Rye is a small town of big beauty, which is why it seems to attract hordes of young and old French tourists at this time of year.  Those, and a few more local visitors, were filling up an impressive collection of pubs when I visited from Hastings on Friday.


I managed to walk the town, and visit the two new Beer Guide pubs, in the 61 minutes between trains. 65 minutes would have been better.

There’s a touch of Arundel about it, without the big-scale attraction of the latter’s castle, but Rye is slow tourism at it’s best.  Or it would be, if there wasn’t so much traffic in the High Street and Cinque Ports Streets. It’s a shame, and the weather-boarded buildings look a bit tired.  At least they’re largely independent businesses.

The southern streets, all cobbled, are wonderful though. Mermaid Street through to the castle via the church is as good as it gets, and the impression of a layered town is what marks the place apart. Almost on a par with Bridgnorth in that respect.

Wikipedia gives a motley collection of “People of Rye”, including Tom Baker, Radclyffe Hall, the Cheeky Girls and Spike Milligan. I’d have liked to have been in a pub with them at the same time, probably the Ypres Castle, the big draw after the ancient Mermaid.

Rye has never had more than the odd entry in the Beer Guide, and hadn’t had one at all for three years ’till GBG 2016. A town of less than 5,000, it’s got 16 pubs in what feels like a square mile, and I can only surmise the pubs are better than the beer.

Nearly all of the pubs looked attractive in some way, and nearly all do a real ale, but I’d bet lager and wine sales dominate.

The Ypres Castle has the best views, down to Rye Harbour, a decent enough Haveys Knots of May (NBSS 3), and a sighting of the famous castle ghost.

Ypres Castle, with ghost in top right corner

Just outside the walls, the Globe looks idyllic from outside, but the inside will sharply divide opinion (Simon Everitt will loathe it). It looks more like a North London “larder/garden centre” than a pub, reminding me a bit of the Five Bells in East Brabourne.  Weird that they turn out to be both part of the Ramblinn Group,  whose website is a joy.

It’s a visual feast anyway, but the local beer was mediocre (NBSS 2) and the dispense (barrels on the counter but pulled by handpump) is bizarre. One for Mrs RM.


Just west of Rye, the neighbouring villages of Icklesham and Pett have four  terrific Beer Guide pubs, including the wonderful Queen’s Head, overdue a return visit.

5 thoughts on “RYE – THE WELL OF LOW-NBSS

  1. Last time I went to Rye was on Black Wednesday in 1992, when I went in the Ypres Castle – nice little pub in a great setting. For obvious reasons the specific date sticks in my mind.

    Have you ever been to the Case is Altered at Fiveways near Warwick, which used to have “cask-pumps” for dispensing beer from barrels, although the Heritage Pubs site says it no longer does?


    1. That would stick in the mind.

      I did go to the Case nearly 15 yrs ago. Multiroomed but beer a bit flat. Been out the Beer Guide for a while. Only Ember Inns and the like round there now.


  2. So the Five Bells at East Brabourne has been given the “posh garden centre” look, Martin. When I still lived at home, with my parents, the Five Bells was a regular haunt of my friends and I. One of its attractions, apart from being a nice place to go at weekends, was the beer – Younger’s Tartan and Mc’Ewans Export! Don’t broadcast that too loudly in CAMRA circles please!

    Out of curiosity, I had a brief look at the pub’s website, and I don’t recognise the pub at all. I have been to the Globe though, albeit about 10 years ago when I was mapping out a pub crawl of Rye for my local CAMRA branch. The pub had been given what I call the “Whitstable look”, even back then, but probably not to the same extent as present. I also notice the Woolpack at Warehorne has joined the other two pubs in the Ramblinns group.

    My wife and I really like Rye, and had our honeymoon there, as I’ve probably mentioned before. We had several family holidays in the area too, when our son was small and loved going to the beach (Camber Sands).

    It’s ages since I last had a drink in the town; now I’ve got my Senior Railcard I’m tempted to take the train down to Rye and look up a few old favourites.


    1. I’d be really interested to hear your views on beer quality in Rye Paul. Pubs look decent but tourists may not be real ale converts yet !

      I do like the countryside around East Brabourne, but not that pub !


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