Rye: The seaside town without a sea that still captivates tourists

The village is now popular for its boutique hotels and cosy cafes
-Credit: (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)


A town frequently ranked among the top British seaside locations is actually not situated by the sea. Which? magazine has listed Rye in East Sussex as one of the country's best seaside towns, alongside Bamburgh in Northumberland, Dartmouth in Devon and Portstewart in Northern Ireland. However, Rye is three miles from the coast.

Its medieval citadel attracts thousands of visitors each year, who are also drawn to its boutique hotels, cosy pubs and upscale restaurants.

Rye was once a fishing village but the waters have now receded, meaning the English Channel is now a few miles away. It was once part of the Manor of Rameslie before Ethelred the Unready, the Anglo Saxon king of England, gifted it to the Abbey of Fecamp when he sought sanctuary in 1014, reports the Mirror.

When Normandy returned to French control in 1205, Rye was included in the agreement and it took another 42 years before it was reunited with the English Crown, according to the 1066 Country travel website. Once back under the King's ownership, defences were strengthened with a large wall and four gates preventing outsiders from entering the town.

Some of these fortifications can still be seen today.

As a Cinque Port, Rye was on the frontline in defending the realm during medieval times, with its status exempting the town from taxes and custom duties. However, the town was also subject to French attacks and raids, including one in 1377 in which a fire almost destroyed it.

These days, Rye is a popular tourist destination, with visitors flocking to the historic Ypres Tower at Rye Castle and the medieval allure of Mermaid Street. Other must-see spots include Rye Nature Reserve, St Mary's Church and the town's array of dining options, as recommended by Time Out magazine.

The publication particularly praises the seafood at The Globe Inn Marsh and the cream teas at Mermaid Street Cafe, marking them as top foodie destinations in Rye. For those who love a good bargain, Mermaid Street hosts a variety of antique shops such as Strand Quay Antiques, The Confit Pot and Alex MacArthur Interiors on Conduit Hill.

The town also offers a selection of pubs including The George Inn, Rye Waterworks Micropub, Ypres Castle Inn and The Mermaid Inn, which boasts cellars dating back to 1156. If you're after a beach day, Camber Sands is just a three-mile walk from Rye.

According to Sussex Live, members of the East Sussex Naturists club are known to frequent the town. In a recent survey by Which? magazine, Rye was ranked 25th among British seaside towns, making it the top choice in Sussex.

Scotland's top seaside gem is St Andrews in Fife, while Wales boasts the picturesque Portmeirion in Gwynedd, and Northern Ireland is home to the charming Portstewart in Londonderry/Derry, as per a Which?

survey. Clacton-on-Sea and Skegness, however, found themselves at the lower end of Which?'s rankings.

The consumer magazine highlighted that these locations received an average three out of five stars for their beaches, but their "run-down seafronts" didn't win over visitors. Nonetheless, some respondents did speak highly of Clacton's "lovely" seafront gardens and its "fantastic" annual airshow.

Similarly, Skegness was commended for its "old-fashioned" appeal, along with its donkey rides, aquarium, and arcades.