It’s winter in Rye. The streets are dark when I arrive. A black cat runs across the cobblestones, and I fear it is a bad omen. Then a second crosses my path and I start to worry. Looking up, I see white doves sleeping in the stone nooks of the church above the cemetery, and up ahead the mist obscures the narrow streets and timbered houses.

Rye in Winter

At the end of the road sits the Protector of Watchbell Street. He is not to be trifled with. He may be large and lethargic, but the tomcat serves his post with aplomb. You see, the French may invade at any moment, and he must ring the bell to warn the people of Sussex.

Cat in Rye

Down the road, the Ypres Tower at Rye Castle serves a similar purpose. Its cannons stand ready, with pyramids of spherical ammunition in ample supply. Seeing it is one of the best things to do in Rye.

Ypres Tower in Rye

A few streets away, the ghosts are stirring. The Mermaid Inn, Rye’s famous Tudor-era hotel, is their favorite haunt, but the walls can’t keep their spirits from drifting. They glide up the street and into the churchyard, sifting through the souls among the gravestones.

Bell Pub in Rye

In the recesses, the long shadows of smugglers can be seen in the lamplight. Sussex has been a favorite with the smuggling set for some time, and contraband thrives when the watchful eye of the law is otherwise detained.

Swan Sign in Rye

In the morning, the mist breaks and I can see the town more clearly. It is not half so scary in the daylight, even with the tiny passageways leading to dark corridors and the medieval stone walls staring down from above.

Narrow Passage in Rye

The warm winter sun illuminates the facades, revealing a row of brick and timber buildings that harbor centuries of secrets.

Tudor Building in Rye

And they’re not the only ones. The antique shops contain a plethora of history, with dueling pistols and sleek swords hidden among the glassware and wrought iron.

Blue Antiques in Rye

Up the street, there are pubs and restaurants, shops and cafes, all tucked neatly into cozy old buildings with tiny rooms. I stop at some with my travel companions. We are weary from the journey and seeking respite from the cold.

Inn in Rye

And we find comfort in ample supply. It comes in pints by the fire at The George, fish and chips on a road called The Mint, and dinner at The Ship Inn by the water. It’s scallop season, too, and we find no shortage of shellfish in town.

Scallop Shells in Rye

Back outside, we explore the cobbled streets, absorbing their history and sighing over their haunted beauty as the chill of the air—or is it a passing ghost?—hurries us on to our friend’s house.

Sunset in Rye

We sit by the fire, comfortable and warm, safe from the centuries outside. And when our weekend in Rye is over, we ride off into the sunset, making our way home to London as the golden orb sinks in the sky, leaving night to take over the town again.

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Rye in Winter

8 Comments on Lady’s Guide to Rye in Winter

  1. Winter + off-season travel can be the perfect times to see a destination. The cat definitely added to the quaint charm of the place.

    By the way, I included you in my 10 Expat Blogs You’ll Love list on
    Happy week!

  2. We had a pre-Christmas break in Rye a few years ago
    and we really enjoyed it. As well as Rye itself we
    visited Bodiam Castle and we went to Battle to view
    the site of the Battle Of Hastings. Highly

  3. Lovely post and so inspirational. I was in Rye last Summer and I only heard about it by chance, as I was staying in Hastings for a week and there wasn’t that much to see after 3 days so our hosts recommended a trip there. I absolutely loved it and intend to come back. The Tudor houses, cobbled streets and the small details were a pleasure to the eye and there is such a good atmosphere there. I am also pleased with the fact that it´s not crowded with tourists.

    Great blog! I’ve been following it for a while to get inspiration for my next trips around the UK and also to be inspired to write a little bit more on my own blog. I really love your descriptions and the fact that you provide so many historic facts that keep us engaged and keen to learn more about the cities visited and explore them in future.

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