Updated: Aug 21, 2022
We have been out of London for over a year now so I thought it was time to update our guide to the local area. Here are some of my recommendations that should keep you busy for a good few days.
Eat & Drink
Tillingham Wines | Peasmarsh
Stop by for a glass of wine and a cheeseboard at the bar with views over the vineyard, or check out the delicious wood fired pizzas in the open air barn during the summer season. They have rooms if you want to
stay the night and a more formal dining area that can be booked for lunch or dinner. With tours, farm animals, a busy event calendar and a lifestyle store there is more than enough to keep you entertained for an afternoon or a weekend stay.
Water Lane | Hawkhurst
Set in a picturesque Victorian walled garden, Water Lane serves amazing seasonal dishes using ingredients grown in the grounds. The food is cooked outside in a wood fired oven and the tables look out over the vegetable and flower gardens. The food is delicious but also beautifully presented, often adorned with edible flowers from the garden. When you’ve finished eating, enjoy a walk around the grounds and a visit to the on site shop and nursery.
Birchwood | Flimwell
From the same team behind local favourites The Curlew and The Small Holding, Birchwood is well worth a visit. The £30 three course lunch is full of unexpected flavour combos and celebrates the best of local ingredients but in a casual non intimidating way! It’s a really welcoming approach to fancy food without all the pinkie finger pointing and stuffy atmosphere! They also offer a selection of takeaway dishes which travel exceptionally well if you fancy dining at home.
Boat Yard | St Leonards
Hidden at the back of Heist Market in St Leonard’s is Boat Yard. A small, intimate space serving great seafood with a focus on small sharing dishes. The open kitchen and great music add to the atmosphere and I’ve had some really fantastic food here. Make sure to try the cockle and shrimp popcorn, a dish to dream about!
Want something more casual? Heist market where Boat Yard is based is also home to several street food pop ups, a coffee shop and a craft beer bar so loads of options to please everyone in your party.
The Cove | Fairlight
The newest addition to the area The Cove in Fairlight, a short drive up from Pett Level beach. There are some really interesting dishes on the menu, often twists on classic pub dishes. The fish chowder is a real winner as are the Bitterballen, delicious little croquettes with various fillings depending on the day you visit. I haven’t been for Sunday Lunch yet but I’ve heard it’s well worth trying to get a table for that. Grace Dent gave them an amazing review recently and it’s getting increasingly hard to get a table so make sure you book this one!
The Fig | Rye
A brilliant spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With a focus on fresh ingredients and local produce, it’s walk-ins only during the day but you can book for their evening tapas menu. Great vegetarian and vegan options available.
Snack Shack | Dungeness
The place to go if you are a fan of seafood, simple food beautifully cooked to enjoy on picnic tables on the pebbled beach in Dungeness. A converted shipping container acts as the kitchen serving up fresh fish in brioche buns, scallops, prawns and the most incredible crispy potatoes. Get there early, they open at 11.30, it can get really busy most days. After lunch enjoy a stroll around the area, it is one of my favourite places on earth, filled with amazing modern architecture, many of which you can hire out for a short stay.
A lot of places around here have funny opening times so do check before setting off and try to make reservations where you can to avoid disappointment.
Epic Life | Bodiam
Fancy getting out on the water? Epic Life is the place to hire kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. We have spent many hours exploring this gentle stretch of water, surrounded by lush green fields on both sides and Bodiam castle in the distance is really is and idyllic way to explore the Kentish countryside.
Prospect Cottage | Dungeness
You won’t be able to miss the striking garden as you drive along the main road in Dungeness. An incredible labour of love by film maker, artist and author Derek Jarman after he moved to the house in the 1980’s. The eruption of wild poppies in the early summer is truly breathtaking in the stark landscape of the area where a huge power station looms large in the background.
Dungeness Open Studios
Close to the Britannia Inn you’ll find a collection of sheds that make up the Dungeness Open Studios. I love the Lino prints of the local area and getting to wander through the gorgeous garden as you go between the different spaces. They also have plants for sale so you can take a little bit of this magical landscape home with you.
Great Dixter | Northiam
If you love gardens, this is the one for you. The planting is spectacular, full borders, a mass of potted plants and sections of wonderfully curated meadows. There is a good cafe and a fantastic nursery where you can buy lots of the varieties that you will have seen in the gardens. Also if you go at just the right time you might spot a water lily so beautiful it will take your breath away.
Sarah Ravens Perch Hill
I had the pleasure of working here for a day and I can’t tell you how spectacular this garden is. A real labour of love and a showcase of the very best of British flower growing. There are open days throughout the summer which you can pre book via the website. Endlessly inspiring, I guarantee you will leave with loads of ideas for your own garden and a list of new flowers to add to your sowing list. The open days are super popular so make sure to book, you can also add lunch and make a day of it.
Rye Harbour | Rye
A recent discovery, you’ll spot the sign on the left hand side as you head out of Rye along the road to Winchelsea. Through the industrial estates and abandoned buildings keep going until the road runs out and park up in the free car park. From there you can walk through the nature reserve, lots of hides set up for birdwatching, all free to use and of course the obligatory cafe. Keep going and you’ll reach the beach, often completely deserted, a great spot for a longer walk or somewhere to let the dogs run wild.
Winchelsea Beach | Winchelsea
I think this is my favourite beach in the area. There is free parking on the side of the road, as you reach the top of the steps you’ll see the beach open out on front of you, behind amazing green meadows stretching as far as the eye can see. We tend to go earlier in the day to avoid the crowds, a long walk on the beach or a dip in the sea followed by a coffee and a bite to eat at the Red Pig Food Truck that you’ll find in the lay-by as you head towards Pett Level. Worth driving down this way to have a good nosy at some of the houses that line the road and open up onto the beach at the back. Check the tide times and if you are wanting to swim I recommend going at high tide, the beach can get a bit boggy when the tide goes out and I’ve found myself knee deep in beach mud on more than one occasion!
Camber Sands | Camber
Probably the most popular beach, dunes open up onto a huge expanse of sand, it can sometimes feel that you’ll never reach the sea. On the approach from Rye use the first car park and stick the the right hand side of the beach if you are bringing the dogs. Or drive right through Camber and you’ll find another (free) car park that gives you much quicker access to the beach.
The pretty cobbled streets of Rye are perfect for a gander, head up the side streets to discover wonderful old houses and inns, the church yard filled with scented garden roses and some familiar sights for fans of the cult BBC classic Mapp and Lucia. There are lots of vintage shops to explore and some brilliant new additions like Rae, great coffee and cinnamon buns as well as wonderful homewares. Hunter Jones for candles and creams in pretty packaging as well as ceramics from one of my favourites, studio Arhoj. Soap and Salvation has you covered for larger vintage furniture finds and McCully and Crane has beautiful art work.
Hastings & St Leonards
A G Hendy & Co
Possibly the most beautiful shop in the world? To me anyway. I love this place and will sometimes go to Hastings just to go here. The building alone is worth seeing, perfectly preserved it feels like you are stepping back in time, inside the store is filled with vintage homewares, everything from plates to terracotta pots, linens and French worker jackets to shaving brushes and gravy jugs. Everything has been flawlessly curated, a very special shopping experience.
I always joke that this is the equivalent of going on the London Eye, a tourist must do if you come to Hastings. Secretly I love it although have been on it so many times in the last year I’ve lost count. The Victorian railway takes you to the cliffs overlooking the town for an incredible view out to sea. There are two railways, the West Hill and the East Hill, I prefer the East Hill its a steeper ascent and the views from the top are magnificent, but at a tenth of the price of the London eye, why not give both a try.