Is Rye gluten free?
Well, the grain isn't, but the coastal Sussex town is!
Mere moments before last lockdown was announced, I had a lovely long weekend away in the historic town of Rye. While it is a very old township, there is only a population of about 9000 people, which if you are a seasoned gluten free traveller you would know that the less people, the less likely for gluten free places to eat. However, I found some absolute gems in this town, which I shall be sharing with you today. I've also added a 'things to see/do" section at the end if you are looking for some inspiration, as well as some helpful hints on getting around.
If you are partial to a hot chocolate, then this is a must visit. Knoops is a specialty hot chocolate cafe, that sells about 30 different types of hot chocolates, which are in order of percentage of cacao. The drinks are made with real chocolate shavings and spices. All gluten free and they only use cows milk, so no worries of cross contamination from oat milk. I ordered the 43% cacao with notes of hazelnut and caramel - highly recommend if you want something not extremely sweet but still sweet enough to be a classic hot chocolate. The percentages go all the way from a white chocolate 28% to 100% straight cacao! On top of that, they also sell a small amount of bakes, some of which being gluten free including two types of gluten free cannoli (ricotta and pistachio). Delicious.
Hoof is an amazing burger restaurant in the centre of the township. While the restaurant itself isn't 100% gluten free, they have plenty of gluten free options. One of the owners is a coeliac so they really take it seriously. I had the classic burger which was delicious, but the real winner of the evening for me was the BBQ chicken wings! They also offered gluten free baby squid, fries, and baked Camembert. For dessert we had a gluten free chocolate brownie, but they also offer a variety of shakes, just make sure you pick a gluten free one.
Also, If you are thinking of going here - please book in advanced!
Rye Deli is a specialty gluten free shop which has a delightful range of gluten free pantry items, as well as offering gluten free take-away sandwiches. Some interesting things I found were some of my favourite Italian gluten free lemon biscuits, which was honestly the last place I'd expect to find them! They also had a frozen section, full of homemade gluten free falafel, curries, and koftas, which would be great for if you are staying at an Air BnB and have your own kitchen. Rye Deli is situated about 3 minutes from the station and is a great place to stop by and stock up for your trip.
The local supermarket chain in Sussex is Jempsons - you won't find a Tesco's, Sainsbury's, or Waitrose in sight! Jempsons is a upmarket supermarket, with a section dedicated to deli items. In there, I found a few treats, like crackers, chilli jams, and cheeses. Jempsons also has a small gluten free section. There is a smaller Jempson's across the road from the train station, and there is a larger superstore about 10 minutes out of Rye, if you are looking for more variety.
Be wary of the following places:
The Fig - This is a cafe that offers some gluten free cakes and bakes, however I asked if they were coeliac friendly, and they said no. This is because they have such a small kitchen, and there is a risk of cross contamination.
Layla Mezze Grill - Their menu outdoor says they offer gluten free options, but at closer inspection I realised they were listing a dish containing bulgar wheat as gluten free... Yikes.
Things to do!
Rye is such a wonderful little town, you could spend a good half day (or whole day if you are happy to take your time) exploring it. The surrounding farm and marshlands also provide some beautiful day walks. Here are some things I did and recommend:
Climbed St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church was first built in the 12th Century, and rebuilt in the 14th and 15th century, and remains largely unchanged since then. You can also donate a few quid and climb the bell tower. I highly recommend doing this if you don't mind a few small hallways and some creepy wooden steps. The panorama at the top is breathtaking, you can see the entire town, surrounding country side, and on clear day - right out to the sea.
Pint (of Cider) at the Globe Inn Marsh.
There are several pubs in Rye, but the one that was most recommend for us to visit was Globe Inn Marsh. It's a very eclectic, marine themed pub on the outskirts of the main township. While only opening in 2013, it feels like a very old pub. Great place to stop by for a cider, but not a place to eat if you are gluten free.
Country walk to Rye Harbour
The walk from Rye Township to Rye harbour takes around 45 minutes, and isn't at all challenging, just slightly muddy. The walk takes you partially along the river, across farm land, past an incredibly haunted looking church (loved it), and into the very small village of Rye Harbour. I would recommend continuing walking south, into the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and then down to the Red Roofed Hut. This only takes a further 10-15 minutes but is well worth it. I would suggest doing this on a nicer day, we accidentally did that walk in a storm and we lost a couple of good umbrellas.
Rye has a surprising amount of vintage trinket shops, and I really enjoyed browsing the little vintage alcoves on a cold day. I actually found some New Zealand artefacts, a Taniwha, and small carved wooden Waka.
Visit Ypres Tower/Museum
Ypres tower is situated on the north west corner of the township, and it is listed as a Grade 1 historic building and Scheduled Ancient Monument. Built in the 13th century, you can take tours inside the castle for £4 per adult. I would suggest first stopping by at Knoops for a hot chocolate, and then walking straight up the cobbled street to the tower entrance.
Ghost Walk Tour
Now this is something that we didn't get a chance to do, but really wished we had. Rye has a very interesting history of ghost sitings, strange occurrences, even historic churchyard murders. One of the places that the ghost walk tours visit is the Mermaid Inn, which is one of the most infamous haunted buildings in the south of the U.K. The inn itself is nearly 600 years old, and throughout the ages there have been reports of ghosts in rocking chairs, doors opening and closing on their own, ghostly figures walking along there corridors, and extreme drops in temperatures. You can stay there the night if you are brave enough - I was just happy seeing it from the outside!.
We stayed at Flackley Ash Hotel which is about 10 minutes outside of Rye, and was an absolutely wonderful place to stay - it had a pool! We choose the inclusive breakfast package (after asking if they could make it gluten free) which was very handy. The only issue we had was that we didn't hire a car so we had to rely on public transport, which was one bus every hour...or so. We managed though, but if you were to stay outside of the main centre, I would recommend hiring a car. There are some cool areas that you can drive to around Rye as well, such as Dungeness headland on the coast of Kent.