Rye, East Sussex is picturesque, pleasant, and utterly walkable (although not always accessible) town in the southeast of England. It’s two miles or so from the English Channel, and it’s nearly surrounded by water as three rivers meet there. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the town was nearly an island. Consequently, it became one of the ancient Cinque Ports and a former smugglers’ haunt (cf The Hawkhurst Gang).
I’ve only visited on day trips, so I can’t speak to accommodations, but the shops, pubs, and sights are delightful. You do have to travel up and down a gentle hill (on pavements beside delightful period homes), but the overall the sights are all quite close together.
The Ypres Tower (AKA Rye Castle) was built in the 13th century. Initially built as a defense
against French invaders, it was later used as a town jail (and a few other things). It’s a fairly small space, and well worth a look ’round, but beware: if you’d like to walk up the tower to look out over the channel, you’ll be facing a narrow stairwell.
The Mermaid Inn , a fabulously preserved timber-frame pub, serves lovely food and drink, and it has done since it was established in the 12th century. You can find it on . . . Mermaid Street.
Lamb House was built in 1722. Henry James purchased the building in 1889. He wrote many novels and entertained numerous literary greats (Wells, Conrad, Chesterton, Kipling) while staying there.After James left, Margaret Rumer Godden (Black Narcissus) rented the house.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find St. Mary’s. Construction of this church began in the 9th century. It hosts a massive clock (one of the largest in the country). The graveyard adjacent to the church is decidedly memorable. Passing through the old, skewed grave markers carved with skulls and crossbones make an atmospheric walk.
Rye has a car park at the base of the hill, and it’s also served by railway, so it’s easy to get to get to and from. The town’s tourist site has loads of information about things to do, places to sleep, and where to eat/drink.