Wednesday 10 March 2010

Rye and the Annual Scallop Festival

Clearly, the Scallop Festival is big news. On a rainy weekend in late February, the quaint cobbled streets of Rye were wriggling with raincoats, walking sticks, rainbow umbrellas, antique experts and scallop eaters. The annual festival gives the town a much needed tourist boost in the bleak winter months and introduces newbie’s like Cowie and me to this delightful town.

When we found out about the festival we thought it would be an awesome idea for a romantic weekend. We stayed at the quite brilliant Simmons Guest House which didn’t put a foot wrong and gave us a luxurious base from which to explore the area. Their sense of style, charming hospitality and top notch breakfast make it the best bed and breakfast we have ever stayed in. Sally Shalam would love it.

We explored the wilderness around Dungeness and the delights of Rye’s backstreets including a hilarious lunch at a very old fashioned tea room called Fletcher’s where it seemed they operated a shoot on talk policy. We even found ourselves whispering our order to the waitress. Crab and tomato soup along with a crab sandwich were good but could have done with some aggressive seasoning to bring out the flavour of the crab. And some non-plastic bread for the sandwiches wouldn’t have gone amiss either. If you are a Trappist monk, or have a fetish for Shakespearean collaborators you’ll love it.

The George Inn is an impressive set up with a restaurant that is well regarded, a bar that is welcoming and rooms that look pretty slick. It’s even on Twitter and according to the Guardian is one of the top 10 cosy hotels to cuddle up in during winter. However, a large golfing society who had just played on Rye’s excellent links course, slightly warped our experience given that we couldn’t move for bow ties, pompous men and golfing bravado. Some people will enjoy its ‘country glam’ vibe, but give me Simmons any day.

We spent a memorable rainy afternoon roasting ourselves next to the Standard Inn’s comforting fires playing a 1983 edition of Trivial Pursuit and downing gallons of excellent Harvey’s bitter. The atmosphere was a great deal less geriatric than the rest of Rye and could almost pass for being lively. Their range of proper pub food, good beer, hot fires and collection of board games make this pub a bit a lot more than just standard. And better still it is directly opposite Simmons, so we only got moderately wet.

In many ways we are delighted that it rained so much. It meant we didn’t embark on a monster cycle through grotty Hastings and past the never ending caravan parks that sadly litter this stretch of coast; instead we enjoyed the luxury of Simmons, the comfort of Rye’s charming pubs and enough scallops at Webbes and The Ship Inn to jeopardise next year’s festival (posts on their way).

Stuff to do in and around Rye:

Twitching in Dungeness
Rye Golf Club
Culture and a very decent lunch at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill see Intoxicating Prose and Essex Eating
Dinner at Webbes
Sunday supper at The Ship Inn
Rye Scallop Festival
The Mermaid Inn
Visit Henry James’ House
1066 Country guide to Hastings and the surrounding area

If we've overlooked anything in Rye that needed to be mentioned let us know.

This is part of a small clutch of posts about our trip to Rye for the Scallop Festival.


Jenny said...

I can't wait to hear about the scallops, sounds like my kind of festival.

I took 14 European teenagers to Rye a couple of years back as a "treat". It was a particularly geriatric day, I think the top attraction for them was the free internet in the library.

Su-Lin said...

What happens during the Scallop Festival? Is there scallop feasting?

I went there back in 2004 and very much enjoyed my walk out to see the ruins of Camber Castle. I was also told that there were wonderful expanses of lovely sandy beach just beyond too.

Paunchos said...

@Jenny - Free internet in the library is a big selling point for Rye!

@Su-Lin - There are a few events featuring scallop shucking, wheelbarrow races etc. And all the restaurants in Rye have dedicated scallop tasting menus. Which is quite fun.


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