stores around the south of England. There are 20 different chocolate bases to choose from – from a 28% cocoa white chocolate to a 100% single origin dark chocolate – as well as extra spices and flavourings, and milkshakes for a sunny day.

Or visit the Cobbles Tea Room in a tiny cobbled side-street just off The Mint for lunch or a traditional English afternoon tea. The tea room has been running for over 60 years in a cosy cottage with a couple of garden tables surrounded by flowers.

Shopping for antiques on the Strand on a weekend in Rye

Then discover some of Rye’s literary links. It starred in the book Mapp and Lucia , which was made into a BBC TV series in 2014. Author E.F. Benson renamed 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 its two TV adaptions.

Lamb House in Rye features in the series but was also the home of E.F. Benson in the 1920s. That’s not its only literary connection either as Henry James also lived there 30 years earlier. He wrote three of his novels there, including The Wings of the Dove . Today it’s run by the National Trust and you can visit the house and gardens.

Stop off at the Rye Waterworks in Tower Street for a pre-dinner drink. This compact micropub has been a water pump house and public toilet but now serves local real ales and ciders. Then finish the day with dinner at The Standard , serving local specialities including Romney Marshes lamb and Winchelsea beef, plus an amazing chocolate brownie.

Cobbled streets in Rye

Sunday morning

The following 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 (catch the number 313 bus from Rye train station if you don’t have a car).

The Nature Reserve is a conservation area covering 475 hectares with a mix of habitats including wetlands, reed beds, salt marshes, shingle beaches and gravel pits. Its diversity make it great for wildlife and there are over 4300 different plants and animals in the reserve, including 280 species of bird and rare British wildlife like the water vole.

There’s a Discovery Centre where you can find out about the reserve and its conservation work. And there are lots of footpaths through the reserve to explore, with three suggested circular walks which cover 2 miles, 4.3 miles or 6 miles.

Grey plovers in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

The longest route takes in ruined Camber Castle , which is part of the reserve. The castle was built for Henry VIII to protect Rye Harbour. But it wasn’t in use for long before the estuary silted up and it ended up away from the sea. You can’t go inside the castle (except on occasional guided tours) but can take a look around the exterior.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop for lunch at the William the Conqueror pub in Rye Harbour. It has lots of nautical 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 burgers and Sunday roasts, with outdoor seating by the river.

Camber Sands beach in East Sussex

Sunday afternoon

Take a post-lunch stroll along golden Camber Sands, a two-mile-long, wide sandy stretch of beach backed with giant sand dunes which could easily pass as the Mediterranean on a sunny day. Its the only dune system in East Sussex and its gorgeous good looks mean its been featured in films and TV series, often passing itself off in desert shots.

Then finish your weekend in Rye by heading four miles east of town to Tillingham vineyard, a farm in 70 acres of Sussex Weald countryside with views of Rye and the Romney Marshes (if you don’t have a car it’s a 10-minute taxi ride from Rye).

Tillingham specialise in organic, natural wines, with red, white, orange, rosé and sparkling varieties. They run 90-minute guided tours of the vineyard and winery which includes samples of four wines (2pm/4pm Sundays, pre-book in advance online). Or you can just try some of their wines in their tasting room and pick up a bottle or two to take home.

Grapes growing in East Sussex

Map of things to do in Rye, East Sussex

Map of things to do on a weekend in Rye, East Sussex

The details

How to get to rye.

Rye is just over an hour by train * from London – take the high speed service from St Pancras station to Ashford International then change onto a local train to Rye. You can also take the train along the coast from Brighton (changing at Eastbourne) or Hastings .

If you’re driving, it’s 70 miles to Rye from London, which takes around 2 hours 20 minutes. There’s overnight car parking at Rye station (TN31 7AB) and the Cattle Market (TN31 7NA) (excluding Wednesday night and Thursday until 5pm when the market is on).

The nearest airport is London Gatwick, which is around 1.5 hours drive away or 2 hours by train (changing trains at Hampden Park in Sussex).

Historic buildings in Rye

Getting around Rye

Rye is small and easy to get around on foot so you don’t need to have a car. Rye Nature Reserve is a 7-minute bus ride or a 45-minute walk from town. Camber Sands is more difficult to reach as you need to backtrack to Rye and catch the 102 bus from there, so if pushed for time it might be best to stay longer at the Nature Reserve instead. And Tillingham vineyard is a 10-minute taxi ride from Rye, which costs £15–18 one way.

Black and white houses on Mermaid Street in Rye

Where to stay in Rye

The Standard Inn * is a restored 15th-century pub in the centre of town with five bedrooms named after the Cinque Ports. It’s got lots of character, with beamed ceilings and antique furniture. Rooms are decorated in muted creams and greens, and some have fireplaces and rolltop baths. And downstairs there’s a cosy bar and restaurant.

If that’s not enough history for you, the Tudor Mermaid Inn’s * 31 rooms are all different shapes and sizes, some with four-poster beds, wood-panelled walls and even a secret staircase down to the bar. It’s a bit like staying on set in a period drama – you can even follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth I with a night in the Elizabethan Bedchamber.

Or if you prefer self-catering, Cadborough Farm’s four cottages are set in tranquil countryside just outside Rye. The buildings date from the 1800s and each cottage’s layout is different – from the cosy old dairy to the luxuriously renovated Coach House with its private garden (though note the 4-night minimum stay in high season).

Looking for somewhere to stay in Rye?*

Cadborough Farm Cottages near Rye in East Sussex

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How to spend a weekend in Rye, East Sussex: Discover the best things to see, do, eat and drink in Rye in a two-day itinerary featuring this historic coastal town’s castles, pubs, beaches and wildlife | Things to do in Rye East Sussex | Rye weekend guide | Seaside weekends in the UK | What to do in Rye

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A weekend in Hastings, East Sussex: 2-day Hastings itinerary

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The underground secrets of Dover Castle tunnels

Darshit Nakrani

Saturday 9th of March 2024

Hey Lucy, I recently came across your blog on Rye, and it immediately reminded me of the time I spent exploring the quaint town myself. Reading your blog felt like walking down my memory lanes, remembering the towns independent shops and unique pubs, walking up and down Mermaid street for getting that right picture and more so, trying to explore the town's past stories.

Hayley Mortimer

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

We love Rye it’s our favourite place

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 24th of July 2023

It's a lovely spot!

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

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!

Saturday 12th of December 2020

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

Friday 3rd of May 2019

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!!

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

Thanks, it is such a charming place!

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You are here: Home > Destinations > Rye

Stylish cobbled citadel

A medieval citadel huddled against invaders and the sea, Rye reveals its history gently. Today it’s home to a myriad of art, curiosities and cosy pubs, as well as modern boutique hotels and contemporary restaurants serving the best Sussex has to offer, from land and sea. Built on smuggled secrets and timeless tales, Rye has nooks and crannies to explore and distant views across Romney Marsh to ponder.

Things to do in Rye

Despite the feeling of seclusion, it's easy to get here by rail, sea or road.

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Rye - The Prettiest Town in the South of England

tours in rye uk

Ferne Arfin

Rye is one of the prettiest villages in England's Southeast . It's the sort of place that visitors who don't want to appear to be tourists wish they didn't like so much. Yes, it is full of tourists and day-trippers. Yes, its high street is lined with such tourist magnets as art galleries, antique shops, twee little tea shops, and craft shops. And yes, on a busy day during the school or summer vacations, it probably gets a bit crowded.

But you must give your inner cynic a rest because Rye is simply irresistible.

Start With a Brilliant Location

The town stands on a hill where the limestone ridge of the mainland meets the flat stretches of Romney Marsh. And it is a small town, not a village, even though Rye's compact Medieval center feels like a storybook village.

St Mary's Parish church, begun in the 12th century, tops the hill. Climb the church tower for views of the sinuous flow of the Rother across the marshes where the delicious salt marsh sheep graze. The church's clock - installed as the "new" clock in 1561, is one of the oldest, still functioning church tower clocks in the country.

Rye was built where three rivers met. Water surrounded and protected it on three sides. It was one of two towns associated with the ancient Cinque Ports federation - a group of seaports on the Kent Coast formed in the 12th century to provide military services to the Crown in exchange for such rights as charging tolls, collecting tax and duties.

How Nature Preserved a Complete Medieval Town

Rye's early wealth and status came from its protected access to Rye Bay and the sea on the winding River Rother. But keeping access to the bay was a constant battle against tidal silt.  In the late 1300s, a storm finally changed the course of the river and Rye was cut off from the sea.

This probably wasn't such a bad thing. Before then Rye was the first town to suffer seaborne raids from France every time the English Kings and their Norman cousins had a falling out. In one raid, in 1377, the French invaders set fire to the town and carried off eight church bells with their loot. A year later, a party of men from Rye and the neighboring town of Winchelsea raided Normandy and brought back the bells. For many years, one of the bells hung in Watchbell Street to alert the town of French invasions.

Today, the town center that was spared several centuries of battles when the river changed its course is a maze of tiny, steep cobbled streets lined with beautifully preserved medieval houses. If you wander along the prettiest streets - Mermaid Street, Watchbell Street, and Church Square - you'll come across houses declaring they were rebuilt and refurbished - in 1450. Many of the oldest have steeply pitched tile roofs, tiny front doors and neatly maintained black oak timbers. Some have names rather than numbers: The House with Two Front Doors, The House With the Seat, The House Opposite.

Why Visit Rye Today

Rye makes an excellent weekend destination or a stop on a cycle or hiking tour of the Romney Marshes. It's also a good place to warm up with tea and a cake after a bracing day on nearby, dog-friendly Camber Sands.

Though no longer a deep-water port, Rye does have a harbor, about two miles south of the town along the Rother estuary. It supports a fishing fleet that supplies restaurants up and down the Sussex and Kent coasts and across the Channel in France . The town's scallop festival in February launches the season for plump and succulent Rye Bay scallops - best in the coldest months of the year.

About 25 antiques stores are scattered around the town, many of them strung along Cinque Ports Street. There's also a good number of tea shops, seafood restaurants, and pubs.  The Old Bell , a 15th-century pub on the High Street, looks just like an old English pub should look - even though you can order tapas there. Its vaulted cellars and underground passages were probably used by smugglers to hide their booty. In the 18th century, Rye was a notorious smuggler's haven.

While you're in Rye, stop in at one of the two branches of the  Rye Castle Museum  (the Ypres Tower and the East Street Museum), to find out more about this town's fascinating past.

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Home > Places to Visit > Rye

Rye is a picturesque town in East Sussex, with cobbled streets, historical buildings and lovely independent shops making it easy to spend several hours wandering the streets.

The town of Rye is two miles from the sea and in its past was involved with smuggling, was a shipyard and dockyard and was once an island! The Mermaid Inn was built in 1156 and is thought that it is connected by a secret passageway to the Olde Bell Inn.

Mermaid Street, a beautiful cobbled street, is one of Rye’s most photographed streets and is definitely worth the visit. There are many other winding paths and streets as well as historic buildings, which make it seem like the town has stopped in time in its medieval past.

Things to Do and Where to Eat

Have a look at our favourite things to do and recommendations on where to eat in Rye by viewing the links below.

We enjoyed a trip to Rye and highly recommend the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve as well as walking to Camber Castle. There is so much wildlife to enjoy at the nature reserve – we enjoyed seeing all the birds and there is a cafe and shop too.

tours in rye uk

Where to Eat in Rye

tours in rye uk

Things to do in Rye

How to Get to Rye

By Car – If you are driving, there are many car parks in Rye including Rope Street car park, the Cattle Market car park (not Thursdays) and Cinque Ports Street car park, which are all within walking distance to the town centre.

By Train – Rye has a beautiful Grade II listed train station, which is located north of the town centre and is only minutes from the high street. Trains run approximately every hour from London St Pancras, which require one change at Ashford International, with the journey taking approximately 1 hour 10 minutes.

What’s Nearby?

Don’t miss Camber Sands – a short drive away to the coast to enjoy the sand dunes! This is a lovely soft sand beach with beautiful sand dunes and views.

camber sands beach

We also recommend visiting Winchelsea if you are visiting Rye for the weekend –  it is a small and extremely picturesque town with a church that is well worth visiting and a little shop. We really enjoyed walking around the streets and admiring the beautiful houses!

Winchelsea Church

Where to Stay in Rye?

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THE BEST Day Trips from Rye

Day trips from rye.

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  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

tours in rye uk

1. Full Day Wine Tour in Sussex and Kent

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath from London

tours in rye uk

Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio with Luxury Transport from London

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath with Pub Lunch in Lacock

tours in rye uk

Oxford and Traditional Cotswolds Villages Small-Group Day Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford Day Trip from London

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge and Bath Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Leeds Castle, Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Day Trip from London with Guided Cathedral Tour

tours in rye uk

Warner Bros. Studio Harry Potter Tour with Superior Transport from London

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge Half-Day Tour from London with Admission

tours in rye uk

Cotswolds Small Group Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle & White Cliffs Guided Day Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Small Group White Cliffs of Sussex Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Oxford, Stratford, Cotswolds & Warwick Castle Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Dover & Greenwich River Boat

tours in rye uk

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter with Transportation

tours in rye uk

Canterbury & the White Cliffs of Dover Tour (Small-Group)

tours in rye uk

South Downs and Seven Sisters Full Day Experience from Brighton

tours in rye uk

Small Group Stonehenge, Bath and Secret Place Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Small Group Cotswolds Village, Stonehenge and Bath Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge Inner Circle Access Day Trip from London Including Windsor

tours in rye uk

Stonehenge Half Day Tour with Entry and Extra Time

tours in rye uk

White Cliffs of Dover & Historic Canterbury Day Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Oxford Day Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Windsor Castle and Stonehenge Extended Visit with Admission

tours in rye uk

London Day Tour with a Local Guide: Private & Tailored to Your Interests

tours in rye uk

Royal Windsor Afternoon Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Oxford and Cambridge Tour from London

tours in rye uk

Dover & White Cliffs Tour; Canterbury, Coastal Towns & Castles

Rye Heritage Centre

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Rye Heritage Centre

History Guided Tours

Walk in the footseteps of history, history tours, upcoming historical walks.

To book online

What To Expect

Local history expert and experienced tour guide, Mike Carver (BA Hons, MA, PGCE History), will lead you on a comfortably paced walk around Rye taking approximately 2 hours. You will learn just how important Rye has been in England’s history over centuries and hear much of its rich and varied history including its place in the Norman Conquest, smuggling, shipbuilding, the Cinque Ports and so much more.

Tour Taken By

Mike Carver (BA Hons, MA, PGCE History)

tours in rye uk


Tours start outside the entrance of the Heritage Centre ( ///usual.worlds.ship ). Please arrive prior to our departure time with your ticket or QR code.

Tours last approximately 2 hours.

Please be prepared for the weather.

Subject to change.

More than 12 people visiting? Experience private showings and talks with exclusive group rates.

Working with schools & colleges we can provide educational materials and talks for many subjects.

Ghost tours, historical tours and more can be purchased directly from the center or here online.

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tours in rye uk

Dover Private tour, Rye

Travel through the picturesque Garden of England to the historic mediaeval town of Rye.

Private Tour:

Activity level:

[email protected]

About this tour...

Starting your journey from dover, you will see the famous white cliffs including shakespeare's cliff, named after the famous poet and author, before driving across the edge of the north downs, a range of hills that runs along the north of kent. from there you will pass the entrance to the channel tunnel which opened in 1994, before travelling through the delightful countryside of kent, the garden of england and will hear how the county was given that name. passing through the edge of ashford, ideally located for transport links by motorway and a hub of the rail network, the route continues into the weald of kent. you will go through picturesque villages and see many oast houses, formerly drying kilns for kent's famous hops, many of which have now been converted into private houses. en route you will pass through towns and villages with interesting place names, most of them with a particular meaning, and will have some of these names explained. one such place is the delightful wealden town of tenterden which has been home to a number of famous residents. after arriving there will be time to explore rye with your guide and have the possibility of seeing a visual presentation of the town's history (at extra cost). walk up the famous mermaid street and see the hotel of the same name, the church dedicated to st mary the virgin with its distinctive clock pendulum, and the ypres tower (pronounced 'wipers') as well as other interesting places. consider having a cup of tea or coffee, or maybe a sumptuous cream tea in one of the town's delightful cafes. you will hear about the creation of the cinque ports and be told stories of smuggling on the coast of kent and sussex as you head back across the famous romney marsh, noted for the sheep of the same name, and the building of the royal military canal. you will see the romney, hythe & dymchurch railway which claims to be the smallest railway in the world. it was the brainchild of former army officer captain j. e. p. howey and model railway enthusiast count louis zborowski who built and owned the car chitty bang bang, later made famous in the book and film by james bond author ian fleming who added a second "chitty" to the name. you will then return to your ship with memories of a delightful day..


Meeting point

Cruise ship terminal

A note from your guide

The town of Rye is built on a hill with steep cobbled roads. Suitable footwear is essential - stiletto heals are not advisable

What is included

Travel Guiding in Rye

What is extra

Food & drink

Options  € 

This Tour is available in:

Child friendly

Wheel chair friendly

Type of transportation

English, Deutsch

Executive car

Your Private Tour Guide


Based near Canterbury in the delightful county of Kent, known as the Garden of England, Frank holds the highest guiding qualification, the coveted blue-badge, for South East England and is qualified to guide in both the English and German languages on foot, on a coach or in his own luxury car which is fully licenced and insured for carrying passengers. Background After leaving school he studied at universities in both Britain (German) and West Berlin (Business Studies). While in Berlin, he started running skiing holidays for fellow students, and he still has friends he made at that time. After university Frank set up his own business in tourism, first of all in Kent, then later opened a branch office in Germany, and he considers himself to be very lucky to have been in Berlin on 11 November 1989 when the Wall "fell", an experience he will never forget. After some years, with major shifts in the industry, he decided to change direction and train as a tourist guide. His only regret: that he hadn't made the change many years earlier. Frank has a range of hobbies which include photography and sailing his small boat, and he is active in his local community, sitting on various committees, one of them being, thanks to his extensive sailing experience, the local Water Safety Committee.

Need more information before booking .

Prices are generally for the whole group and not per person (except for tours including meals and other entrance fees to attractions included in the tour).

Variations (+ or -) may apply depending on the number of people and will be calculated before adding to Cart.

Your group is strictly private: no one will be added

Book an excursion for two different destinations during your cruise or trip and benefit from a 5% discount on your entire shopping cart.

Book three and get 10% off

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  1. Rye Guided Walks

    Join Rye's Town Crier on a 2 1/2-hour guided walk and learn the strange, fascinating and occasionally grim story of England's best-preserved Medieval town and ancient Cinque Port. £15 per person. Meet outside Rye Heritage Centre before the advertised start time. Tickets available from Rye Heritage Centre (01797 226696) or online at:

  2. THE 5 BEST Rye Tours & Excursions for 2024 (with Prices)

    These experiences are best for tours in Rye: e-Scavenger hunt Ypres: Explore the city at your own pace; Full Day Wine Tour in Sussex and Kent; Rye: Gem of East Sussex; Dover private Shore Excursion; Brighton Tour App, Hidden Gems Game and Big Britain Quiz (1 Day Pass) UK; See more tours in Rye on Tripadvisor

  3. Tours and Talks

    Tours depart from outside the Rye Heritage Centre (Just look for the big anchor ///begin.splashes.arrive) or outside Rye Town Hall (///fast.spud.evoked). Please arrive 5-10 minutes before the tour time with your physical or e-tieket (printed or on your phone). ... [email protected] 01797 331066 CONTACT US. BOOK TICKETS. OPENING HOURS ...

  4. Rye Tours with Local Private Tour Guides

    Meet up with a friendly local guide and learn more about this ancient town on a private Rye tour. Rye is perched on top a rocky outcrop overlooking the North Sea. Walking around the cobbled streets of the Citadel, you can see the remains of the town's 12th century defences, and the Church of Saint Mary. Climb up the Church Tower for panoramic ...

  5. THE 5 BEST Rye Tours & Excursions (from £15)

    Historical Tours. 2 hours. Discover 'Doctor Syn' and the Hawkhurst Gang on your Private Guided Walk of medieval Rye Bring your camera as there are…. Free cancellation. from. £250. per group. 5. Brighton Tour App, Hidden Gems Game and Big Britain Quiz (1 Day Pass) UK.

  6. 10 Best Things to Do in Rye

    A special light and sound show illustrates the evolution of Rye over the millennia. 2. Walk Up Mermaid Street in Rye, England. Mermaid Street is the most famous and iconic street in Rye, England. Photos of its cobbled lane and its ivy-clad half-timber houses circulate on social media drawing gasps of admiration.

  7. Rye, Sussex: The Ultimate Travel Guide for First Time Visitors

    Visit Rye Castle (Ypres Tower) Location: 3 East Street. Hours: Open daily April - October 10:30-5:00 and November - March 10:30 - 3:30. Admission: 5 pounds. If you're traveling to Rye, visiting Rye Castle (or Ypres Tower) is an absolute must! Rye Castle, also known as Ypres Tower, is a historic landmark located in Rye.

  8. Rye-England Tour

    Lamb House, Church Square, the Ypres Tower, the Gun Garden, The Landgate. Our walk will end where we began on the Quayside. Rye is a very small town with lovely old cobbled streets with many opportunities for fantastic views over the surrounding countryside of Romney Marsh, Rye Harbour and Camber Castle. * Please note this tour can be customized.

  9. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Rye

    1. St. Mary's Parish Church. For more than 900 years the Parish Church of Rye, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, has dominated the hill on which the old town stands. Today, if you wish, you can climb the church tower where, from the top, you can see magnificent views of Rye and the surrounding countryside.

  10. Rye Town Crier Tours

    Enjoy a 2 to 2.5 hour walk to see and learn about many of Rye's historic features, old buildings and hear about the quirky, strange and sometimes grim ... Ghost tours, historical tours and more can be purchased directly from the center or here online. ... TN31 7AY [email protected] 01797 331066 CONTACT US. BOOK TICKETS. OPENING HOURS ...

  11. One Day In Rye England Itinerary: What To Do And See

    Planning a visit to Rye England? This is the ultimate one day in Rye itinerary. It covers the top attractions and best things to do and see in Rye in 24 hours. Steeped in history, Rye is a well-preserved medieval town in East Sussex with a medieval castle, a beautiful church, and some of the best preserved medieval homes in England.

  12. Rye, England's Most Beautiful Village

    In short, Rye stands as the undisputed contender for the title of "England's prettiest village". With its medieval charm, breathtaking views, vibrant cultural scene and gastronomic delights, Rye offers a unique experience that transports travellers to a world where time seems to stand still. Tour Travel & More is proud to introduce this ...

  13. 12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Rye

    Plan your sightseeing itinerary with our list of the top attractions and best things to do in Rye, England. On This Page: 1. Explore Old Town Rye; 2. Go Bird-Watching at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve ; 3. Visit Rye Castle Museum and Climb Ypres Tower ... The Sussex Wildlife Trust also include tours to the castle in their guided walks of the Rye ...

  14. A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: 2-day Rye itinerary

    Then finish your weekend in Rye by heading four miles east of town to Tillingham vineyard, a farm in 70 acres of Sussex Weald countryside with views of Rye and the Romney Marshes (if you don't have a car it's a 10-minute taxi ride from Rye). Tillingham specialise in organic, natural wines, with red, white, orange, rosé and sparkling varieties.

  15. Rye in East Sussex

    Stylish cobbled citadel. A medieval citadel huddled against invaders and the sea, Rye reveals its history gently. Today it's home to a myriad of art, curiosities and cosy pubs, as well as modern boutique hotels and contemporary restaurants serving the best Sussex has to offer, from land and sea. Built on smuggled secrets and timeless tales ...

  16. Rye

    Rye makes an excellent weekend destination or a stop on a cycle or hiking tour of the Romney Marshes. It's also a good place to warm up with tea and a cake after a bracing day on nearby, dog-friendly Camber Sands. Though no longer a deep-water port, Rye does have a harbor, about two miles south of the town along the Rother estuary.

  17. Visit Rye, East Sussex

    Rye is a picturesque town in East Sussex, with cobbled streets, historical buildings and lovely independent shops making it easy to spend several hours wandering the streets. The town of Rye is two miles from the sea and in its past was involved with smuggling, was a shipyard and dockyard and was once an island! The Mermaid Inn was built in ...

  18. THE BEST Day Trips from Rye (UPDATED 2024)

    Rye is a great travel destination with a lot to do and see, but sometimes you need to get away and explore the surrounding areas. Book the best day trips from Rye, England directly on Tripadvisor and take the stress out of planning. Read 63,846 traveler reviews and view photos of different trips from Rye to various destinations. Find day trips to take today or this coming weekend.

  19. Experience The Story of Rye Light Show

    Make sure to visit Rye Heritage Centre and discover over 750 years of our history before you make your own memories - " Today's memories are Tomorrow's Heritage. Here you can experience the "Story of Rye", a 15 minute sound and light show featuring the famous Rye Town Model to guide you through the cobbled streets and hidden passages of Rye and enjoy the splendour of our medieval town.

  20. A 4K Walk Through Medieval Rye, East Sussex, England

    Rye is a small town in the historic County of Sussex, E... We hope you enjoy this walk through Medieval Rye, East Sussex, England, in this 4K full walking tour.

  21. History Tours

    What To Expect. Local history expert and experienced tour guide, Mike Carver (BA Hons, MA, PGCE History), will lead you on a comfortably paced walk around Rye taking approximately 2 hours. You will learn just how important Rye has been in England's history over centuries and hear much of its rich and varied history including its place in the ...

  22. Rye Audio Tour

    What's on in Rye Town Crier Guided Tour. Saturday, 20th April 2024, 3:00pm - 5:30pm Rye Heritage Centre, Rye. Enjoy a 2 to 2.5 hour walk to see and learn about many of Rye's historic features, old buildings and … more. Category: Tours and Walks

  23. Dover England Tour-Rye

    4. People. Duration: 4. hour (s) Activity level: [email protected]. About this tour... Starting your journey from Dover, you will see the famous White Cliffs including Shakespeare's Cliff, named after the famous poet and author, before driving across the edge of the North Downs, a range of hills that runs along the north of Kent.