Heading to Rye in Sussex? Here’s the comprehensive guide to eating Gluten Free Rye and loads of inspiration on Things To Do when visiting this most beautiful of historic towns.
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A Great Guide to Gluten Free Rye… In Sussex
I’ve been visiting Rye in Sussex for years. So I guess it’s about time I put together a bit of a guide to Gluten Free Rye! As a Coeliac blogger, I take an almost obsessive delight in seeking out places to eat when I visit anywhere. And as a foodie, the places I eat are anything from a quick on-the-go snack to a cheap gluten free lunch… Through to high-end ‘seriously cheffy’ restaurant food. This means that when I write a gluten free eating-out guide to anywhere, there will be something for everyone on the list.
For those of you who are wary gluten free travellers (or who just need help taking the stress out of somewhere safe to eat), guides can be a great starting point. So… Here’s my Gluten Free Guide to Rye. And some extra inspiration for things to do in Rye when visiting this most beautiful of towns. Enjoy xx
Where is Rye?
Rye is a small town, in the English county of East Sussex. It is situated about two miles from the sea on the South Coast. Once a major port, surrounded by water (before the estuary silted up and turned to land), it sits at the confluence of three rivers. Rye is a medieval Cinque Port. And it has a rich and incredible history, that tells stories of invasions and battles, flooding, smuggling and shipwreck.
Today, it remains one of the best preserved, quaint and quirky medieval towns in England. And while it has (over the centuries) undergone much regeneration (preserved in its beautiful array of Tudor and Georgian buildings, churches and towers), it has firmly resisted the impact of high street retail chains and architectural modernity. Plus (if history isn’t really your thing)… It’s literally packed with places to stay, eat and independent shops selling all manner of trinkets, gifts and antiques.
Best explored on foot (but being aware that it is built on a steep hill which necessitates ‘climbing’ sometimes slippery, cobbled streets), Rye is a fabulous place to visit, whether for a day trip or short break. Even better, it is easy to access by road or train. It is about an hour and a half from London. And has easy rail links from Ashford International station, Brighton and Eastbourne.
Is Rye Gluten Free?
Okay… This may be a rather ironic question for a Coeliac to be asking… But the answer when it comes to Rye in Sussex is a definitive yes! Whether you’re seeking out a quaint tea room or chintzy hotel… a safe burger, breakfast, lunch or celebratory meal, Rye offers the option for safe gluten free eating to suit any budget or occasion.
In many respects, it is much like my own home town of Whitstable (for which I also have the Ultimate Gluten Free Whitstable Guide). Venues show a willingness to adapt their menus for gluten free visitors… Their generosity in helping us to stay safe comes in part (I think), from the fact that they are ‘independents’. In my experience, smaller or family-run businesses will often offer as much as they can within the limitations of their food preparation space.
Gluten Free Rye – A note on the venues listed
The venues listed in my gluten free guide to Rye are based on personal experience and (where I haven’t eaten there) on extensive research in finding gluten free food that felt safe to eat while visiting the town. Wherever I eat, I always make clear that I am Coeliac. Also, that because this is a health condition, I need to be assured that food will be prepared in a safe way. If I am not assured, I do not eat there.
The list is specifically about eating gluten free. While some venues did clearly have menus that covered eating dairy free and other allergens, I have not sought to cover all bases. Thus, if you have additional dietary requirements, you should discuss these direct with the venue to ensure suitability.
An important note on my Gluten Free Rye Recommendations
Bear in mind that venues sometimes close, move to new ownership, or change suppliers and menus without notice. Thus, while recommendations have been made in good faith and based on Coeliac experience, it remains essential to ALWAYS check venues yourself before booking or ordering.
There will no doubt be other venues in Rye that I didn’t visit or research, but that do offer amazing safe gluten free food. If you find a restaurant or café that isn’t listed, I’d love to hear about it so it can be added to the list.
Equally, if somewhere listed doesn’t meet safe Gluten Free Rye expectations, please, please let me know. I need to follow up to ensure accurate information.
Gluten Free Rye – The usual risk-assessment rules apply
Regardless of whether you choose to eat somewhere recommended in this guide to gluten free Rye, or somewhere different, the usual rules for Coeliac eating out apply…
Bear in mind that unless a restaurant is a 100% gluten free venue (selling only gluten free food), then it will be a working kitchen, with all types of food being prepared. For this reason, most venues cannot (in an era of better-understood risk and legal negligence) guarantee 100% gluten free safety, even if they take every precaution on your behalf. Thus, we should expect and accept that food is generally offered with some degree of disclaimer on risk… This is usually a statement that while every effort is made to prepare food that is completely gluten free, it is ‘prepared in a kitchen where flour and other allergens are used’. That does not mean however that the restaurant is automatically unsafe.
Ultimately, when eating gluten free in Rye as elsewhere, the risks are for YOU to calculate, based on your own discussions with venue staff and an assessment of the trust you place in them… This should then be considered alongside the likely impact for you personally, should a gluten accident occur.
If you are less confident about how to ask questions about gluten free safety when eating out, head over to my page on Living with Coeliac Disease: Eating Out – Restaurants and Fast Food. I’ve shared lots of advice and tips on things to look out for, as well as questions to ask when choosing a restaurant and ordering gluten free food.
Used my Rye Gluten Free Guide?
My Gluten Free Rye venue suggestions (as well as some visitor inspiration for Things To Do in Rye) are below. Do let me know if the guide has been helpful (and if you find anywhere else that should be added to the list).
Happy eating and have a great time in Rye.
Gluten Free Rye, Sussex – where to eat
Haydens (gluten free breakfast and lunch)
108 High Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JE
A small family-run eco-conscious guest house and restaurant (brunch, lunch and afternoon tea) at the top end of the high street. We ate the most delicious brunch here (and wish we’d also stayed, as the rooms look beautiful).
All food is made to order using fresh ingredients. The staff are allergen-aware and easily able to adapt staples such as bread to make dishes gluten free throughout the day. I had free-range Eggs Benedict with Bacon (on gluten free toast) which was cooked to perfection. The coffee was good too.
Hoof (Gluten Free Burgers, etc)
35 The Mint, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7EN
Hoof is a superb burger restaurant situated towards the bottom end of town (open for lunch or an evening meal). It serves freshly cooked burgers, ribs, wings, baby squid, fries, salads, etc, made using local, quality ingredients. They had a great Coeliac awareness and many dishes were made gluten free. The burgers are offered with a gluten free bun and chips can be fried in a dedicated gluten free fryer.
Hoof also has a couple of gluten free desserts and freakshakes on the menu. Sadly however, I was too ‘stuffed’ on ribs to try them.
The Cobbles Tea Room
1 Hylands Yard (off The Mint), Rye, East Sussex TN31 7EP
Rye is the perfect destination for afternoon tea. And The Cobbles Tea Room will offer the full-on Gluten Free Rye afternoon tea experience… Its quirky, traditional English tearoom set on a romantically-narrow cobbled side street, is as ‘Rye’ as they come!
They offer drinks, jacket potatoes, sandwiches, scones and cakes, with plenty of gluten free options (at a small additional cost). You can even have a complete gluten free Afternoon Tea!
Webbe’s at the Fish Café
17 Tower Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7AT
Located just outside the city wall (near the Landgate), Webbe’s at the Fish Café is a very popular, if more expensive, higher-end restaurant. Its menu (which is primarily meat and fish) changes depending on the availability of local and seasonal produce, but is varied and exceptionally well-cooked. We enjoyed a superb meal here. The staff and chefs were helpful in ensuring the dishes we chose were adapted and prepared to be safe. The Torched Salmon starter in particular, was utterly divine!
If you are looking to find a gluten free Rye venue for a special event or celebration, I thoroughly recommend this place. Book ahead online to ensure a table.
2 High Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7JE
A gorgeously ‘boutique’ café-restaurant with rooms, located at the top of the town, this is another place I would have loved to stay. But it also serves a fresh, vibrant and delicious menu of healthy, scrumptious small plates, brunch, lunch and dinner (meat, fish and veggie) with plenty of gluten free options.
5/6 Landgate, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7LH
Another exceptional Rye restaurant for foodies, which is more expensive, but rather special. With a superb menu using fresh, local ingredients, the dishes shift with seasonal availability. Many dishes are naturally gluten free, so suitable for Coeliacs, and sauces are thickened by reduction (not using flour).
Again… If you love great food and are celebrating, the Landgate Bistro is well worth a look… Book ahead online to ensure a table.
The George in Rye
8 High Street , Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JT
The George is a traditional old-style hotel in the centre of Rye, with a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although I didn’t eat here, the menu is well-marked for allergens with plenty of gluten free options.
Tower Forge, Hilders Cliff, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7LD
The Knoops Website
Knoops (which is located a few steps up from the Landgate) is a café dedicated to selling the best REAL hot chocolate. It has more than 20 different varieties and a further 10 or so milkshakes and iced chocolates (many of which are vegan). The chocolate menu is organised by cacao percentage and offers tasting notes to help you decide.
All the chocolates are gluten free and come with the option of dairy or a selection of dairy free milks. And honestly… You can’t do ‘gluten free Rye’ without trying one!
If you fancy something with your chocolate, Knoops also sells a few bakes on the side, including gluten free Cannoli (which I’m pretty sure is the Difforti brand).
8-10 Market Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JA
If you love a deli, you have to pop in and browse the Rye Deli. It’s packed with delicious food, from cheeses, meats, preserves and condiments, to spices, oils and vinegars… With speciality teas and gorgeous chocolates, it’s a great place to pick up a gift or two… And of course, they have a selection of dedicated gluten free treats as well… including crackers, Italian biscuits and gluten free Cannoli.
Flackley Ash Country House Hotel
Peasmarsh, Near Rye, East Sussex TN31 6YH
When we visited the area, we stayed at the Flackley Ash Hotel. Although situated about 4 miles outside of Rye town, the hotel was comfortable, with good facilities and had a pool and gym. However, we also ate dinner here one night, so it only seems right to include it in the list.
Sadly, I forgot to take photos, but it is safe to say that the staff were really helpful around allergens. And while there was a limited but well-marked allergen menu for gluten free options, they were also happy to substitute ingredients to make other dishes suitable and safe. As is always the case, ask if there’s something you fancy.
If staying here, the breakfast menu can also be adapted for gluten-free guests.
Things to Do in Rye, Sussex (other than eat great gluten free food)
Walk Mermaid Street (from top to bottom or bottom to top)
Mermaid Street is probably Rye’s most famous and intriguing street… It’s picture-perfect, very steep and cobbled and is lined with timber-framed Medieval and Georgian houses, as well as centuries of history. It’s the place that takes you back in time and leads you to wonder about all the stories it could tell.
Keep an eye out for the wonderfully named houses…
- House with the seat
- The house with the secret garden
- The house with two front doors
- The house opposite
- Jeake’s House
Have a drink at Rye’s iconic Mermaid Inn
The Mermaid Inn (set on Mermaid Street) dates back to the 12th Century. Although rebuilt in 1420, it offers seriously cosy, beamed ceilings and ‘old’ Rye accommodation. But as it’s been serving locals and visitors for nearly 900 years, it would be hard to refuse a drink as you pass… Sit and wonder about all the characters that have sat before you. After all, in the 18th Century, it gained a notorious reputation as a hangout for smugglers and is said to be haunted by many a ghost.
Visit St Mary’s Church and climb the Tower
When you get to the top of Mermaid Street you will come upon St Mary’s Church which has been watching over Rye for nearly 900 years. While it can (and should) be visited as a remarkable church in itself, the real joy comes from climbing the steep and narrow steps of the tower. Marvel at the enormity of the church bells as you pass and be rewarded with magnificent views of the town and beyond… It’s a perfect view across the medieval rooftops and out to the marshes, Dungeness and the Channel.
And go check out the Rye Water House set on the grounds of the church. Remarkably ahead of its time, the water house brought pumped water to local residents long before plumbing was a thing!
Ypres Tower (and Rye Castle Museum)
Located just beyond the grounds of St Mary’s Church is the Ypres Tower. It was built in the 13th Century to defend Rye from the French. Over the centuries it morphed into everything from a prison to a private home… and is now a museum of Rye’s history, which is well worth a visit.
Its sister Rye Castle Museum – open on weekends from early April to late October, is located in East Street.
Walk through the Landgate of Rye
The Landgate is the only remaining gate of the original 4 that gave access through the city walls to Rye. Built in 1329, it remains an imposing and towering stone ‘gate’, giving a sense of the importance of Rye both as a historical defence and a merchant town.
Hunt for trinkets, bargains and antiques…
If you are searching for that ultimate coat hook, trinket, mirror, example of old kitchen equipment or piece of furniture, Rye is the perfect hunting ground. Round every corner is another cabin or shop selling antiques and vintage paraphernalia. Even if you don’t want to buy, it’s easy to while away endless hours exploring the shelves and narrow walkways, wondering what stuff is and marvelling about how much we have changed over the years.
Just walk the streets!
Seriously! I could spend days just wandering around Rye. The perfectly preserved buildings, cobbled streets, vast views and the people passing by… all hold a fascination that keeps me hooked in. So much so, that it’s all too easy to ‘wake up’ standing outside the estate agent dreaming…
And when hungry or thirsty… remember that fabulous Gluten Free Rye list of eateries to stop and refuel.
Walk the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and along the Sussex coast
The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve can be accessed on foot via a walk from Rye town to Rye Harbour (about 40 minutes). Or… by driving a couple of miles to Rye Harbour (free parking) and strolling from there.
It’s a pleasant shift of energy from the town, offering a little wild openness, some fabulous bird watching and the coastal wind in your hair. The paths are accessible, flat, well marked and more than worth the effort. Head down towards the sea past ‘Little Red’ (the iconic and very photogenic red-roofed hut) and keep going West as far as you want, towards Winchelsea.
If you get chilled, grab a coffee from the Discovery (visitor) Centre to warm up. (It’s also possible they do gluten free cakes, but I didn’t check… sorry!)
Watch a film at Rye’s Kino Boutique Cinema
Perfect for film buffs and rainy days, Rye has its own two-screen boutique cinema… The Kino, showing films which are less ‘mainstream’. The Kino is fully licensed. As it is a small venue, it is worth booking tickets ahead if possible.
Quite possibly one of my favourite places EVER. Dungeness is bleak and beautiful. It’s the windswept beach that time forgot… A graveyard of boats, lobster pots, and beach junk. It lies in the shadow of the (now switched off) Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, presided over by the beautiful Old Lighthouse.
Wander the shingle beach and duck boards exploring the trash that time forgot… Go birdwatch and walk at the RSPB Nature Reserve (on the only road in and out)… Grab a snack at The Pilot (although gluten free options are limited)… Or take a stroll up the road to see Prospect Cottage (former home of Derek Jarman – film director).
And if you are a photographer at heart, just enjoy. Because THIS is your ultimate day trip! And yes… the photos are fabulous in black and white.
Head out to Camber Sands
Arguably one of Britain’s finest beaches, Camber Sands is just a short drive from Rye town… Head East along the coast towards Kent. Alternatively, at just 3 miles, you can walk it if you want to burn off a few calories from all that delicious gluten free Rye food.
Bordered by gorgeous, wispy sand dunes, the beach (particularly at low tide) is vast. But be aware of strong currents, soft mud, and sandbanks that could leave you stranded and fast incoming tides.
Other Gluten Free Guide inspiration for short breaks and travellers
If you found this Gluten Free Rye Guide helpful, check out our other Gluten Free Travel Guides…
- Gluten Free Barcelona
- Ultimate Guide to Gluten Free Budapest
- Gluten Free Whitstable
- Pignoulet Pilates Retreat, Gascony France
- Gluten Free Paris
- A Love of Egypt
- Cruising on the Sapphire Princess
If you are new to travelling gluten free, then head over to my post on Travel Tips & Planning for help and advice.