The Ship Inn

East Sussex, South East England, United Kingdom Book from £85

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Friendly gastro inn with 10 cheerful rooms and great food in historic Rye
Walk in to The Ship Inn and be assured of a warm welcome. This former warehouse dating to 1592 was once used to store contraband from smugglers, and has now been given a convivial and creative new lease of life by owners Karen and Theo. We found jolly ska music and informal smiley service in the low-beamed bar and dining room, both scattered with squashy armchairs and kitsch objects. Food and drink is locally sourced, served in indulgent portions, and delicious. Upstairs is a residents lounge with bar - perfect for special celebrations, private dinners or just chilling with a drink, book or board game. 10 cute rooms are on the top floor, each a burst of witty whimsy with retro feature walls and bright scatter cushions. Artwork throughout pays tribute to Rye's coastal connections and wealth of vintage shops.

Strike out to explore the cobbled byways of historic Rye - half-timbered houses, ancient pubs, a fine church, and castle-turned-museum with cannons - or discover the glories of Camber Sands and Rye Nature Reserve. There's something for everyone here - singletons, couples, friends and families. And it's just a couple of hours by train from London.

Highs

    • Great food and drink
    • Charming retro-coastal decor with lots of delightful little touches
    • Laid-back, fun ambiance
    • Good value for money
    • Rye is a delight

Lows

  • Rooms are on the small side and aren't brimming with luxury items
  • Expect sloping, creaking floorboards, and pillars
  • You may hear your neighbours
  • The shabby-chic decor won't be to everybody's taste
  • No twin rooms

Best time to go

Rye is great to discover any time of year. Come in the summer for the joys of Camber Sands, the autumn for great walking, the winter for antiques shopping and heritage sightseeing, the spring for watching migrating birds in Rye's Nature Reserve.

Our top tips

Try one of the home-infused seasonally-flavoured vodkas!

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Foodie
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Inn
  • 10
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Board games
Room:

Rooms

The 10 rooms are on the top floor, opening off slightly municipal corridors - a hangover from the previous incarnation, now enlivened by local photographs. None are big, all are cute, decorated in a jaunty retro coastal fashion.

On each comfy bed you'll find high thread-count linen, soft towels and a welcome stick of rock. Window sills and bedside tables have anglepoise lamps and bright Roberts radios. You may have an armchair, or poster extolling the virtues of bygone theatre productions or a nautically-themed picture. Feature walls and headboards have bold fabrics and wallpapers. Mod cons aren't extensive but there are small flatscreen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Spotlessly clean bathrooms have showers and tubs or just showers; rubber ducks add a touch of whimsy. Complimentary toiletries are by Burt's Bees.

There are 2 categories of room - small double and standard double - but none are the same shape or size. Room 2 is the smallest, Room 8 is the largest by virtue of its corner position (and thus best for families), Room 9 has 2 windows. We were in Room 4, a standard double, and were flooded with sunlight across Rye's rooftops. We slept very soundly (you're 2 floors above the bar).

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The welcoming bar/dining room takes up the entire ground floor of the building; there's seating in windows, in the fireplace lounge and beside the bar. Good, unpretentious and tasty food adheres to regional and seasonal principles, and is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Meat is all free-range and local, fish is fresh from Rye Bay, bread is from a local artisan bakery.

Breakfast, included in the rates, is a small but comprehensive buffet: cereals, toast, jams and honey, homemade granola, yoghurts, freshly squeezed juice and cake. A great range of teas and coffees is available. The a la carte menu includes classics like kippers on toast and porridge; we went for the Eggs Royale, which were great.

Lunch and dinner menus change according to season, taking advantage of the Garden of Kent's bounty; there's always a Specials Menu, and portions are hearty. Lunch offers lighter dishes - fish & chips, homemade cheeseburgers or a full ploughman's. For dinner, we had the salad of asparagus, samphire and Manchego cheese dressed with lemon and olive oil - simply delicious - followed by haddock and salmon fishcakes, with hand-cut chips (we were also sorely tempted by the baked cod on lentils and cherry tomatoes). Desserts were an elderflower pannacotta and peach melba sundae.

The drinks and cocktails are a source of pride for The Ship - Sussex and Kent are blessed with great cider and up-and-coming vineyards, as well as excellent local ales. Both the wine list and fab cocktail menu deserve careful perusing; even the mocktails are sip-tastic.

There are plenty of choices for dining out in Rye, including an Italian just next door.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll around Rye: think cobbled streets, ancient heritage buildings, fascinating church, Ypres Castle, smugglers' history
  • Shop in the extravaganza of vintage and antiques emporiums in the town - the nearest are just 50 yards away
  • Walk through the golf course to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve; there are great hikes in the hinterland and you can hire bikes nearby
  • Camber Sands, 5km away, is considered the best sand beach in the southeast of England, and is a mecca for kitesurfing. You can also explore Winchelsea
  • Take the train or drive to Hastings or Brighton for a day out
  • Within 30 minutes you can visit Sissinghurst for its beautiful and pioneering gardens, or picturesque Bodiam Castle for its moat

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kitesurfing
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Families are welcome at The Ship Inn, and children will enjoy being in a smugglers' haunt, but note that the property is not geared around kids and you will have to bring your own travel cot if bringing a baby/toddler. Children sleeping in their parents' bed stay for free; there is a charge for an extra bed. The property is probably not ideal for toddlers, and teens may be bored unless they get stuck into kitesurfing at Camber Sands or the fascinating local history.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Standard Double rooms have space for a rollaway bed. Room 8 is the largest, and has a bath plus shower. Families with 2 children will need 2 rooms.

Baby listening:

If you bring your own monitor, you could have dinner downstairs while your child sleeps upstairs.

Children's meals:

There's a kids menu - sausages and chips, fish and chips, homemade burgers and pasta dishes.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Board games in the residents lounge
  • Crayons and colouring books in the restaurant

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beach at Camber Sands
  • Exploring Rye - Ypres castle next to the church has a view over the marshes
  • Swimming pool at the leisure centre, 5 minutes away
  • Hastings is 20 minutes away (amusements, crazy golf, bowling, cinema)
  • Bodiam castle has a moat and you can take a boat trip and bring a picnic

Families Should Know:

Steep stairs up from the ground floor, and wonky floors in bedrooms.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour 30 minutes (London Gatwick)
  • Shops: 2 minutes' walk
  • Hospital: 20 minutes by car
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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