Hythe, which means ‘haven’ or a ‘landing place’ in Old English, is a small market town on the edge of Romney Marsh on the Kent coast. It was an important Cinque Port, part of a historic series of five towns along the Kent and Sussex coast, formed for military and trade purposes – but they are now simply a delight to visit.
The Church of St Leonard overlooks the town – it dates back to Norman times and contains a small number of features dating from this period.
The chancel, from around 1220AD, covers an impressive ossuary, or bone house, which is well worth a look; there is only one other in England at Rothwell in Northamptonshire. Over 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thigh bones dating from the medieval period are housed here. It is thought that the bones were dug up when the chancel was extended in the 13th century. On a clear day, you might glimpse the coast of France from the churchyard.
Head down Church Hill to reach the old and narrow High Street, which has an impressive mixture of Medieval and Georgian architecture. Take some time to explore the independent shops, art dealers, quaint tea rooms and cosy pubs.
Promenade along the sea
The High Street leads towards Ladies Walk (a tree-lined path towards the seafront) and the Royal Military Canal. The canal runs across the northern edge of the town to Winchelsea, 26 miles away. The waterway, as well as three Martello Towers nearby, was constructed as defences against Napoleonic forces and was also useful to help combat smuggling on the marsh.
These smugglers were known as owlers due to the sounds they used to communicate between one another. Every two years the canal is the venue of the Hythe Venetian Fete, a floating tableau or water carnival.
Upon reaching the Parade, a Victorian seafront, you can head westwards to reach Fisherman’s Beach. Watch the fishing boats returning from the sea waters and unloading before preparing their catch. You can then purchase a wide variety of fish and molluscs nearby.
Heading inland from here, you come across the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway which runs for 14 miles from Hythe to Dungeness. It is the world’s smallest miniature public railway running at ⅓ scale with both steam and diesel locomotives.
Evidence of Hythe’s more recent military past comes in the form of an unusual monument in the Roughs – the remains of a 20ft sound mirror used to detect enemy aircraft, dating from before the Second World War.
HOW TO GET THERE
Come off the M20 at J11 and follow the A261 into Hythe. Parking is available near the Royal Military Canal. The nearest train station is Sandling, with regular services from London stations.
FIND OUT MORE
Hythe Visitor Centre
Red Lion Square, Hythe
Herb, The Little café
160A High Street,
Hythe CT21 5JR
Two Centuries, Church Hill, Hythe CT21 5BP
Old Lighthouse Dungeness
Dungeness, Romney Marsh
Explore a historic monument.