Not so long ago, I used to go gallivanting around the world on writing trips. But recently, life has resulted in me having to travel closer to home. It is allowing me to properly explore what we have on our doorstep. There are some incredible places to visit in the UK, and I’m going to make sure we experience them. The travel industry is starting to bounce back from Covid, with people itching to hop on a plane and go abroad.
However, I’ve got a very special little baby who was born extremely early. She’s ten months old now, but she’s still on Oxygen and gets poorly easily. So we’ve adapted our travel plans so that we’re nearer to home should she have any issues.
Our first trip needed to be within an hour or so just to build our confidence up taking her places. We’ve also got a two-year-old and two dogs, so finding the right place wasn’t easy. We settled on an Airbnb in Winchelsea near Rye, Sussex.
Rye is a quaint medieval-type town with charming cobbled streets and a rich history. It’s also a stone’s throw from one of the best beaches in the UK, Camber Sands. When we walked around the town, we could almost imagine we might be abroad. It feels quaint and picturesque and packed with bags of character.
Want to know more about what this delightful Sussex quiet holiday hotspot has to offer? Here’s what we got up to on our five-day escape to Rye.
A family-friendly bolthole in Winchelsea
This article is about Rye, but we actually stayed in Winchelsea, which is about an 8-minute drive from Rye and a 20-minute drive to Camber Sands. It was ideally situated for exploring the local area.
We had dog walks right on our doorstep, and we stayed a few hundred metres away from the beach. If we listened hard, we could just about hear the sound of the crashing waves in the distance.
We stayed in a dog-friendly Airbnb. You never know what you’re going to get with Airbnb’s, sometimes, they look great in the pictures, but it’s all a bit disappointing when you arrive. However, this was not the case.
It was our first family holiday with both the kids and the layout was really reassuring. It’s all on one level and there’s an open-plan living area and kitchen. It was very well equipped with baby stuff and toys, so we didn’t have to bring quite as much stuff! Our daughter loved looking for butterflies and bees in the pretty little garden.
Eating out in Rye
One of the best things about Rye is it has a decent selection of places to eat out. I often choose my holiday destinations based on the cafes and restaurants! We only ate out a few times (getting our toddler to sit still for an entire dinner is a challenge!), but we had some excellent meals.
We particularly enjoyed our meal ‘Hoof’, which does amazing burgers and chips as well as ribs, steak and epic ‘freakshakes’. We also had a lovely glass of Rose wine and yummy starters (ribs and calamari). Another excellent place to eat (more of a breakfast/brunch/lunch place) is Whitehouse.
I’m a huge fan of brunch, and the variety of breakfast options was excellent. They have an epic selection of epic cakes in their bakery section. Make sure you try the enormous fluffy muffins!! There are plenty more cafes to try in Rye, here’s a handy list.
Devour one of the best hot chocolates you’ll ever have
I know we touched on cafes above, but I must mention this place. There’s one in Brighton, but I’ve not had a chance to try it yet. I’m always on the hunt for a decent hot chocolate. If I can find anywhere that does a dark hot chocolate, I get very excited.
At Knoops Rye, they use luxury chocolate in their drinks, and they are to die for. You can choose from what feels like a gazillion different chocolate strengths from different origins. They literally put several chocolate bars into their drinks, and the result is an extremely satisfying and very indulgent hot chocolate.
Sea swimming and silky soft beaches at Camber Sands
Camber Sands really is one of the best beaches in the South, if not the whole of the UK. It’s sandy, you can swim safely in the sea, and the water is fresh and clean. You can plan loads of amazing activities for children on holidays, but in reality, they’re often happiest when playing with a bucket and sand or splashing in the sea. My best memories of this holiday are chasing my daughter around in the shallows and hearing her chuckle with pure joy. She also enjoyed climbing up and down the sand dunes behind the beach.
Escape the summer beach crowds at Winchelsea beach
Camber Sands is lovely, but it can get busy at peak times – particularly in the car park. If you want a more low-key vibe, then try Winchelsea beach. However, there are no facilities which can make it a little difficult for families unless you come prepared with food and drink etc.
Our Airbnb was a few hundred metres away, so it made things more convenient for us. We chose to walk the dogs along Winchelsea beach and spent full beach days at Camber Sands. Do be careful at low tide here, there are muddy patches which aren’t ideal for prams! The dogs loved it here though, particularly when the tide was out, offering lots of wet sand to run on and dig into.
A day trip to historic Hastings
Hastings was never on my list of places to visit in the UK, if I’m honest, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s steeped in history, and the old town is quite charming. Yes, there are the cliche British seaside elements, but it offers an enjoyable day out.
We visited the shipwreck museum, which admittedly interested my husband more than the girls – but our toddler liked seeing the big ships, and it’s free to visit. She really enjoyed the aquarium, and she’s still banging on about the sharks she ‘kissed’ whilst clutching her new shark cuddly toy. We also managed to ride on the mini-train, which is a winner for most littluns.
The tram up the cliffs was closed, unfortunately, but that’s worth doing if you manage to visit when it’s open. We had to walk quite far into town to find any decent restaurants and cafes. We ended up eating at a fish restaurant which was average at best. It’s worth finding some of the nicer eateries online before you go, as wandering around a town struggling to find a nice place to eat with a toddler is tough!
I’d definitely recommend this area for a UK staycation somewhere low-key and family-friendly. We loved Rye so much that we’ll probably go back again just so we can wander the streets and eat at our favourite restaurants and cafes again. However, we’ve chosen somewhere different for our next UK family trip. We’re off to Suffolk as it’s somewhere I’ve not really explored, other than on a hen do, which doesn’t really count! I’ve heard the beaches are lovely and it’s quite a pretty area.