All your drinking requirements are catered for in Rye. Ancient beamed bars and historic pubs (most of them freehouses) serve local beers, fine wines, and good food. We’ve drunk in all of them but these are the ones we go back to.
‘The Wipers’ has such a pretty run-up – through cobbly Church Square, past the 14th-century Ypres Tower, before descending down the ancient Gun Garden steps. By the time you set eyes on its white clapboard exterior, you’ll be thirsty for a pint. This is also the only pub in the citadel with a proper beer garden, which overlooks the river and Romney Marsh.
Craft beer lovers will enjoy the quickly changing roster of beers (some local, but many from London’s small breweries) plus there’s real cider and low-intervention wine. The snacks are ace and there’s a small but tasty menu to accompany the booze.
One of Rye’s most ancient drinking establishments (it dates to the early 15th century), this is a fashionably stripped-back pub, with a tiled floor, bare-wood window frames and scrubbed wooden tables, softened by distressed blue paintwork. Candles, an open fire and some wonkily beautiful beamwork add to the atmosphere; this is a place for loud, buzzy conversation, not hushed tones, just as a pub should be.
The bar serves beer from nearby breweries including Five Legs and Old Dairy, and the food includes local fish and seafood (the scallops with herb butter never leave the menu), Romney Marsh lamp rump and a pie of the day.
Originally built as Rye’s pump house, this charming little building has had several guises since, including as a soup kitchen in the early 20th century, public toilets, and most recently an antiques emporium. Its current use suits it very well, as a micropub serving only local ales and ciders, including Three Legs, New Romney and Hop Fuzz. This intimate and very friendly spot is a go-to for a quick drink before an evening meal, a pint outside in the sunshine watching the world go by, or a bit more of a session.
The antiques shop (sort of) lives on, in that many of the pieces of furniture and objects that adorn the interior are for sale.
An alehouse since medieval times, the Mermaid’s cellars date from the 12th century, although what you see now is a mere 700 years old or so, with thick beams, elegant panelling and crooked floors.
Now a popular hotel – famously reputed to be haunted by the smugglers that used to hang out here in the 18th century – it also has an extraordinary lounge bar, dominated by an enormous inglenook ‘giant’s fireplace’, so big that it even accommodates a priest’s hole in the chimney breast.
The uniformed bar staff serve local ale and cider and there’s a good wine list. It’s a particularly welcome spot on a cold night, or after a big walk.
Originally a 16th-century warehouse that stored the contraband seized from smugglers, The Ship is now a family friendly pub and dining room, owned by Kentish winery Hush Heath. Enjoy its own Balfour English wines alongside an all-day dining menu of gastropub crowd-pleasers.
A big, bustling freehouse with zero pretentions, the Queen’s Head is a lively locals’ pub, with pool table, piano and more than a few good pints. Stand at the bar, get comfy in a big squashy chairs around the stove or be seated for a meal.
The pub is becoming increasingly well known for its food, which is hearty and lovingly cooked from scratch on the premises.
There’s often live music on Saturdays.