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A winter weekend in Rye: All the best things to do and eat

Mermaid Street, Rye
With my last lot of exams this year in the rear view mirror, Mr Flicking the Vs suggested spending a couple of days in the town of Rye in Sussex. I didn't know much about Rye, but I was happy to spend a weekend away in somewhere - anywhere! - new.

Rye is a small town, but it's a beauty. It's known for its buildings and cobbled streets, many of which are medieval - I can't think of anywhere in England where you can see so many centuries old timber framed houses in such a small area. It's got a rich history too: one of the Cinque Ports, it was pivotal in medieval trade, became a smuggling hotspot in the 18th century, and has put up more famous literary figures than you can shake a stick at.

On the weekend we visited, it was Christmas at Lamb House, the 18th century townhouse best known for being the home of writer Henry James. The house has been decorated fit for an Edwardian Christmas - how James would have enjoyed it - and it was beautifully festive.

Christmas a la Henry James
While the top floor of the house was closed for conservation work, you can still stroll through the gardens, enjoy James' parlour, and see the dining room set up for Christmas lunch.

Lamb House was built in 1722, but there's no shortage of buildings with an even longer history. We stopped into Fletcher's House, a tea room that dates from the 15th century. A quick look at the menu and you might be forgiven for thinking that Fletcher's is not a place for moving with the times, but we were really pleased to find you can get vegan, gluten-free scones served with plant-based butter and jam, and tea with soya milk. We were even more pleased to see the inviting fire after weather turned rainy.


The weather may not have been great during our visit, we still loved wandering through Rye's streets and window shopping at all the tiny stores - there are happily very few chain stores in the town, but lots of vintage, craft, curio and otherwise interesting shops to explore.

There are also no shortage of cafes to enjoy. We were pleasantly surprised by the decent vegan options on offer in a relatively small town.

The Fig is a really inviting little cafe that showcases its free-from credentials as you walk by: there's veggie, gluten-free and vegan options to be had. When we dropped in, there were two vegan mains that were equally appealing: a vegan Mexican bean dish, and a chick pea curry with vegan raita, mango chutney and flatbread. We both picked the curry, and pronounced it delicious.


We also stopped in at Whitehouse the next day for lunch, for a bowl of teriyaki tofu noodles, also happily clearly marked at vegan.


Unfortunately, most of the cafes in Rye shut up shop in the early evening, so there's less choice for a vegan evening meal. A couple of hotels in town have kitchens that open later: you should be able to get a vegan dinner at the The George in Rye and The Mermaid Inn. The local Thai restaurant, Thai House, is also open til 10 most days and has some decent vegan options.

If you want to walk off all that good food, Rye has a couple of good places to stretch your legs outside of town.

Mr Flicking the Vs is a man who likes undertaking a long walk at any given opportunity, so we whiled away an afternoon walking through the rain to Camber Castle, a coastal fortification built for Henry VIII. It was closed when we visited, but it's still an imposing, lonely structure to walk around.


We also managed to fit a stroll around Rye Harbour's Nature Reserve and beach. The weather was still grim, but there was something haunting about the rain blasted shingle beach, dotted with hides for bird watching. On a good day, it would be a lovely place to take a picnic, but it's still a lovely way to spend a couple of hours when the weather is a bit more on the grim side.
Winchelsea beach
We stayed in the Mermaid Inn, which looks just like you'd expect a hotel from the 1400s to look: huge, black timber beams, stone fireplaces, right angles that have long disappeared into history. It's a beautiful quirky place, and such a good place to hunker down for the winter: the roaring fire in the bar is just tempting you to chase away the winter cold, and drink away an hour or two.

We stayed in what's reputed to be one of the most haunted rooms in the hotel. The room used to have a rocking chair in it, but apparently the resident ghost spent more time in it than the guests, who would wake up to see the rocking chair moving of its own accord and the room icy cold.

Happily, we didn't see any ghosts and slept like logs in the four poster bed.
No ghosts here...
Having slumbered undisturbed by spirits, we wandered down for breakfast. I love a good hotel buffet breakfast but it can be a bit hit and miss for a vegan. Sometimes it's beans on toast, sometimes it's fruit and hunger. After stocking up on fruit and coffee, we looked at the breakfast menu - not a vegan thing on it. But I chanced my arm and asked the friendly server if they'd got anything we could eat. She went off to ask chef. Chef said he'd do us a vegan full English: vegan sausage, tomato, mushroom, beans, hash brown, guac, and fried bread.

I'd love to show you a picture of it, but it didn't last long enough to photograph. I was truly in vegan breakfast heaven. Next time you're planning a weekend away, throw Rye into the mix: beautiful landscapes, good vegan food, and a few ghosts. What more could you want?


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4 comments

  1. That sounds like a perfect weekend to me, rain or no rain. And your room looks beautiful!

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  2. Wow Rye looks such a beautiful place - many years ago I did a day trip to Winchelsea and wish I went on to Rye - sadly it is so much further away but i still hope maybe one day! Your teriyaki tofu looks great and that hotel looks exactly the place I would like to stay sans ghosts

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  3. Wow, what a fun trip! and such a cute little town! Awesome vegan options that even bigger towns I've been to don't have. :-)

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  4. We were in Rye for a short period a couple of years back. It was lovely and I am glad to see that you enjoyed it too, though like me you somewhat also experienced the rainy weather. Your room is impressive. I have only ever slept in a four poster bed once.I am impressed with the vegan options too.
    https://allotment2kitchen.blogspot.com/2016/09/rye-east-sussex.html

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