My guide to Rye

Fancy a day out? Jump in your car or hop on the train and head off for a lovely day in Rye. This picturesque little town boasts some really impressive interior design shops. So, whether you are shopping for yourself or sourcing pieces for a project it makes a fabulous day out.

I am lucky enough to live fairly close to Rye, so have visited many times over the years and witnessed it gradually change from a sleepy little town, boasting a handful of bric-a-brac shops and cosy tea rooms, to a delightful destination with a wealth of classy antique and interiors boutiques. I hope you are inspired by my guide to Rye to take a trip down to Sussex.

Rye, in East Sussex, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in England. It used to be one of the important Cinque Ports along the south coast, but then the sea withdrew and Rye was left on its little hill, an island in the middle of fields full of sheep. The architecture is a pretty mix of Tudor cottages and handsome Georgian houses, but wear comfortable shoes, the streets are steep and cobbled.

You can easily walk round Rye in one day, it is neatly contained within the original medieval walls, but if you do want to stay over there’s a good selection of Airbnb. The lovely George Hotel recently had a devastating fire, I have stayed there a couple of times, so when it re-opens that would be my recommendation.

I’ve detailed how to get to Rye at the end, but this isn’t really a travel piece, it’s all about the shopping! So here are my favourites.

Puckhaber a family run business

Start at the top of the High Street with Puckhaber. This family business, run by a mother and son combo, specialises in decorative antiques from France and Sweden. Expect original painted furniture, period mirrors and paintings

Behind the quaint exterior, Rye Art Gallery is a surprisingly bright and spacious home to an inspiring display of regularly changing contemporary art and craft with a fine permanent collection as well. They also sell great art cards, I always stock up with a few when I am there.

Stop for coffee at The Apothecary

Ready for a break? The Apothecary coffee house offers freshly baked pastries and excellent coffee with tables set in a handsome bow window so you can people watch while you rest your feet.

Buy a hat at Herald & Heart

Nothing to do with interior design, but I just love a hat shop. Herald & Heart sell bespoke millinery as well as ready to wear hats so it’s impossible to just march past this emporium without trying something on.

Browse round Ashbees 100 and pick up some hand cream while you are there

Still on the High Street, Ashbees 100 sells quirky antiques and curios as well as the delightful Cosmydor organic skincare products  – the gorgeous smelling hand creams look like brightly coloured tubes of paint.

I stopped for lunch at The Mermaid Street Cafe

On my latest visit it was still outside-only covid restrictions for lunch. So I opted for a quick bite at The Mermaid Street Cafe. Sadly the local crab sandwich was off the menu but I was happy with a homemade pasty and mug of tea as it was a chilly day, before continuing my meander round the town.

You can discover some real treasures at Strand House Interiors

A must visit is Strand House Interiors on The Strand. Behind the beautiful frontage discover French and English nineteenth century furniture including outsize mirrors and attractively worn leather armchairs. But prepare to be surprised too.  When I visited there was a dinky little Messerschmitt car in the window – how they got it in there is anyone’s guess.

The Confit Pot is a lovely addition to Rye’s interior design shops

Looking for a confit pot, and let’s be honest who isn’t, then step inside this glorious emporium at the bottom of Mermaid Street. The Confit Pot caters for classic French interiors, it stocks one of the largest collections of confit pots in the UK and there is antique garden furniture too.

If you still have time to spare, pop into the studio of Rye Pottery. Originally established in the 1700s it is a family business producing attractive homewares and decorative accessories – you’re guaranteed to find a few birthday presents in here.

Be enamoured by enamelware at Halcyon Days

I like to round off my day with the smaller vintage shops in the warehouses at the bottom of The Strand. Halcyon Days is a particular favourite. You will find vintage table linens and a selection of 1950s inspired enamelware in fun pastel shades – they don’t have a website so I can’t include a link, but worth a visit.

For advice on how to buy vintage well, click here

Directions

From London, the easiest way to get to Rye is by train from Victoria or St Pancras, change at Ashford International. It takes about 2 hours 40 minutes.

Or you can drive. There is parking by Rye railway station, although this gets a bit crowded on Thursdays when it’s market day.

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