Nestled in the heart of 1066 country, just a 10-minute drive from the stunning East Sussex coastline, is the quaint and historic town of Rye. The former medieval citadel is known for its cobbled streets, romantic Tudor and Georgian architecture and kitschy local businesses. However, a trendy renaissance has hit the town over the last decade, complimenting Rye’s old-world charm and making for a versatile and unique spot to spend a week. We were lucky enough to do just that thanks to Sykes Cottages.
Our home for the week would be Lily Cottage, situated a leisurely five-minute walk from Rye’s famed high street and just a four-minute walk from the train station. If you’re arriving by train, it’s just a short walk from the platform to the front door, and those heading to Rye by car can park in the town car park for just £2 per day.
Lily Cottage, a Grade II listed building, retains many of its original features but has been renovated to add a sleek, modern feel, making it a perfect home away from home.
On arrival, we were greeted with an unexpected welcome basket, filled with everything we needed to get us started for our stay – including granola, butter, milk, bread, jam and spreads, and even a delicious elderflower cordial. For any other groceries you may need, there is a local supermarket just a short stroll away.
The cottage sleeps four adults and two children comfortably, as well as one “well-behaved” dog.
My favourite room of the house was the cosy lounge, with rustic wooden floorboards, two inviting sofas and a gorgeous feature fireplace.
The master bedroom also features a decorative fireplace, while the back bedroom promises gorgeous views of blooming Clematis flowers outside.
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The attic room is the perfect hangout for little ones, a private escape for them to scamper away to, with two single beds and a Velux window flooding the room with light on sunny days.
The fully functioning kitchen became a hub for our stay, where we cooked delicious dinners, enjoyed breakfasts around the table and, thanks to the fast and efficient wifi, even used it as a work from home space for a couple of days.
On particularly golden afternoons, you can take your meals outside into the private courtyard and maybe even try your hand at barbecuing.
But even if cooking isn’t your forte, there are plenty of incredible restaurants nearby that cater to all manner of diets – from those lusting after the fresh fish of the day to eclectic vegan small plates.
We decided to put on the nicest outfits we had packed and make a reservation at The Fig on Friday evening. Located in a prime spot on Rye’s high street, the restaurant boasts an open-plan kitchen in the middle of the retro, boho dining room, and staff make you feel like a friend from the moment you set foot in the door. The menu does change, but if you get a chance, order the mushroom arancini.
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For meat lovers, nearby burger and steak restaurant Hoof was highly recommended, and Webbe’s at the Fish Cafe, housed in a picturesque listed building, has been dubbed the “best seafood restaurant in Rye” by TripAdvisor.
Rye is also home to a scattering of watering holes, whether you’re looking for an apéritif, digestif or simply a pint to wet your whistle after a day hunting through the town’s renowned antique shops.
The Old Bell, dating back to the 15th century, is said to be “the oldest pub in Rye” with whimsical, old-timey interiors and a beautiful terrace framed by sweet hanging wisteria.
Opposite Lily Cottage is another town favourite – Rye Waterworks Micropub.
It is the first micropub to open in South East Sussex and lives within what was originally a water pump house.
I was assured by the barman they offered a great selection of “real beers and ales” and regardless of whether they were pulling a pint or stopping by to collect a glass, staff were always up to stop and have a chat.
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, or are a fan of antiquing, then there are some independent, retail gems tucked away in Rye’s higgledy-piggledy streets.
Or, if you’d rather learn a little more about the rich history of the town’s inhabitants and the surrounding area, Rye Castle Museum and Ypres Tower offer a fascinating insight into the past.
While wandering Mermaid Street, look out for some of the quirky names that adorn its houses (House with the Seat, The House Opposite and, my favourite, the House with Two Front Doors).
Though there is plenty to keep you entertained in Rye itself, one of the things I found especially wonderful about Rye is its connectivity to the coast.
Just a 10-minute car journey away is the stunning Camber Sands, the only sand dune system in East Sussex.
And even if you don’t have a car, there is an efficient and speedy bus that will take you all the way to the front.
If you have some extra days to spare, then it’s well worth the slightly longer journey to the eerily beautiful Dungeness Nature Reserve on the southernmost point of Kent.
Dungeness is the third most biodiverse site in the UK, boasting a vast stretch of shingle, freshwater pits, grassland and meadows, dotted with old fisherman’s cottages and some newer, more modern renovations.
Over the course of the week, we managed to pack in quite a lot of exploring, and it was a welcome relief to have a snug home away from home in the form of Lily Cottage to return to as night fell.
Lead pricing for a seven-night stay at Lily Cottage is £568.
Book a stay at Lily Cottage, or browse other available properties, on the Sykes Cottages’ website.