The little (almost seaside) town of Rye is one of my very favourite places. It’s less than a half hour drive from our home and yet I always get that ‘Woo hoo, I’m on holiday’ feeling when I am there.
So much do I love it that, when Mr Gallivant and I fancied a Friday night sans enfants recently, it was the first place that came to mind. I’m a big fan of overnight stays close to home for frazzled parents. It’s a far easier sell to the grandparents if they only have to babysit for one night and you don’t have to spend hours getting huffy in rush hour on a motorway (not the most stress-free – or romantic – start to a weekend).
We bunged a few things in a bag, picked the kids up from school, handed them over to Grandma Gallivant and scarpered before she changed her mind.
Our hotel was The George, smack in the middle of Rye’s main street. It’s one of those magical places – unstuffy and quirky, with interiors that always have me doing mental mood boards for when I get home. It’s an old establishment, so there are all sorts of nooks and crannies in which to lounge around.
We stayed in a relatively new part of the hotel, across a courtyard from the main building. The rooms are built into what look like fishermens’ huts and ours had a touch of the Scandi chic about it (I had a peek in some of the others and they are all very different – some modern, some traditional, some somewhere in between!).
My favourite bit in ours was the huge pewter stand alone bath (below). That – and a glass of local fizz – and I had unwound quicker than a kid on a twisted swing. Bliss!
Dinner here is a treat, too (click here for my review). After a quick stumble back to our room, we slept soundly and were woken by the sound of seagulls.
We enjoyed a hearty breakfast – despite our gargantuan dinner I still managed to force down some local kippers and toast – then had a wander around the town. I’m a fan of the Shop Next Door, which belongs to Katie and Alex Clarke, the owners of The George. As the name suggests, it is adjacent to it and, rather cleverly stocks many of the things you’ll find there. They got so many requests from guests as to where they bought the bed linen, cushions, paint and accessories that they decided to start a shop selling it all – genius!
Rye is one of the prettiest old towns in the UK, in my opinion, with cobbled streets, wonky old houses, lots of interesting independent shops and the lovely beaches at Camber and Winchelsea within a few minutes drive.
We pottered around the church – climbing up the rickety stairs of the tower for stupendous views – and enjoyed spotting locations used during the filming of Mapp and Lucia, starring Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor, which was shown on the BBC over Christmas. Lucia’s house in the series was, in fact, Lamb House, a National Trust property which rather fittingly once belonged to EF Benson, the author of the Mapp and Lucia books, as well as to author Henry James. If we had longer we would have gone and caught a film at the cute new Kino cinema. But we hadn’t, so we had to settle for a hot chocolate (not really settling, is it?!).
Knoops is quite unique. The stark, slightly makeshift, interior gives no indication of the liquid pleasures on offer. They specialise in hot chocolate and you can choose which kind – milk, dark or white – and what percentage cocoa content you would like. You can add all sorts of things – marshmallow, cream, chilli, cardamom, orange, ginger…They come in big bowls, are delicious and very, very filling – although a salted caramel shortbreak does make a rather satisfying accompaniment.
If you are not lucky enough to live within a half hour drive of Rye, stay for a whole weekend. Come to think of it, maybe we’ll do that next time…if Grandma can be persuaded!
* Double rooms at The George start from £125, including breakfast. Visit www.thegeorgeinrye.com