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 few 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.
Just outside the walls, the Globe looks idyllic from the 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.