Rye is handily placed for wonderful beaches (both the family resort kind, and the nobody-around-for-miles kind), picturesque towns, gardens, castles, galleries and museums. Here are just a few ways to fill up your days.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway runs between Tenterden and Bodiam; it’s fun any time, but there are periodic family-friendly days such as days out with Thomas the Tank Engine. Visit the website for timetables and dates of service.
Smuggler’s Adventure in Hastings is a network of secret caverns and tunnels buried deep in the cliffs. The most exciting way to get there is to take the quaint West Hill Cliff Railway from George Street.
The South of England Rare Breeds Centre, Woodchurch has trailer rides, an aviary, creepy-crawly world, a hill fort, aerial runway, and lots more. In summer there are pig races every day, with children divided into teams to race alongside.
Site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, this quiet town is anything but turbulent now. The ruined Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror to celebrate his victory, and the battlefield itself are open to the public courtesy of English Heritage.
The town has a pretty high street with lots of boutiques and independent shops. It’s also home to Yesterday’s World, a quirky, nostalgic museum that aims to transport visitors back in time via a series of shops with original products from Victorian times to around 1970.
Full of handsome red-brick architecture, Tenderden feels like the quintessential English market town. Its thriving high street has a mix of independent shops, high-end chains and antique shops, and the Kent & East Sussex Railway also starts here.
The best beach resorts are an easy mix of high- and low-brow, and Hastings has it all, with arcades and mini-golf sitting just yards from the cutting-edge contemporary art of the Jerwood Gallery. The genteel Old Town is an antique/junk shopping hotspot.
A relaxing old-fashioned air pervades Bexhill. Stroll on the promenade or the beach, and see what’s on at the De La Warr Pavilion, the sensational modernist arts centre that dominates the seafront.
If you fancy a day of big-name shopping, Ashford has pretty much every retail chain you can think of, while the Ashford Designer Outlet includes more than 80 stores offering discounted goods, including Gap, Jaeger, Kurt Geiger and Ted Baker.
The family home of the late gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. The garden, with its topiary, mixed borders and explosions of colour, is exquisite in summer and has influenced gardeners throughout the world.
Created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, this is one of the world’s most famous gardens, arranged as a series of romantic outdoor ‘rooms’ around a central Elizabethan tower, where Sackville-West used to write.
The garden is part of a wider 450-acre estate, and makes a fine base for a countryside walk.
Victorian actress Dame Ellen Terry’s 16th-century timbered home. Some of her amazing theatrical costumes are on show, there’s a sweet cottage garden, and it’s virtually opposite the excellent Chapel Down vineyard if you want to stock up on local food and drink while you’re here.
The atmospheric Jacobean home of Rudyard Kipling, who lived here from 1902 until his death in 1936.
Kipling regarded Bateman’s as a place of sanctuary; with its mellow sandstone architecture and tranquil garden, it’s easy to fathom why. The house is a memorial to the writer, left as he and his wife lived in it, and includes letters, memorabilia and Kipling’s library, where he would write.
Climb the turrets of this 14th-century moated castle with ruined interior. It’s a great place for children to let off steam – buy them a wooden sword in the shop, then let them run riot.
Bodiam station is a stop on the Kent and East Sussex Railway; you can walk the quarter of a mile from the station to the castle itself.
Camber Sands is a huge, glorious stretch of sand, backed by massive dunes, just 4 miles away, or less if you walk/cycle. Take a bucket and spade, learn to kitesurf, or just sit outside the beach cafes with a cup of tea and watch the world go by.
There’s a regular bus service from Rye to Camber Sands so you don’t need a car to get there from the town.
Winchelsea Beach is a large shingle beach, on the opposite bank of the River Rother to Camber Sands. It’s much quieter than Camber.
Hastings is a proper bucket-and-spade resort, with arcades, rides etc. Pelham Beach, close to Hastings town centre, is family friendly, with lifeguard in summer.
Hastings is under 20 minutes away on the train from Rye.
Dungeness is a wild, remote stretch of shingle, where hardy homeowners, rare birdlife and a massive power station live in harmony. Visit the lighthouse, covet the innovative architecture, and ride the miniature railway.
There’s lots of good walking to be had around Rye, some of it straight from the door of Bee Cottage – two-thirds of East Sussex is covered by the High Weald and Sussex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the coast is a great place to walk, too.
The website for the High Weald AONB lists more than 50 local walks, from between one and 10+ miles. The most challenging is the High Weald Landscape Trail, a 145km/95mile walk in seven sections, from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye. You can walk just the last section, from Flackley Ash to Rye (7.1km/4.4miles), by catching a bus to the start and walking the route back.
Kent’s flat, atmospheric marshland is beautiful and otherworldly.
A walk around Hastings’ clifftop countryside, with a descent into the town itself via the cliff railway.
A short, easy walk around a lovely wooded valley.
Stroll the Royal Military Canal, with views over the fields and marshes.
Skirt around the gardens of Great Dixter and the pretty village of Northiam.
Rye’s neighbouring Cinque Port has an equally fascinating history.
Rye Harbour’s site includes a downloadable leaflet of three circular walks around the nature reserve, of between one and three hours.
Includes a 14-mile suggested walk from Hamstreet station to Rye (you can get the train to Hamstreet directly, and walk back).