The genteel half-timbered town of Rye combines cobblestones and crumpets, but it's a lucky tourist who nabs one of the elegant tables at Fletcher's House. Fiercely guarded by present-day Mapps and Lucias, this local institution is always jammed with Rye's movers and shakers. While Pete attends every whim front of house, Lee has them stifling cries of ecstasy at the confections displayed on his tiered cake stands. The gossip flows as the floral frocked cognoscenti nibble home-made fruit flans and sip Lady Grey tea from fine bone china. But beware the glint of a filigree butter knife among the patterned polyester as it silently slips into an absent neighbour's back.
If, Withnail-like, you demand the finest wines available to humanity to wash down your fluffy scones, don't worry, they have a wine menu too.
Ranging between 20 and 200 feet in diameter, these Orwellian sentinels tower eerily over the shingle peninsular of the Dungeness National Nature Reserve. Erected between 1928 and 1930 the three concrete 'listening ears' detected the approach of enemy aircraft, but when radar was invented before WW2 they became redundant.
You can get up close to these impressive feats of engineering is by joining one of Dr Richard Scarth's walks organised by the Romney Marsh Countryside Project. Check the noticeboard on the Project's website for dates.
Set amid sprawling greenery and a floral splashed moat Bodiam Castle is the epitome of fairytale. The ruins are are compact and easy to explore with spiralling stairways and picturesque archways that lead between the ramparts. Built in 1385 the castle was both a defence against French invaders and a family home, and during the peak season there are medieval events and costumed actors on hand to provide further insight.
More than a castle, Rye's 13th-century Ypres Tower forms part of the citadel of this ancient town, one of the seven Cinque Ports of Kent and Sussex. It was built in 1249 under the orders of Henry III to defend England from the French who just over a hundred years later raised Rye to the ground, leaving only the fort intact.
Expect to find worn spiral stone staircases, panoramic views and horrific instruments of torture in this castle. You may try on helmets and armour, sample herbs from the medieval garden, or - for the total incarceration experience - lie on a bed in the tiny cramped prisoner's cell of one of the castle's narrow turrets. Children are kept busy with competitions or treasure hunts and outside they can clamber over canons in the Gun Garden.
As a smuggler's stronghold Rye has a colourful history, and local author John Ryan's Captain Pugwash adds humour to the stories told in the castle and museum. Although the fort remained standing when the town was looted in 1377, the church roof fell and its bells were stolen. In keeping with their fierce character, the men of Rye sailed to France, set fire to two Norman towns and recovered many of Rye's stolen treasures.
At the top of the turret I found a purring local cat sitting on a wicker chair, watching over a relief model of the naturally reclaimed coastline. Unlike other areas of Britain the sea is retreating here, exposing marshland and miles of deep shingle, England's only "desert" wilderness. If you strain your eyes from the ramparts you might just see the sea, but when it was first built the water came to the foot of the hill on which Rye is perched.
With its cobbled lanes, ancient buildings and 900 year old church, huddled together with the castle inside the citadel, Rye is an impressive and beautiful historic town.
Open daily 10.30am to 5.00pm
Adults £3.00, concessions £2.50. Children free when accompanying family
Google map: tinyurl.com/3y7dhbz
The museum is open
Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30am to 5.00pm
Adults £2.50 Concessions £2.00
Family visits: Children free when accompanying family
Last admission 30 minutes before closing.
A joint ticket for both sites costs £5.00, Concessions £4.00.
Family visits: Children free when accompanying family.
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