Ten miles northeast of Hastings, perched on a hill overlooking the Romney Marshes, the pretty, ancient town of RYE was added as a “limb” to the original Cinque Ports, 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.
Rye’s most picturesque street – and the most photographed – is the sloping cobbled Mermaid Street, the town’s main thoroughfare in the sixteenth century. At the top of Mermaid Street, just around the corner in West Street, lies Lamb House (mid-March to mid-Oct Tues & Sat 2–6pm; NT; £4.30; t 01580 762334), home of the authors Henry James and (subsequently) E.F. Benson.
Just a few cobbled yards away is the peaceful oasis of Church Square, where St Mary’s Church boasts the oldest functioning pendulum clock in the country; the ascent of the church tower offers fine views over the clay-tiled roofs.