View of Hythe Beach from my flat
On my last stay in England, I lived mostly in the seaside town of Hythe. Hythe is a small town on the English Channel, in County Kent – “The Garden of England.” It’s a sleepy, beautiful place very near the Channel Tunnel, which joins England to France. On clear days, I could see the French coast, and I remember watching the fireworks across the sea on Bastille Day.
Stationed on the Southern shore – the first line of defence against invasion – Hythe has an ancient and rich military history. Now, it’s a residential haven near the larger port towns of Folkestone and Dover. But sometimes, it’s the small towns which hide the most often missed gems. Hythe is very sunny and temperate compared to much of England, and makes a lovely summer holiday spot – plus, it’s the gateway to France and the rest of Europe!
I wanted to share a few places that you shouldn’t pass by if you are able to visit Hythe.
THINGS TO SEE
Being a Floridian, I knew the adjustment to England’s weather would be difficult. Fortunately for me, I ended up in Hythe – warm, sunny, and coastal! These pebble beaches are a bit quieter than the ones down the road in the larger towns. You can go windsurfing or kayaking, soak up some sun while you read or nap, or watch the fishermen unloading their daily catch (so untouched and old-fashioned to see!).
Apart from the sea, Hythe has the beautiful Royal Military Canal, and the Brockhill Stream. You can rent a boat from Electric Boat Hythe for a lazy ride down the Canal, or walk along its banks to see the swans. You can also visit Brockhill Country Park. This park was once part of a Norman Manor Estate, and is perfect for picnicking (tables provided) and butterfly watching. There’s a cafe onsite that’s also worth a visit. To see the old Manor House, you can drive by the Brockhill Park Performing Arts College next door (it’s the main building!) but watch out: local folklore says it’s haunted by William Tournay, its last owner. 👻
Hythe is a very old town, with its port history dating back to medieval times. The high street features historic buildings which now serve as eateries and shops – including a military memorabilia shop, an antique market, numerous charity shops, Elysian Treasures (amazing handmade & vintage items), I Like That (rockabilly retro designer dresses I always drooled over), and more. Take a day to walk around and explore.
St. Leonard’s Church and Ossuary
A bit morbid but entirely fascinating, this one is a big deal. St. Leonard’s Church in Hythe dates back to the 11th Century. Its claim to fame is its ossuary [a collection of human bones], one of only two found in England. It contains 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thigh bones (it was once believed that as long as these were preserved, you would pass into the afterlife). Most likely, the bones of these ancient Romans had been dug from graves to make room, a common practice since cemetery real estate was in high demand. What is unusual is that these bones were kept, rather than disposed of. The church itself is beautiful, ancient, and worth a visit – I have a soft spot for sitting quietly in the centuries-old churches of England, thinking of all those who had done the same for so many years before me. [My British boyfriend, surrounded by this layered and bottomless history his whole life, smirks & says, “Only an American.” Haha.]
WHAT TO EAT
A personal favourite, The TiffinBox is the best Indian around. Though they can provide takeaway, it’s the dining-in experience I love. The ambience is fantastic, especially in the evening. It’s private, quiet, and romantic – which can be hard to find in England. But the best part is the food. The restaurant specialises in Thali platters, which are samplers of must-try dishes, each platter from a different region in India. They are able to work with vegetarian and vegan diets, and are happy to make the dishes more or less spicy. It’s a crash-course in regional Indian cuisine, and it’s much more authentic than some of what you find in the UK.
The Hythe Brasserie
The Hythe Brasserie is located on Hythe’s High Street, and it offers outdoor cafe tables. A Hythe favourite owned by a husband-and-wife team, they specialise in European food with a modern twist. The menu is creative & unique, and not like anything else I’ve seen in the area. Start with the Tempura Monkfish (you can’t beat English coastal seafood!) and finish with the Crunchie Hot Toffee Meringue.
Sunshine BBQ is a newcomer, but this authentically Turkish restaurant has taken Hythe by storm. The open kitchen is a great feature and focal point – I have always loved watching my food being made! It has a stylish, modern Mediterranean feel, and elevates your classic favourites. The Chicken Shish is locally loved, along with the hummus starter. And if you are a coffee fiend like me, the Turkish coffee will definitely satisfy your American-sized appetite for caffeine. (Do yourself a favour and have it with the baklava. 😍)
For a light bite, try Truly Scrumptious. Just find the adorable old bicycle on the High Street, marking its location. Truly Scrumptious also provides sidewalk seating, and baking is their speciality. Do not miss it for a slice of cake with tea or coffee: I recommend the lemon drizzle! They have vegetarian options, and provide one of my favourite lunches – grilled panini sandwiches. For some reason, these are TOO HARD to find in England! Grab one here.
WHERE TO STAY
Hythe Imperial Hotel
The Hythe Imperial Hotel provides 4-star luxury. My favourite building in Hythe, the hotel is grandly Victorian (established in 1880) and vaguely Parisian (as is much of the architecture in this area, so near the bordering channel). At night, it lights up in a lovely purple glow. As it sits across from the ocean, the rooms have beautiful views of the sea. There’s an amazing pool and spa, and it features an elegant champagne bar.
Stade Court Hotel
The Stade Court Hotel was built in the early 1900s and features an art-deco exterior style. It is also across from the sea, so the views from the sea-front rooms are amazing. You can book split-level and family-sized rooms here, so it’s ideal for group trips. It has a quirky, old-school charm; nautical and nostalgic. It’s classically English – cosy and comfortable. It also features an outdoor covered seating area and a well-manicured garden.
The Seabrook House is a small, personal B&B with a friendly touch. The exterior is classically Tudor, but it has been renovated and updated to be modern and comfortable. I recommend the Turret Room – with large windows and an amazing bath, a four-poster bed and beautiful views of Hythe. In the morning, opt for the classic full English breakfast – you won’t be disappointed.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Hythe – or, if you are a Hythe local – maybe there are a few of these places you haven’t tried! Give them a shot. And enjoy!