We had wanted to visit Rye for quite some time, and when we were able to book rooms at beautiful Jeakes House on my birthday week, it just seemed to all fall into place!
Rye is a very distinctive hilltop town that was once surrounded by the sea, before the surrounding salt marshes were drained. Being a fortified hilltop town, it played an important role in the defence of the south coast of England, with French and Spanish invaders a serious threat. The French attacked regularly, but the most ferocious occurred in 1377 when Rye was almost completely devastated by fire, and the bells of the St Mary's Church stolen (the next year they were returned by English invaders attacking Normandy!)
Rye is also famous for it's history of smuggling in the 18th century, when it's prosperity relied as much on smugglars as any of it's other tradesmen. The hoards were stored in the vaulted cellars and they were able to sneak around Rye through secret tunnels and passages.
Rye was as wonderfully wonky, eccentric and traditionally English as I had imagined, the cobbled streets were pretty perilous so plan sensible footwear if you visit! We took a gentle drive through the countryside and arrived in just a few hours, Jeakes House is luckily on the lower end of Mermaid Street, it's a very steep walk up there otherwise, (particularly after the pub!) The above photo was the view from my bedroom window.
We were staying in the two top rooms of the B&B, which gave us great views, although as Jeakes House is a 16th Century house the stairs were pretty steep and narrow, so we took it carefully! Happily, Jeakes House is dog friendly so Mollie could come too - she even got a sausage on a silver plate for breakfast, (she didn't want to come home!) The beds were super comfortable with great quality linen, lots of tea and coffee in the room, free Wifi and even access to an honesty bar - I can't recommend it enough, it really was fab! This is the breakfast room, beautifully laid out, and between us we sampled almost everything on the menu, all delicious.
We headed out for a stroll to get our surroundings, and I was in love with all the historical buildings on our street, this is the famous Mermaid Inn which dates back to 1420, with Norman cellars dating back to 1156! I remember seeing the Inn on Most Haunted, and they do appear to boast quite a collection of ghosts, I was quite glad to be sleeping elsewhere, but their bar is well worth a look, with a giant fireplace dominating the room. Visiting Rye brought to life the stories of the Hawkhurst gang, notorious smugglers who used to drink at The Mermaid Inn, and we could just imagine them sitting in the window seats, smoking pipes with loaded guns on the tables! Of an evening gazing up mermaid street you could picture the sort of characters that were once wandering through the town, such history!
We also noticed the unusual and pretty direct-and-to-the-point house names on Mermaid Street, "The First House", "The House With The Seat", "The House With Two Front Doors" to name a few! I love strolling along being nosey at all the different front doors, porches and name plaques, there were some lovely cottages on this street too.
For dinner we headed to The Ship Inn and had a great meal, they had a brilliant playlist of ska, reggae, and good old rock&roll which had us all singing along, and what brilliant decor, that boar watched over us nicely! The next morning was my 26th Birthday, and it was lovely to start it with a cup of green tea in the willow pattern tea set, and a tasty breakfast I didn't have to cook or wash up after! I had the salmon and scrambled eggs - I got munching before taking a photo, but Jenny and Richard presented it with a birthday candle for me, which was lovely of them!
As it was such a lovely sunny day, we decided to head to the beach. First we attempted to go to Camber Sands but after a drive along a rather bleak stretch of industrial estates, electricity pylons and caravan parks, we turned round and heading to Winchelsea instead, which was a perfect plan as we were almost the only ones on the beach! The tide was out which left rock pools to explore, and we had a lovely afternoon munching sausage rolls and ginger beer, reading, and skimming stones.
The tide going out left an abundance of interesting shells of all shapes and sizes, we all had pockets full of them on the trip home, it's always nice to take home some new found treasures isn't it? I actually bit the bullet and got my sketchbook out, and spent some happy minutes just doing quick observations of the beach, driftwood and seaweed, I broke my dry spell! I have just been too scared of those blank white pages for too long, I hope i've broken the back of it now!
I had a wonderful and very Happy Birthday, and a great few days in Rye, I will leave it here for fear of bombarding you with snaps, Part Two will be here over the weekend! :)
Thanks for reading, hope you're having a great week!