I’ve just returned from a lovely and relaxing week in Rye with my parents. As my first holiday without Michael it was bittersweet but I appreciated the change of scene and I know he would be proud of me for going on a new adventure, even though it was a wrench to do it without him. Michael and I shared so many idyllic holidays together exploring the British seaside and coastal towns so it felt natural to continue with the theme, and we chose Rye in Sussex as it’s somewhere I’d wanted to visit for a while. I’m lucky that as we knew each other so completely inside out I feel I can still see it all through his eyes, though it breaks my heart not to share it with him.
Armed with a wealth of recommendations from my lovely Instagram pals, we were ready to explore. Rye is in Sussex but very close to the Kent border so we spent most of our time hopping between counties to see the sights, and I’ve shared the highlights of our trip below. I’ve recently been trying to improve my photography and have naturally taken far too many photos as I practice, so here is fair warning that this is rather a long post!
Rye is even more charming than I expected and I fell completely in love. It feels like stepping back in time to happier days. The picture above was taken from the top of Mermaid Street, one of the prettiest cobbled streets.
There are lots of great antiques and vintage shops to rummage in, my favourite being Crock & Cosy which had the most delightful selection of vintage kitchen ware I’ve seen, including a breathtaking display of pastel pyrex. Despite the many vintage treasure troves to explore, I limited myself to one purchase of a folding wooden sewing box. I know Michael planned to buy me one of these as he was always looking when we went antique rummaging but never quite found one in the right condition for the right price, so as soon as I saw it I had to have it. I’m thinking of it as a belated birthday present which I was meant to find.
There are also lots of independent shops, like the wonderfully quirky Four Doors which had an excellent range of design led homewares and trinkets. I picked up a Jane Foster lion knitting bag I’ve had my eye on for a while, and I *might* have treated myself to a Creightons chocolate fab lolly too!
And of course I had to stop by the Merchant & Mills flagship store for some gorgeous sewing notions. It was difficult to resist buying all of the beautiful scissors and fabrics!
There are so many great places to eat we barely scratched the surface in just a week. The Ship Inn had great decor (just check out the mustard Orla Kiely-esque tabletop below!) and Edith’s House (above) was a lovely vintage retreat and served up a tasty brunch. We also had gourmet burgers at Hoof, a delicious meal at Tuscan Kitchen where we could easily have been in Italy (thanks to my dear friend Livvie for the excellent recommendation) and copious amounts of fish & chips.
And a special mention to the eye catching doors and signs of Rye. It was a visual and gastronomical feast!
You can’t go to the seaside without hitting the beach, and Camber Sands is just a short drive from Rye so we enjoyed several long walks along the sea front.
The sand is golden and soft for a British beach, and combined with the dunes and fortuitous sunshine we could have been somewhere far more mediterranean!
But most of all it was a relief to feel the sand between my toes and the waves lapping round my ankles. I felt I could breathe properly for the first time in a long time while we walked along the beach and stared out at nothing but blue skies and horizon. Just the therapy I needed.
Hastings Old Town
We hopped along the coast to Hastings and explored the old town, full of interesting independent and vintage stores. It seems to be a growing trend in seaside towns to see a creative rejuvenation of the old town area and we spent a lovely morning pootling around the shops.
My favourites include Hendy’s Home Store (below), purveyors of fine classic homewares along the lines of Labour & Wait. Michael would have loved it and probably tried to buy three brooms, six lampshades and all the shaving and toiletry goods. S. Forrest is another unusual store where I bought some beautiful dried flowers, a bundle I put together of dried wheat, lavender and nigella.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
There are lots of good National Trust sites to visit in the area and these days I like nothing better than wandering around beautiful gardens admiring the planting schemes and wondering which flowers I could add to my borders, so a visit to Sissinghurst Castle Garden was a must.
A selection of the beautiful specimens in bloom during our visit were thoughtfully displayed at the entrance.
The famous White Garden was as elegant and serene as I’d hoped. It almost made me think of trying something similar, but I don’t think I could restrain myself to just white as I tend to favour bolder brasher colours!
It was a delight to explore, and we even found a display of sunflowers in the Vegetable Garden.
Folkestone Creative Quarter
Like Hastings, Folkestone has it’s own creative quarter in the old town. Unfortunately as we visited on bank holiday Monday many of the shops were closed, but I enjoyed a little window shopping and a browse in the few which had opened. There looked to be some great cafes and places to eat – Steep Street Coffee House was particularly enticing.
Michael and I had been wanting to visit Dungeness ever since watching a television feature a couple of years ago, and it was just as dramatic as it appears, and quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been.
It felt like stepping into a deserted Wes Anderson film set, especially with the Moonrise Kingdom-esque lighthouses.
We climbed to the top of the old lighthouse (above and below) and it was worth the 169 steps to the top to see the breathtaking view.
I could picture Michael racing up the steps out on to the viewing platform, iPad at the ready to snap the beautiful desolate scenery and the mix of ramshackle huts and clean modern architecture.
I can certainly see the appeal of living in one of the cottages or converted railway cabins here, with the open sea views and the feeling of being quite apart from the rest of the world.
All in all, it was a beautiful part of the country to visit and I’ll definitely be back again.