The East Sussex coast is perfect for exploring with (or without) a dog. Friendly beaches, charming towns, superb hotels and restaurants and thriving sustainable and local food scene ; there’s something for everyone.
Rye and the East Sussex Coast
Now we’ve got a dog – Herbert, the miniature wire haired dachshund – travel and holidays need a bit more thought. We can’t simply up and go without any planning, and now need to check whether hotels and places to stay are dog friendly. We were looking for somewhere to go for a short break, and decided on a food and dog focused break in Rye and the East Sussex coast.
Rye is charming; probably best known as the real Tilling of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels, but there’s much more to it than that. We enjoyed discovering all the small antique, collectables and bric-à-brac shops and friendly restaurants for visitors, as well just pottering about the winding streets and admiring the higgledy-piggledy buildings.
There’s something uplifting about being on a high street packed with independent shops and not surrounded by national chains; this extends to the excellent local supermarket, Jempsons, with a branch in Rye and one four miles away in Peasmarsh.
Rye is a couple of hours drive from London and also easily accessible by train, taking just an hour and ten minutes using the high speed line to Ashford and changing there.
We then headed West to Hastings. While there are fishing boats that operate from Rye, there are many more on the beach at Hastings. Selling their catch from sheds right on the beach, it’s the place to go for fresh, sustainably caught fish. The RX initials on the bows of the Hastings fishing boats shows that they’re registered to Rye, rather than Hastings which isn’t a port; the sort of fact that appeals to Ed’s inner boat nerd.
Hastings is less chi-chi than Rye, far more down to earth, but still worth a visit.
We also enjoyed the dog friendly Fisherman’s Museum, jammed in among the black three story net lofts where nets were dried, to get a feel for the history of the trade. The museum also contains a restored Rye Lugger (fishing boat) which you can climb a flight of stairs and go aboard.
There’s a funicular railway up the cliffs for views out to sea and along the coast, a miniature railway along the beach, a shipwreck museum, Jerwood modern art gallery, and of course excellent fish and chip shops, as well as jellied eels for sale.
The small town of Battle – on the site of the 1066 battle, is another draw, particularly for anybody with an interest in history. Little of the abbey built by William the Conqueror survives, but depending on the time of year, visitors can see parts of the building rebuilt after the dissolution of the monasteries. Those interested can explore the history of 1066 through film, audio tours, interactive exhibits and walking the battlefield.
Again, in the town there are plenty of quirky and interesting independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
We’re happy to spend time wandering around towns, but Herbert likes a good run once a day. Camber Sands beach is perfect for him; the whole beach is dog friendly between 1st October and 30th April, (and some of the beach is dog friendly in summer) and when the tide is out there’s plenty of space along the 5 miles of beach for a really good run.
Increasingly upmarket Camber is a short taxi ride from Rye itself.
The Gallivant, Camber
We stayed at The Gallivant, a restaurant with rooms in Camber. Dog friendly (our room came with a sheep skin lined dog bed and bowls, and space in the kitchen fridge for Herbert’s raw food). We loved the simple decor – think modern Scandi meets beach hut meets ski chalet, friendly staff, relaxing ambiance, and delicious food.
The ski-chalet feel extended to the tea and cake provided to guests in the afternoon: perfect after a brisk walk on the beach.
Dinner was superb, with the freshest of locally caught mackerel and cod, and meltingly tasty Romney Marsh lamb. The bar also has an extensive selection of gin! The Gallivant prides themselves on paying their staff well and many have located to the coast from high end hospitality jobs in London.
Sustainable Local Food
I’m a big fan of simplicity when it comes to food. Given a choice between simple, high quality ingredients that are allowed to shine on their own merits, or a technical and complicated tour de force, I will always go for the former. Food at the Gallivant really chimed with us; the kitchen using ingredients from local fishermen, farmers and foragers. Similarly, the wine list includes a good choice of English wine from nearby vineyards.
When eating at home it’s easy to fall into a rut, especially if we buy ingredients that haven’t been flown half way around the world. One of the things that I love about visiting restaurants, especially ones that take pride in their sourcing, is getting inspiration for new recipes to add to the repertoire. The take away from this trip is that I’m going to be doing more with celeriac!
To help us find The Gallivant, we used BMW’s i guide to sustainable dining, Live Eat Drive. Curated by Melissa Hemsley, it details over 30 restaurants around the country that showcase sustainability.
BMW i8 Roadster
I was delighted that we were also offered the use of a BMW i8 hybrid for our trip. I’m no motoring journalist – I don’t have the necessary command of simile or metaphor, or the ability to drive fast and powerful cars to their full potential (Ed is the driver) – (a dab of oppo and all that). Even I, though, was impressed with the versatile BMW.
Smooth, and quiet in town, especially on battery power, it transformed when wanted into a fast and impressive machine that gave real confidence on the road. Herbert, with his German heritage was a fan of the German engineering. It’s also very amusing to be driving the sort of car that generates comments from passers by!
Dogs in Cars and the Law
The law says that dogs must be restrained in the car when travelling, if your dog is loose and causes you to have accident then your insurance could be invalid – the financial and moral implications do not bear thinking about.
Herbert usually travels clipped into in his Solvit car seat in the back, but for short journeys, taxi rides and now sports cars he travels on my lap – wearing an Ancol car harness and attached to the seat belt with a handy webbing loop and clip from Me and My Pets. Cheap, simple and safe.
We were the guests of BMW for the loan of the car and dinner at the Gallivant. All opinions our own.