Last weekend my guy and I went for a weekend away. We knew we wanted to get away at some point in the dreary days of Februsmarch, so we looked for somewhere close, but far enough away it felt like we were getting the hell out of dodge. And Rye ticked all the boxes!
I work at a historic site for my day job, so I sometimes take its centuries of history a bit for granted, but even Rye made it feel like we’d stepped back in time. The cobbled streets and the quaint architecture made it feel like we’d gone back to at least the 1600s, which for this American, is dang old.
Rye is small, so by the second day we felt like locals. There were sooo many doggos everywhere, and all the shops and restaurants were dog friendly too, so that was a delight.
We arrived late morning on Sunday, which meant not much was open at first. We had a nice brunch, and then wandered around the lower parts of the town (village? It was SO QUAINT). We explored the winding streets, popped into some interesting shops, took lots of photos, and enjoyed the surprisingly sunny weather.
Later we went to drop our things in the inn where we were staying, which was the creakiest establishment I’ve ever been in, but also super charming, just like everything else in Rye. It was called Jeake’s House and I’d definitely recommend it.
(Can we just talk about that tartan armchair for a hot sec?)
Our room had a lavender colour scheme going on, along with a somewhat ominous replica of the head of Michelangelo’s David. The wallpaper was my favorite part.
We wandered back out into the village and went to see the oldest church in town, a very tiny book store, and a few shops my partner used to visit with his family as a child. It was so lovely to wander around at a slow pace along the narrow sidewalks and down winding alleys, stopping whenever we wanted to look into a shop window or just admire the architecture.
I love me some castles, and Rye’s is small but interesting, with displays about the maritime history of the area, and objects used by smugglers over the centuries. There was a peaceful enclosed garden in the back, and the plants were juuust starting to bud, so it was lovely to imagine it in the full bloom of summer.
We ended up relaxing at our B&B until dinner time, when we had a reservation at The Mermaid Inn, Rye’s most famous hotel and restaurant. Our hotel was just down the road, so it was a quick walk, and The Mermaid definitely earns its reputation for being the oldest/most haunted place in Rye. It has a sign outside that proves this right away!
It’s 600 years old!! BUT — there’s been a tavern there since at least 1156! The restaurant was just as old as you’d expect it to be, with dark beamed ceilings and paneling, and huge stone fireplaces.
Portraits of the Tudors and Plantagenets lined the walls, and another sign outside (which I couldn’t get a good photo of) said that The Mermaid as it stands today was already 150 years old when Elizabeth I stayed there!
The food was incredible, and we wandered back to our B&B afterwards, two very happy and full hobbits. We tried to get some photos of the stars over the rooftops, and since my guy grew up in the city he gets SO EXCITED when he can see more stars than normal, so it was a magical night. Nothing like getting out of the city for some fresh air and starlight.
Luckily we weren’t visited by any ghosts in the night, and breakfast the next morning featured a full English fry-up for him and some fantastic French toast for me. We checked out and wandered through a few side streets we had missed on the first day. We visited the National Trust property at the top of the town, called Lamb House. (We had a magical encounter outside the house on the first day, when we walked past, and bubbles floated up and down the cobbled street. We couldn’t figure out where they had come from, so it was a perfect little whimsical moment.)
The house had historically been where the town mayor lived, but Henry James bought it and wrote most of his novels while living there, so it was recreated to look as he would have known it.
One room upstairs, the bedroom, was kept to its 1720s style, as it’s where George I stayed the night when his ship – bound for Hanover – had to make port because of bad weather. George was not a very popular monarch to begin with, but he certainly didn’t redeem himself when he kicked out the mayor’s very pregnant wife from the bedroom, and she ended up giving birth later that night! Nice George, real nice.
We made our way out into the HUGE back garden and found an oasis of green, even on a drizzly March day. The plants were just starting to poke up through the soil, so the air smelled fresh and, well, green.
We stopped for one last snack at the tea room, and had the biggest slices of carrot and citrus cake we’ve ever seen. It got chillier as the day went on, so I very un-Britishly necked a few cups of tea and we headed back out to explore the last corner of the village, including this amazing natural products store, before catching our train home. (Seriously they were great, the owner was so nice, and they have everything you might ever need, from soap that looked so good you could eat it to natural nail polish. In fact they had the perfect shade of dark purple I’ve been searching for.)
Overall it was such a lovely little getaway, I hope we can do more trips like this soon. I loved seeing a part of England I’ve never been to before, and there are so many other areas I want to see, like Cornwall, Devon, and the Peak District. Hopefully I can also show my guy around Scotland someday, as he’s never been before.
Thanks for reading about our little adventure. Hope to do more of these as we explore the UK!