August 6-8, 2021
Although moving to a new country during a global pandemic definitely added an extra layer of anxiety and uncertainty, it actually didn’t end up having much of an impact on our physical move. We initially thought we would have to quarantine until we could take Day 5 tests (UK international travel guidelines are extremely bizarre) but, in a stroke of incredible luck, the UK announced that it would be lifting its stricter travel restrictions on the exact day we were scheduled to arrive in London. We ended up being on one of the very first flights to arrive from the USA without having to quarantine, which was AMAZING for so many reasons…but also meant that I suddenly had a lot more free time before my first official day of work. I was able to unpack everything within a few days, so we decided to celebrate our first official weekend in the UK by taking a last-minute weekend trip to Rye.
Rye is a coastal town in East Sussex that is only about an hour away from London by train and is famous for its medieval streets and architecture. I had seen it on several “most beautiful places in England” types of lists, and it definitely lived up to the hype. We stayed in an absolutely lovely B&B in the center of town called The Tea House and had such a nice weekend exploring the area. The idyllic charm and relaxing atmosphere of the town made for a picture-perfect start to our European adventures.
If you’re planning a trip to Rye, click here to access and download my Google Maps list of saved locations in the UK.
Food & Drink
- The Mermaid Inn: Built in 1420, Queen Elizabeth I was allegedly a guest in the 16th century and it was also the home base for a famous gang of smugglers in the 1700s. We went here for dinner and drinks, and were very pleasantly surprised with the experience — it really wasn’t very touristy considering how famous it is, the menu was solid, and the waitstaff was really friendly. The hotel part looked super cute, too.
- Whitehouse Rye: A grade-II listed hotel with a restaurant and an award-winning bakery. We went for breakfast and were able to get a walk-in table pretty easily, which was very lucky because it ended up being the very best meal we had in Rye.
- The Standard Inn: Another pub-style hotel with a very cozy bar and restaurant. We ate a delicious lunch here, and stayed for several additional drinks because the fireplace was so lovely.
- Cobbles Tea Room: Located on a cobbled side street, this is the #1 place to go for a traditional “cream tea”, which is a form of afternoon tea popular in Southern England that consists of tea served with scones, clotted cream, jam, and butter. The tea room was very cute and it was a nice place to spend an hour or so on a rainy afternoon.
- The Globe Inn Marsh: A pretty little clapperboard pub located on the outskirts of town with fresh seafood and modern cocktails. We went for dinner and were able to get a walk-in table, likely because it’s a bit larger than most of the “cozy” and “quaint” (AKA tiny) restaurants in Rye. Our meal was very nice, but the service made it even better — everyone was so friendly and welcoming.
- Knoops Chocolate: Lovely chocolate shop on the edge of town that is known for its drinking chocolate. There were so many interesting options for flavors, and it was great to have something warm to drink since it was pretty cold and rainy outside (even in early August).
Activities & Attractions
- Mermaid Street: Allegedly one of the most ‘Instagrammable’ streets in the UK, and it’s easy to understand why. The historic street looks like a storybook and has a quintessentially English charm. It also connects The Mermaid Inn to the rest of the historic town center, so we walked up and down the street several times during our stay.
- Rye Pottery: Originally founded in the 18th century, this family-owned business produces unique homeware and other decorative pottery entirely by hand using the decorating technique known as Faience, Majolica, or Delft. It was SO cool, and was a great place to buy mementos from our trip.
- Grammar School Records: Located on the high street in a 17th-century schoolhouse, this secondhand record store is one of the leading independent record shops in the UK.
- Camber Castle: The ruins of this historic castle built by Henry VIII are located approximately a mile outside of town and are only accessible by footpath. The walk takes you through a huge meadow filled with sheep and couldn’t have been more serene and charming.
- St. Mary’s Church: Grade-I listed church built in the 13th century. The church itself was beautiful, but the surrounding churchyard and cemetery were even more charming.
- Ypres Tower: Also known as Rye Castle, this 700-year-old fortress is a Grade-I listed building and has been scheduled as an ancient monument. We toured the castle and the ancient jail cells, which was fairly interesting, but the actual building and its grounds were the most impressive part.
- Antiques: Rye is perhaps most known for its plethora of antique shops, which are located throughout the town. We went into a dozen or so and bought several excellent decorative pieces for our new flat (including a beautiful sheepskin rug) for next to nothing.