You may have heard of Rye, England. If you haven’t, chances are you’ve seen the instafamous sloped cobblestone street, home to the Mermaid Inn. Only 70 minutes from London by train, we decided this storybook medieval village was the perfect weekend break and set off to explore.
Setting off from St Pancras station, we watched the city turn into fields and within 45 minutes we were properly in the countryside.
We made a little stop on the way at Ashford International, which is where you would normally transfer to a local train to get to Rye, but instead we made a special stop for our steam train enthusiasts. We hired a taxi to take us to Tenterden (about 20 minutes away) for a ride on a vintage steam train.
The Kent & East Sussex railway is a Victorian era train, and as soon as we stepped inside, we were transported back to a bygone era. We sat in our own gorgeously upholstered cabin with the windows down, heads out, for better or for worse.
The 10 mile ride took us on meandering ride across farm fields, passing cows and sheep, and ending at the Bodiam Castle.
Your train ticket allows you to disembark the train to explore and visit the castle, but we were short on time, so we took the train back to Tenterden, and continued on our journey to Rye.
Rye is a small town in East Sussex, known for its medieval half-timbered houses and an abundance of English village charm. You could probably walk the length of the town in 15 minutes, but within the town centre, there is plenty to explore in one weekend.
We walked 5 minutes from the train station to our hotel, the Rye Lodge Hotel, and lucky us we reserved the penthouse family apartment complete with a kitchen and living room, a perfect landing pad for our family.
The sun had started to set, so tucked in for the night, but not before taking a swim in the hotel’s pretty swimming pool.
Waking up in the morning, we had views of the sea from our hotel room, and decided it would be a great day to walk to the seaside.With our bearings now set, we ventured out for our first day in Rye.
We started off strong, discovering the hot chocolate shop (hailed by some as the best hot chocolate in the world), Knoops.
At Knoops, it’s a hot chocolate lovers paradise. Choose your type of chocolate – ranging from milky 34% to super dark 99%, and choose from a variety of spices and herbs including cardamom, cinnamon, or lavender. Of course they have a variety of milks, too. The options are endless, which only kept us coming back for more.
(Also, THIS JUST IN – a quick peek at the Knoops website informed me that they are opening a new store this month in Clapham (South London). You know where to find me now.)
With hot chocolates in hand, we walked across town to quickly pick up some snacks from Rye Delicatessen, and admiring the pretty sights along the way.
Then we set off for the 3 mile walk to Camber Sands Beach.
It was a slow walk with the children, but many cows, horses, and wooden gates later, we arrived at the rolling sand dunes of Camber Sands. I’ve grown to appreciate the pebbly beaches that are typical of English beaches, but I was so happy to see the wide sandy beaches here.
The children took turns chasing each other around the sand dunes, and plenty of people were out taking walks on the beach, even on the chilly winter day.
The next morning we woke up early, ready to get a start on the day before we had to return to London. Downstairs to the dining room, the hotel served a lovely cooked breakfast and the the most lush yogurt/fruit/patisserie offerings. I couldn’t stop admiring the interiors of the hotel, too, and only wished we’d had more time for an afternoon tea so I could sit in this gorgeous room.
But, with our limited time remaining, we went for a walk around the town. A quick stop by Knoops for another hot chocolate, we were ready to explore. We walked the winding streets to the 12th century town church, St. Mary’s. Visitors can climb the staircase to the top of the church for views over the town. Don’t miss this pretty pink house right next to the church.
So many cute streets and shopfronts to explore in Rye.
Soon it was time for lunch. We booked ourselves in at The Mermaid Inn for their Sunday lunch. Imagine eating a meal in this gorgeous 700 year old building! Wonky everything, but the food was spot on.
The food was incredible, the yorkshire puddings perfectly puffed, potatoes roasted as they should be, and lashings of gravy to top it off. We were too busy eating to take photos, but I did manage a photo of the prettiest dessert.
With our bellies full and many memories locked away, it was time to return to London. Thankfully, this won’t be the last time – I can think of many reasons to return. Wisteria season. Summer beaches. Knoops hot chocolate. The list goes on!
A few recommendations:
The Rye Lodge Hotel is a small independent hotel with lovely service, dining options, and a small swimming pool and sauna. We loved our stay in the penthouse suite with the best views in Rye.
Sunday lunch at the Mermaid Inn is a must. The cozy dining room is the perfect setting to tuck into the seasonal, local menu.
The Fig is a cool little cafe with a menu focused on fresh local ingredients. Peruvian corn cakes with avocado, smoothie bowls, french toast, to name a few. Loved the modern touches in this cafe.
Stop by the Rye Delicatessen for your foodie needs – from local cheeses and jams and salads to speciality hard-to-find items. Great place to fill the hamper for a picnic.
Afternoon tea at The Cobbles Tea Room is a must. Eat some scones and don’t forget to gram it.
Hot chocolate at Knoops. Don’t dare skip it, such a treat!
Visit Camber Sands to walk the sand dunes, explore nature trails, kite surfing, or enjoy a day at the beach.
Explore the 12th century church, St. Mary’s and The Tiny Bookstore in Church Square.
Walk around the cobblestone streets, don’t miss Mermaid Hill for that insta-shot.