Rye is one of the Cinque Ports that was established by Royal Charter in 1155 to maintain ships for the Crown should they be needed. Rye is perched on a hill, overlooking the River Rother and Romney Marsh, so was well placed to perform its role as look-out and defender of the coast. This ancient town is the sort of place you thought existed only in your imagination; with its enchanting cobbled streets, medieval church and beautifully preserved historic houses from medieval, Tudor and Georgian times, Rye is almost suspended in time and has a uniquely unhurried atmosphere.
Although small, Rye has plenty of attractions for the day visitor, from it's cobbled streets and timbered houses, to small boutiques and historic landmarks. Down by the estuary as you come into Rye there are a variety of Antique and bric-a-brac shops, selling everything from vintage kitchen paraphenalia to furniture and garden implements. I spent a very happy hour down there, coming away with some gorgeously heavy, silver plate cutlery.
Henry James. If you wander round the side of the Medieval church, complete with it's original bell-tower you will find the wonderful Tiny Book Store. It really is tiny, but well stocked with a wide variety of second-hand books. A browsers dream.
You can do a lovely circular walk, beginning at the base of the town, up the cobbled streets and past the Mermaid Inn. Take in the old castle and views out towards the sea, before looking round the old church and a browse in the book shop. You finish your walk with an amble down the main high street with it's coffee shops and independent retailers. Check out Violetta Boutique, a gorgeous parfumery/apothecary shop on the main drag.
Although I stayed nearby, you can easily 'do' Rye from London in a day. It takes about an hour and a half to get down there - try the A21, it's not as quick as the motorway, but takes in the English countryside in all it's glory.