Easter Visitors Guide to Rye

A Quick Guide To Rye

To view Rye there is only one satisfactory way, on foot. The town is very compact and all places of interest are within easy walking distance of each other. Leave your car in one of the car parks scattered around the foot of the town and proceed on Shank’s Pony.

Head for the Church, this is an easy task, you need no directions, just take the road that goes up and soon you will find yourself hard by one of its massive walls. The Church of St. Mary’s is a vast building, it dominates the town from the highest point of the hill on which the famous old Cinque Port is built. It is possible, on a clear day, to see the French coast from the top of the church. Visitors can, on some days, ascend to the roof, passing through the clock room where the works of one of the oldest working mechanical timepieces in exist­ence still records the passing of the hours, to the highest point for miles. The view from here is truly magnificent, the Romney Marshes spread out into a vast map of green, divided up into neat sections by the roads and ditches that meander away in the far distance to the hills of the Weald of Kent.

A few yards away from the church on its east side stands the famous Ypres Castle, built to defend the town against the French, a task in which it was not entirely successful. Today it is a museum and a place well worth a visit, many relics of ancient Rye are housed in the old bastion that has also been “home” to many criminals of the bygone age when the town used it as a prison.

Watchbell Street is magnificent; a cobbled road where once the great bell, that was used as an invasion warning, was situated. Another fine view, this time of Winchelsea, can be had from the look­out at the end of the street.

Rye by Austin Blomfield
Rye by Austin Blomfield

Then to Traders Passage, through which, in olden times, smugglers used to transport their wares and hide them in the many secret cupboards and passages hidden in the walls of houses in this area.

Mermaid Street, said to be one of the five best known streets in the world, is at one end of the Traders Passage. The Mermaid Inn is sited half­way up this steep cobbled incline, no visit to Rye is complete without a look at this famous hotel.

A left turn at the top takes you into West Street, yet another cobbled road that clings to the side of the sandstone rock on which the town is built. Then on into the High Street where many visitors are sur­prised to find a most delightful shopping centre. Rye, in fact, is one of the best shopping towns in the South of England, it is often called a ‘town of shop­keepers’ and offers an unlimited variety of fare from its picturesque business premises. Besides the High Street there are also two other main shopping centres, Cinque Ports Street and the Landgate.

The Landgate Tower deserves a close inspection, built as part of the defences against the French in the thirteenth century, it is the only one of three such buildings that remains standing in the present day.

“Rye’s Own”April 1966

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