The Friends of Tilling , who follow the exploits of Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson,
gather in Rye each year, reliving the books and series filmed and set in this very
town. Benson Walks take places regularly in the Town.
Along the south side of the churchyard runs Watchbell Street, with its houses ranging
from Tudor to Regency. Past the Customs House one faces Lamb House, associated with
so much of Rye’s history, including an unscheduled visit by George I in 1726 and
Henry James, the novelist, who lived here for several years. Lamb House is owned
by the National Trust and is open to the public. See Rye Eye for more on literary
For current opening hours or any further information please contact
Independent Shops - Art Galleries - Country & Coastal Walks - Historic Buildings
The Victorian poet, Coventry Patmore, described Rye as “A little bit of the old world living
on in pleasant ignorance of the new”. It would be hard to find a better summary of
Rye’s charm. The Mermaid Inn, offering unique accommodation in Rye, captures the
atmosphere behind these words. Charm is the key word and Rye has it in abundance.
EXPERIENCES & PLACESTO VISIT
Quaint antique shops, art galleries and state of the art beauty parlours and salons
Castles, Abbey, Gardens and historic cities within easy reach
Places to Visit in and around Rye
When one sets foot on the cobbles of Mermaid Street and gazes at the two rows of
houses the centuries just fall away. It would seem right and natural for the sound
of horses to echo in this ancient thoroughfare. The Mermaid had close associations
with Smugglers and their notorious activities, although the old Customs House (the
house with the crooked chimney) is just around the corner from the Inn. To consider
for one moment that Customs men and Smugglers were unaware of each others’ existence
would be stretching credulity too far and, no doubt, some spirit of ‘co-operation’
The Customs House faces the beautiful Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin with its
mighty buttresses. Through the Churchyard lies the Ypres Tower, built around 1250,
as a defence against the French. It is the oldest fortification existing in the Cinque
Ports, with the exception of Dover Castle, and is now a fascinating museum. In front
of the Tower is the garden, where the defenders of Rye manned a battery of guns.
There is a breathtaking view from this vantage point, both over the Walland and Romney
Marshes and across the River Rother to Winchelsea, Rye’s sister town, both members
of the Confederation of Cinque Ports. Millais painted ‘The Blind Girl’ in these meadows.
Rye also prides itself on its sporting history, having one of the oldest cricket
clubs in the country, well supported by the locality, and also the exclusive Rye
Golf Club which hosts the annual President’s Putter competition in January, between
Oxford University and Cambridge University. The Mermaid sponsors the Mermaid Bowls
League each year, which once again has a large following and helps bring the surrounding
villages together. (We always remain totally impartial of course!)
Camber Sands is only a short drive from Rye and has been used as a backdrop for many
films over the years such as Dunkirk, Carry On Follow that Camel and Yellowbeard.
For the more adventurous holidaymaker there is a cycle route from Rye to Camber passing
the Windsurfing School. Rye Harbour offers a mixture of historic interest with military
fortifications spanning several centuries, a Nature Reserve and wondrous views as
the river flows from Rye to the sea, transporting Rye’s Fishing Fleet.
There are numerous Country Walks emanating from Rye, taking you through unspoilt
valleys and, if you wish to see gardens with a difference, there is Great Dixter
at Northiam or in total contrast Derek Jarman’s Garden at Dungeness.
For the railway enthusiasts the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway is a unique
way to view Romney Marsh or for a vintage steam train the Kent and East Sussex Railway
travelling from Tenterden to Bodiam is a must.
A short drive will take you to Bodiam Castle, Hastings, Battle Abbey, Brighton or
Canterbury, all steeped in history. The countryside of Kent and Sussex surrounding
Rye is some of the most beautiful in the South of England, with its unspoilt villages
and peaceful seashore.
RYE ARTS FESTIVAL
Each year in September Rye Hosts the Rye Festival, which caters for all tastes with
visitors travelling from all corners of the world. See Rye Arts Festival