Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.
As part of our Staycation adventures this summer we've been to a number of lovely parts of the UK, all enjoyable despite the rain and overcast skies, actually we were having so much fun climbing mountains and trying to catch fish we hardly noticed the lack of blistering sun. We absolutely loved Rye in East Sussex best of all, for its pretty architecture, history, junk shops (so THAT'S where they all went) and beaches.We recommend the following if you should go.....
Where to stay: The Place at the Beach is really a posh motel, a sort of 1970s Crossroads throwback with artfully sun bleached driftwood furniture and very nice food (great fresh fish). It's small and charming and right next to Camber Sands beach (although not actually on the beach itself) which means you can go for long morning walks along the deserted but vast stretch of sand looking for razor clamshells (for winter art projects) wishing every morning could start like this. It's three miles out of Rye (it's best visited with a car)and a double room out of season starts at £135. It's very nicely suited to families, being so close to the beach, but might be best to avoid the school hols if you've moved through this period, I wish we'd known about it when ours were smaller.
We also visited the much posher George Hotel located in Rye, owned by relatives of the Moro restaurant team in London. We didn't see the rooms but lunch was nice, and they seem to be working hard at making it the smart place to stay.
Where to eat: The restaurant at The Place at the Beach served excellent locally caught fish, and The Ship Inn was good for informal, well priced supper.
What to see: As well as Rye being very picturesque and worth a good tour around, we went out to view the beautiful bleakness of Dungeness Beach and see Derek Jarman's Nuclear Garden at Prospect Cottage. Stunning. Worth popping up the old light house too (not for those with vertigo) for amazing views of the coastline.
Great Dixter, the house and gardens of the late horticulturalist Christopher Lloyd, is a ten minute drive away at Northiam and an essential stop for keen gardeners. The garden is bold, brave and packed full of plant combinations that'll have your head buzzing, the nursery raises plants to sell so you might want to clear out the boot of the car to make space. There's a great cafe for a tea and home made cake stop too.
What to buy: fresh fish from Rye Bay Fish, which sells the fresh plaice, sea bass, lemon and dover sole, crab and lobsters caught next door by the Rye fishing fleet. Situated at the end of the fishing harbour on the road out to Camber Sands, the shop is open 7.30 - 7.00pm and provides ice for long trips back home in the car. Remember to take a cool bag. Rye Bay Fish 01797 222377.
Antiques (but not the precious type, more the distressed-with-style sort) from Strand House (The Strand, Rye, 01797 224002), where Keith and Michele Banham sell quirky but stylish furniture and decorations. We lusted after a huge amethyst glass cloche (gorgeous but probably impratical) and a cherrywood campaign table for composing our posts at. Keith has helped a number of successful retailers find their 'style' by providing the furniture and fixtures for their stores. The man tells a cracking story and has great taste.
Kitchen antiques from Jane Wicks at Kitchenalia (Country Ways, Strand Quay, Rye, 01424 713635), where we could have bought everything. From glass jelly moulds, Cornish stripe tableware in biscuit and cream stripe, sets of 50s and 60s crockery and cutlery, rolling pins and antique chopping boards to antique kilner jars in perfect condition with glass tops for our current obession with jam making, the shop is a total treasure trove and very keenly priced.
All this and the Sussex coastline and countryside to admire. Who needs 'abroad'?
Country Ways, Jane Wicks' kitchen antique shop, Rye