Rye Art Gallery

There’s nearly always something inspiring on at this highly regarded gallery, which combines a permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, plus contemporary selling shows.

The permanent collection includes works by John Piper, Paul Nash and Edward Burra (Burra and Nash were both Rye residents), while the pieces for sale crossover many media, from prints to jewellery to sculpture. It’s the perfect place to pick up a classy, memorable souvenir.

Strand antiques shops

Virtually every shop along this picturesque street leading down to the Quay sells second-hand goods (and, increasingly, faux second-hand goods); they’ve been lumped together here for reasons of space, but in reality they all have their individual charms. Some of our favourites include Halcyon Days for rustic furniture, upcycled using Annie Sloan’s fantastic chalk paints; quality vintage clothes at Tallulah & Rose; and the multi-tenanted rummage-fest that is The Quay Antiques.

Rye Pottery

Rye Pottery’s charming folk-infused ceramics are having a renaissance in a world newly appreciative of the decorative arts. It is best known for its hand-painted animals and figures, full of lively detail, and its mid-century tableware, including the classic Cottage Stripe design. The fact that the pottery doesn’t sell directly online makes a visit to its shop-cum-studio even more of a must (head upstairs to see some of the making in action). As well as its own pieces it sells a small but well-curated selection of homewares and prints.

Glass Etc

Our favourite antique shop in Rye is slightly off the main shopping drag, so it’s worth shouting about here. Owned by Antiques Roadshow’s glass expert Andy McConnell, it sells lots of glass, as you might expect (mostly 20th century, with some excellent Scandinavian art glass and mid-century lighting) plus kitchenalia, ironmongery, textiles and more. They brilliantly tap into current interiors trends here – there was seventies-luxe gold ceramic lighting and a white peacock cane chair on one visit, very current. The icing on the cake is the reasonable prices.

McCully & Crane

Gareth McCully and Marcus Crane’s interiors shop – and the interior design business that grew out of it – have a superbly eclectic aesthetic. Taxidermy, religious artefacts, industrial lighting and furniture, posters, signage and original artwork make up the mix in their small shop. It packs a visual punch yet it’s perfectly balanced; nothing is too polished or precious, so there’s an informality to the overall look, even though it’s dramatically presented. A sister gallery right next door is dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

Merchant & Mills

“We love sewing and believe in it” say Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field, the duo behind this beautifully styled haberdashery shop. Even if you’ve never sat in front of a sewing machine, this place is still inspiring, with bolts of fabric (traditional wool, tweed, linen, muslin and denim) sitting next to perfectly packaged ‘sewing notions’ such as buttons, scissors and pins. A rack of clothes shows what you can do with Merchant & Mills’ own-brand patterns; the emphasis is on strong simple shapes and ease of making.

Grammar School Records

Tucked inside one the High Street’s most atmospheric red-brick buildings (as the name gives away, it used to be a school, built in the 17th century) is one of the UK’s best second-hand music shops. Chock full of vinyl (20,000 individual discs), CDs and DVDs, its massive selection is divided by genre to help give you a steer in the right direction, and the staff are nice and friendly. Take a punt on one of the £1 7-inch vinyl bundles, mysteriously wrapped in brown paper, then bring your lost treasures back to Bee Cottage to play on the record player!