While a seaside minibreak once meant sex, drugs, and/or all-night clubbing – more waltzers than waltzes – the Midlifer in search of a UK coastal getaway might be more drawn to historic towns known for their antiques shops and for once being home to novelist Henry James and artist Paul Nash than to the bright lights of Brighton or Blackpool.
The Ship in Rye must surely be the quintessential Midlife getaway: 1950s wallpaper, 1590s beams, local produce, local ales, friendly pub, board games in the bar, retro styling, cooked breakfasts, Burt’s Bees toiletries, Union Jack scatter cushions, rubber ducks… There’s none of your new-fangled digital tv (it hasn’t yet made it to Rye) or in-house wi-fi, but Roberts radios and daily newspapers (remember when it was normal to get your news from printed sheets of paper rather than from screens?). The friendly pub serves local ales (Harveys, of course, and a floral Winchelsea brew), ciders and perry (pear cider – your parents probably drank it in the 70s), but also has a decent wine list (because the Midlifer needs to know they are never very far from a decent red).
The town of Rye (a Cinque Port, no less) is itself a Midlifer’s paradise. There are cobbled streets, half-timbered Tudor Inns, Lamb House (once home to the aforementioned HJ), Ypres Castle Inn (forget all those History Channel documentaries – they pronounce it ‘wipers’ round here), galleries such as the Rye Art Gallery, traditional sweet shops that still sell things like floral gums and clove rock from jars by the quarter (which is probably illegal). Nearby there’s big skies and bracing walks across the marshes, arty photo opps among the groins of Winchelsea beach, Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness, the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway which has a (control yourself) STEAM TRAIN, plus it’s less than an hour from Sissinghirst (Vita Sackville-West), Box Hill (‘Emma’), and Ashdown Forest (‘Winnie the Pooh’).
The excitement may just be to much.