‘Ohmigosh it’s a castle!’ gasped Lyra as we pulled up to the location of our end-of-summer-holiday, an Air bnb in Rye. Our ‘castle’ was actually the wing of an 19th century oast house but this set the tone for an utterly magical trip, which had both Rich and I scouring Rightmove and seriously considering whether we should up sticks and relocate to the south east coast.
I had been dying to go to the area for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the location of one of my favourite series of books. If you have read and loved The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard then you probably need to pack your bags and head to Rye sharpish.
Secondly, I remember Charlotte once mentioning that one of her favourite wedding venues (other than her own of course) was The Gallivant Hotel in Camber Sands, and if the founder of Rock My Wedding recommends somewhere then it’s obvs going to be epic and worth a nosy. (On that note, head over to Rock My Family today for some mega exciting news from said blog queen). In the end, we had to abandon our plans to have brunch at The Gallivant, because Jenson was on the verge of having a mega can’t-sleep-won’t-sleep meltdown. But I did pop my head in and it is the epitome of coastal chic, so worth a look if you’re searching for somewhere stunning on the UK coast to stay/eat/get wed.
Rye is one of those places that’s as pretty as a postcard: perfect if you love having a wander. Everywhere you look there’s an antique or vintage shop, and crumbly brick walls covered in vines and ivy, and quirky quaint doorways. With its cobbles and Georgian houses set on a steep hillside, Mermaid Street is the most instaworthy but least pushchair friendly road I’ve ever seen. (If you visit Rye with a baby, a baby carrier is an essential). Apparently it’s one of the most photographed streets in the UK, and hopefully you can see why from some of the snaps below.
I was in blinkin’ foodie heaven. In The Fig I had a downright delicious bruschetta piled with parma ham, walnuts, honey and fig (what else?!). In The Ship Inn we sipped on Waddle Goose cider (Rich) and champagne mojitos (me). In Simply Italian we had lovely but low-key calzone pizzas and pasta and were served by brill staff who were ace with the kids.
My favourite meal, however, was one which Lyra and I had on a ‘girls’ night out’ in The Standard Inn. Bear in mind that Lyra is only three years old so it involved less prosecco and more PJ Masks. She had fish and chips; I had THE loveliest ratatouille and feta pastry with cous cous, beetroot and crème fraiche; the waitress made a big fuss of Lyra and her new Skye from Paw Patrol sunglasses; everyone was happy.
Rye is an antique lover’s dream. Whilst antiques aren’t really my bag – I think they might look a bit odd in a new build house – I can fully appreciate their beauty and I did pick up a cute but wonky wicker kid’s chair for Lyra’s room in a retro shop. I’ve plonked this cushion on top of it and it looks adorable.
On the other hand, independent boutique-y interiors shops ARE my bag. I spent ages in The Shop Next Door and Ashbee And Co, which is a Grade II listed former butchers. I wanted everything. And I took snaps of everything, as you can see below.
We spent one day on the beach and whilst I thought Camber Sands was beautiful, I learnt that a blustery beach and three month old babies do not mix. However Lyra was in her element and the grassy dunes with powder-soft sand made for the ultimate natural playground.
Another afternoon was spent picnicking at the Gun Garden of Rye Castle: knocking on princess doors, clambering over cannonballs and cannons, and eating possibly the best scotch eggs in the world from Rye Deli.
My stuff-to-do-in-Rye list was as long as my arm but as with all good holidays, we just ran out of time. My stuff-to-do-if-we-go-back-to-Rye list is as follows.
1) Cycle from Rye to Camber along the off-road bike path.
2) Watch a film in Kino, a Victorian school house in the heart of Rye that has been converted into a cinema.
3) Get pampered at The Rye Retreat or The Beach Hut, a new spa treatment room that’s a new addition to The Gallivant.
Or maybe we’ll just move there.
Have you been to Rye? Or are you lucky enough to live in the area? Do you have any other recommendations?
And are there any other interiors and foodie treasure-trove-towns I need to know about?