Perched on a hill overlooking the Romney Marshes, the ancient town of RYE was once designated a privileged Cinque Port because of its useful coastal position, but was subsequently marooned two miles inland by the retreat of the sea and the silting-up of the River Rother. It is now one of the most visited places in East Sussex – half-timbered, skew-roofed and quintessentially English, but also very commercialized.
On picturesquely cobbled Mermaid Street, Lamb House (March– Oct Thurs & Sat 2–6pm; £3.30) was the home of the authors Henry James and (subsequently) E.F. Benson, while a blue plaque in the High Street testifies that Radclyffe Hall, author of the seminal lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness, was also once a resident of the town. St Mary's Church boasts the oldest functioning pendulum clock in the country and its tower offers fine views over Rye's clay-tiled roofs. The Ypres Tower (April– Oct Mon & Thurs– Sun 10.30am–5pm; £2.95), formerly used to keep watch for cross-Channel invaders, and now a part of the RyeCastle Museum on nearby East Street (same times; £2.50, or £5 for both sites). Both places house a number of relics from Rye's past, including an eighteenth-century fire engine.