Emma Simkins has a Rye old time on the Sussex coast
Emma Simkins has a Rye old time on the Sussex coast
Why go? Looking for an easy getaway to round off the summer in style? This charming corner of the Sussex coast lets you mix a beachy break with a decent dose of culture.
Oh so pretty: fishing boats in Rye Harbour © Clive Sawyer
Best for: Foodies, antiques and art-lovers, and those who like their mini-breaks to come with history – this is 1066 Country after all. Rye is a medieval gem of a town, packed with architectural treasures including cobbled streets, winding passageways and the Norman church of St Mary’s, as well as a thriving town centre with no shortage of independent shops. As an added bonus, you’re close enough to the Garden of England to soak up some of Kent’s finest produce, including juicy plums and a surprisingly good line in English fizz.
The look: This handsome four-star hotel successfully marries the historic and the modern with aplomb. Exposed beams and a charmingly higgledy-piggledy layout are a dead giveaway of its 1575 heritage. However, the Farrow & Ball colours and quirky touches, such as the bar’s upcycled lampshades made from old car lights, stop it from straying into staid ‘ye olde pubbe’ territory.
None of the 34 bedrooms are the same, but whichever you choose, you’ll find REN products and a super-comfortable bed, complete with Vi-Spring mattress and Frette linen, as well as all the tech you’d expect in a luxury hotel – flatscreen LCD TV, Wi-Fi, Tivoli digital radio. If you’re feeling decadent, book room 41. This split-level suite is one to hole yourselves up in thanks to a private patio and internal staircase leading down to a huge art deco-inspired bathroom. Order a pre-dinner cocktail to sup in the tin roll-top bath, fill it to the top and daydream you’re in Downton.
The George prides itself on its interiors and attention to detail – if you like what you see you can pick up many of the same pieces from The Shop Next Door (96 High St). Think True Grace candles, hand-blown glass vases, cushions, pom poms, throws, rugs… Hotel guests get a 10 per cent discount, so leave space in your luggage as you will want to buy something.
Snuggle up in Sussex: a Superior bedroom at The George in Rye
I’m hungry… The George Grill, serving modern European fare with an emphasis on British produce, is a hit with locals and hotel guests alike. Expect a strong – and perennially popular – selection of seafood, from Suffolk oysters and native lobster to starters of dressed Norfolk crab (£9) and Shetland scallops (£10). Mains include catch-of-the-day dishes such as bream fillet cooked with Italian garganega wine, fennel, cherry tomato and rosemary (£17). While the menu can be a little light on vegetarian options, there is plenty for meat-lovers – a juicy Chateaubriand (£45 for two) from the charcoal oven won’t disappoint.
With the pick of Sussex and Kent’s finest fruit and veg, locally farmed meat and an abundance of fresh fish, you won’t be stuck for dining options further afield. Rye is stacked with eateries from gastro-pubs and tea rooms – check out Edith’s House (105a High St) for decent coffee and cake – to an à-la-carte Indian (theambrette.co.uk/rye) and a buzzing Italian (tuscankitchenrye.co.uk).
While you’re there… This area is known as 1066 Country with a plethora of historic coastal towns to explore. Hastings is one of the best known – steer clear of the arcades and fish-and-chippers by taking a stroll through the pretty Old Town to enjoy a rummage in the antiques and junk shops. Bexhill is good for a walk on the promenade and does a nice line in beach huts, but it’s the superb Modernist arts centre, the De La Warr Pavillion (dlwp.com), that most visitors flock to. If it’s beach you’re after, Camber Sands is just four miles from Rye. It’s the only sandy stretch on this notoriously pebbly stretch of Sussex coast – ideal for soaking up any September sun or taking a blustery walk along the shore. If you have a car, Sissinghurst Castle (nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle) is worth a look for Vita Sackville-West’s famous gardens. Time it right and you can catch a couple of Farmers’ Markets there too (12 and 26 September). Upcoming events include Rye Arts Festival (12-28 September, ryeartsfestival.co.uk) and Rye Bonfire & Torchlight Procession (Rye Fawkes) on 8 November.
Music is power: the Bandstand at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill
Dress code: The hotel is relaxed so keep it classic with a hint of bling. Save your boots, Breton stripes and chunky knits for the day, but if you’re heading in for dinner a boxy tee and skinnies with some statement jewellery and a bold lip will see you right.
Book now: The George in Rye, 98 High Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JT (01797 222114; thegeorgeinrye.com). In September prices start at £125 per night staying in a queen room with breakfast. There is a car park nearby that costs £1.50 per 24 hours. Rye train station is a five-to-ten-minute walk away, or a taxi costs £4.
Info: Slow Sussex and the South Downs (£14.99; Bradt) is full of local Sussex colour and gives suggestions for walks, pubs and quirky activities to try. Useful websites include ryesussex.co.uk, visit1066country.com and coastalculturetrail.co.uk.