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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