Rye (East Sussex)
At the 2011 census, Rye had a population of 4,773. Its historical association with the sea has included providing ships for the service of the King in time of war, and being involved in smuggling. The notorious Hawkhurst Gang used its ancient inns The Mermaid Inn and The Olde Bell Inn, which are said to be connected to each other by a secret passageway.
Trains run directly from Ashford International and Brighton with trains to London calling at both stations. Times for trains anywhere to Rye from anywhere in the UK can be found on the National Rail website [www.nationalrail.co.uk].
Rye can be easily explored on foot. However, it may be worth taking the bus to Camber to see the local sandy beach or finding a bicycle to go down Harbour Road to explore the Harbour mouth and local bird reserve.
The docks by the river; Rye Castle (with Ypres Tower). Rye also has a 12th century church, overlooking the town. The old town town centre is very picturesque with its extreme cobblestone roads (ensure you wear sensible shoes), its many timber-framed houses, and the occasional traditional -though now slightly touristy- tearoom invites to cream tea.
There are many places which overlook the local scenery, from Rye Castle you can see out to Dungeness. Recently wind turbines have been placed near to Rye, which has changed the nature of the landscape.
Visit the Rye Heritage Centre, , an ideal introduction to the town bringing together the story of Rye set within the famous Rye Town Model sound and light show. Also offer walking tours and gifts typical to the region. Walk around the docks mentioned above, visit the many shops. Climb the church tower to get a magnificent view over Rye and its surroundings. Walk across the meadows to the ruins of Camber Castle (open on summer weekends; check with its owner, the English Heritage). Visit Ypres tower and have a chat with the elderly gentleman who has been keeping it open visitors for the last 15 years. Get locked in in one of its small, dark cells!
Rye is a local commercial centre for the Romney Marsh and Walland Marsh areas, as well as being a tourist spot. Rye Farmers' Market takes place on Strand Quay every Thursday morning. Rye has a well-established reputation as a centre for shops trading antiques, collectors' books, and records, and has many art galleries selling works by local artists and potters with changing exhibitions throughout the year.
Rye's general weekly market takes place on the marketplace car park by the station every Thursday. Until the foot-and-mouth disease crisis in 2001 (which closed all livestock markets in England), livestock sales were held frequently at Rye.
Rye Castle Museum is located on two sites, on East Street and at the Ypres Castle. One of the tourist websites includes a picture tour of the town. Rye Art Gallery was established as a Trust in the early 1960s. Located at 107 High Street, it provides a focus for contemporary visual art, which it exhibits alongside heritage artworks from its permanent collection.
Rye also stands at the centre of a network of nature reserves, some of national importance. The Rye Harbour lies to the south and includes the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
The neighbouring Pett Levels and Pools, and the Pannel Valley nature reserve are accessible via Winchelsea and Winchelsea Beach a few miles to the west, whilst Scotney Lake lies just off the Lydd road and the RSPB reserve at Dungeness lies a few miles further to the east with the Bird Observatory located in the old lighthouse.
The recent redevelopment of the Rye wharf for the RX fishing fleet has provided modern amenities for the landing and storage of fish. Most is sold wholesale through the regional market in Boulogne, though there is a trend for Rye to develop as a gastronomic centre in the style of Newquay or Padstow, featuring the use of fresh local produce from the sea. The annual "Rye Bay Scallops Festival" which takes place each year in February was first proposed by the then Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, Kate Roy, as a means of promoting the "Rye Bay Catch". Excellent scallops (and flatfish such as sole, plaice and dabs) are to be had in Rye Bay because of the shallow and relatively sheltered water.
Every year in September, Rye hosts its annual two-week "Arts Festival" which attracts a world-class series of performers in music, comedy, and literature.
On the second Saturday after 5 November, the "Bonfire Boys" stage their annual torch-lit parade through the streets of the town, supported by visiting Bonfire Societies from all over the Sussex Bonfire Societies Confederation. This is followed by a "gurt 'normous bonfire" where the chosen "effigy" of the year is ceremoniously blown up, and a spectacular firework display. This event typically attracts over 10,000 visitors to the town, and results in the town's roads, and the main roads to London, Hastings, and Ashford, being clogged up and closed to traffic from the early evening onwards.
Rye has a wide variety of shops, from wool to antiques and from art galleries to tea rooms there is something for most people. There are also several shops which sell local Sussex produce. Most of the shops can be found on the main High Street, although there are also several pleasant shops near the docks.
Rye has a lively market most Thursday mornings selling a variety of goods.
There is a wide range of eatteries in and around Rye.
Visit some of the other Cinque Ports, or the Hythe and Dymchurch Miniature Railway. To the west Hastings, Eastborne and Brighton are reachable by direct train.
Near Rye passes the National Cycle Network, and you can hire a pushbike from "Rye Hire" near the rail station (friendly service, bikes in good condition, and come with a lock). Sadly the designated cycle paths are not always well signposted, or consist of paths with quite large rubble; you will have to show some determination. But it's fairly flat ground around Rye (although town centre is on a small hill), so for the non-driver this is an alternative to buses.
Ten minutes drive or bicycle from Rye is the beach town of Camber Sands  which has the longest sandy beaches on the south coast of England. It becomes very popular in the summer months when English people take to the beaches in search of sun.
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