British staycations have had a renaissance of late and booking an escape from the city has never felt so chic. Journey just an hour outside of London to Rye in Kent to enjoy its quaint cobbled streets, vast neighbouring beaches and delicious seafood.
Relatively undiscovered with little to no chain shops or restaurants to speak of, it maintains a sense of historical romance, old-English authenticity and community spirit. Here’s where to stay, what to see and where to eat in our new favourite weekend destination.
THE PACKING EDIT
WHERE TO SLEEP
Those looking to make Rye feel like home, even if just for a weekend, should check in to Crown Stables, a hidden but charming, beautifully designed bolthole in the heart of the town.
It spans two floors: downstairs features a fully equipped kitchen, a lounge area with two comfy armchairs and a small but considered collection of travel and recipe books. Upstairs is the bedroom, decorated with Loaf furniture, a wide-screen TV (equipped with a guest Netflix account) and H&M Home dressing gowns that complement the interior colour scheme. Mirrors, speakers, plug sockets and information on the local area are also in ample supply – details that often go unnoticed but that make a big difference.
The Gallivant’s position just across the road from the rolling dunes of Camber Sands makes it the perfect spot for those whose priority is being by the sea.
Interiors are appropriately nautical yet sophisticated and the white-wash wood and neutral linen furnishings in each bedroom are flooded with natural light. The restaurant menu can’t go unmentioned; seafood is the champion ingredient and guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner on the outdoor terrace as well as in the restaurant. Prefer to eat on the beach? Lunch can be packed up for guests to enjoy a posh picnic with a view.
Anyone travelling with a group or intending to stay in Camber for a while should consider the 4-bed beach house, Barefoot, which sleeps up to eight guests comfortably and offers a spacious living and dining area as well as direct access to the beach.
Expect stipped wooden floors, one-of-a-kind furniture and crisp white bed linen offset with tactile furnishings and a wood burner that transforms the bright space into something more cosy after dark. The fully equipped kitchen renders a visit into town for dinner unnecessary, because sometimes staying put with a glass of local wine sounds more appealing.
WHAT TO DO
Book A Vineyard Tour
Venture just a 15-minute drive out of town to Gusbourne Estate for insight into why Kent is known as ‘The Garden of England’. It’s one of the country’s oldest vineyards, spans 60 hectares and comes with a side serving of picture-perfect countryside views. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines grow here and sparkling wines are the establishment’s speciality. Book in for a tour and/or tasting – a 2-hour experience offers a concise, informative and well-delivered history of British wine production, an overview of what makes Romney Marsh such a thriving location and a chance to sample some of Gusbourne’s produce.
Head To The Beach
Camber Sands is just a ten-minute drive from Rye and an afternoon spent wandering between the dunes might just trick you into believing you’ve left the UK altogether.
The beach is vast, rarely busy, and beautifully peaceful, making it the perfect place to clear the mind whether you’re travelling solo or with a group. Pack a picnic and settle in to watch the kite flyers down by the water – there’s no promenade or strip of restaurants to disrupt the skyline so any refreshments need to be thought of in advance. Top tip? Enter the Gallivant’s location into the sat-nav as it’s directly opposite a large all-day car park.
Browse The Boutiques
The cobbled streets of Rye are lined with unique boutiques and local businesses, making it the perfect place to shop for gifts, keepsakes, and inspiration. Fabric store Merchant & Mills is one to make a beeline for. It aims to bring the art of sewing to a modern audience and all fabrics on sale are bespoke. Not just a shopping destination, it also hosts lessons and retreats that celebrate the artform.
Ethical beauty company Wideye is also of note. Founded in Spain and inspired by nature, it creates natural beauty products that are affordable, gender neutral and aim to appeal to all age groups.
Visit Camber Castle
History enthusiast or not, Camber Castle, its hidden passageways and its grounds are worth exploring. It’s a mile from Rye on foot and this, teamed with a walk around the grounds, renders it a great way to experience the town’s surroundings without getting back in the car. Today, it’s a ruin, but one with an interesting story: it was first built by Henry VIII to protect the local port. Those interested in learning a little more can book in for a guided tour or extend their walk to the footpaths of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to see the Martello Tower.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Anyone with an appreciation for a good cup of coffee will be happy at The Fig, which offers alternative milk options and serves each drink in a large ceramic mug. The menu is small but creative and it changes often, ranging from home baked cakes and loaves to vegetable-packed salads. Secure a spot by the front windows which overlook the pretty cobbled streets and neighbouring boutiques in town.
The Ship Inn
For proper pub food and a sophisticated selection of wines, head to The Ship Inn on The Strand. Inside, it’s everything you’d expect from a traditional establishment and it’s decorated with dark wood panelling, low ceilings and prominent bar. What’s more? There’s a welcoming atmosphere that invites you to stay for hours. Those with a love of fish and chips will be spoilt for choice but there are burgers and salads available, too, and the Sunday menu is typically traditional. Save room for sticky toffee pudding for an unbeatable combination.
Café des Fleurs
First and foremost a fresh flower shop, Café des Fleurs serves up coffees and cakes to complement its offering. It’s exemplary of Rye’s local boutiques: modest, quirky, full of character and sure to put a smile on your face when you stumble across it on the hunt for fresh blooms.
Whitehouse could slot into both the ‘Stay’ and ‘Eat’ sections of a Rye area guide as its spacious rooms are a beautiful option if modern, clean-lined interiors and a buzzing location are of preference. Its casual restaurant is equally well-designed and there’s something Scandinavian about the vibe that lends itself well to a photo or two. The brunch menu includes the classics as well as a popular build-your-own breakfast for indecisive souls looking for something bespoke.