Medieval charms of Rye are worth a pilgrimage

Londoners find a long commute is rewarded with good-value homes in pretty and historic Rye.

The medieval town of Rye in East Sussex figures high on the wish lists of Londoners preparing an exit strategy. It is certainly gorgeous looking, with cafés and galleries to potter through, some cracking seafood restaurants, exquisite little pubs, and interesting independent shops and markets.
Schooling is strong, and since Rye is on the edge of the Weald there is plenty of green space to explore. It stands at the confluence of three rivers, so there are waterside homes, it’s two miles from open sea, with its own little harbour and fishing fleet, and Winchelsea Beach and Camber Sands are within four miles. What’s more, buyers can find a period townhouse in Rye for the price of an undistinguished suburban flat in London.

  • Search houses and flats for sale in Rye

However, every silver lining comes with a cloud — and Rye’s is the commute. Trains to St Pancras International take at least an hour and seven minutes — absurdly long for a 60-odd mile trip in the 21st century — and an annual season ticket will set you back £4,432. If this is not a deterrent, Rye has some amazing options for families, second-home owners, and those who don’t mind a challenging commute.


£365,000: for a three-bedroom Rye townhouse with a little rear garden

Best for old-world charm

Rye’s historic heart is a delectable muddle of cobbled streets, lined with medieval houses. Almost every house within the Citadel is Grade II-listed, most have only small gardens and parking is a rarity. But if you want a truly evocative historic home, this is the place to find one.
Competition is stiff since the area appeals to second-home owners, investors, commuters and downsizers. For the entry price of about £300,000 you could buy a two-bedroom timbered cottage, while £600,000 to £700,000 buys a four-bedroom terrace house with a small garden. These houses are also medieval although they often have added Georgian façades.
At the top end you could easily pay £1.25 million to £1.5 million for a five- or six-bedroom house with parking in one of the smartest streets. These include Mermaid Street, its appeal enhanced by The Mermaid, one of many lovely traditional Rye pubs. There are plenty of restaurants, while fans of independent high streets full of one-off shops will be pleased to know that the Citadel, originally built to defend the town from hostile invaders, has repelled the march of the chain store and coffee house.
Best for families

Around the Citadel sit the Georgian and Victorian streets known as the Lower Levels. Families tend to buy here because the houses have child-friendly gardens, parking is easier, and it’s an easy walk to the town’s two schools — Rye Community Primary School and Rye College, for seniors, which are both rated “good” by Ofsted.
This means honing a property search to streets such as Eagle Road, Rope Walk, Landgate, and Ferry Road, which are all also handy for the station. Two- to three-bedroom Victorian or Georgian cottages cost about £185,000, with four-bedroom Victorian townhouses starting at about £350,000, while £500,000 buys a contemporary, detached four-bedroom house.
Families flock to the weekly farmers’ market on Strand Quay, there’s a good sports centre, and the area is virtually on the cusp of the Weald for walking and cycling. There are plenty of shops overspilling from the Citadel. As well as useful daily stores there are curio, junk and antiques shops to explore, plus Rye Art Gallery and Rye Pottery.


£2.25 million: for the price of a good four-bedroom house in south-west London you can buy Watlands in Rye, an eight-bedroom, five-reception room house in 4.2 acres with paddocks and a pool

Best for village life

About eight miles inland from Rye, within the glories of the Weald, the village of Northiam is friendly rather than cliquey, with a pub, shops and plenty of different clubs and societies. It also ticks boxes for its village green, historic church, and traditional beamed and weatherboard houses. However, Northiam CofE Primary School is considered “inadequate”.
Commuters drive to Rye or a similar distance to Robertsbridge for trains to London. Buyers would need about £300,000 for a traditional weatherboard cottage with three bedrooms in the village, while roomier Twenties houses on the outskirts with four bedrooms and a couple of acres would cost between £500,000 and £600,000. There are also some Edwardian piles with six bedrooms, four acres and outbuildings, for about £2 million.

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