Ten good reasons to visit Hythe

PUBLISHED: 10:44 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

A pretty little coastal market town on the edge of Romney Marsh, Hythe was one of the five original Cinque Ports and today oozes charm and character

Famous faces

Hythe has always attracted creatives, from Daphne du Maurier, who lived at Hythe during the Second World War, to the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, who spent part of her childhood here and retired to a house on Church Steps. H. G. Wells built Spade House at nearby Sandgate. Francis Pettit Smith, inventor of the marine screw propeller, grew up here, while bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding, gave his first public performance at Hythe Youth Club.

Food and drink

The Globe Inn (01303 266290) has won awards for its fine cellar, and the Butt of Sherry (01303 266112) is a welcoming pub with a great range of snacks. For dinner, head for the Hythe Imperial's Prince's Restaurant (check out our review on page 98, 01303 267441), while The Swan Hotel (01303 266236) offers a varied menu of English, Nepalese and oriental dishes. Terracotta (01303 264888) is a firm local favourite and you'll find fab fish and chips at Torbay Sea Foods (01303 269531) and freshly caught seafood at Hythe Bay Fish Restaurant (01303 233844). Delish (01303 261620) is as delicious as it sounds!

Shopping

Hythe's market once took place in Market Square (now Red Lion Square), close to where there is now a Farmers' Market held every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The town boasts one of the longest and loveliest High Streets in Kent, with a plethora of truly individual independents, from Chocolate Deli Confectionery (01303 267236 and Emma Meadows Interiors (01303 261654) in the High Street to the ever-fragrant The Flower Shop (01303 260000) and nostalgia-inducing, 1940's-style butchers and grocers.

The Royal Military Canal

The Royal Military Canal, which runs through Hythe and across Romney Marsh to Winchelsea, is more than 26 miles long and if you're feeling energetic, you can walk its entire length via a footpath. Hythe developed upon a series of parallel terraces, rising from the level ground around the canal towards the steep incline upon which the parish church sits. Built to repel a threatened French invasion during the Napoleonic wars, the canal today gives central Hythe much of its character.

Parish church of St Leonard

The large 11th-century church is up on a steep hill; the tower at its eastern end was destroyed by an earth tremor in 1739 and restored in 1750. If the kids are getting restless, show them the chancel and its highly impressive bone store lined with 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thighbones. Dating from the medieval period, they were probably stored after removal to make way for new graves. While this was common in England, bones were usually dispersed, making this a rare sight. Lionel Lukin, inventor of the lifeboat, is buried in the churchyard.

Light Railway

Hythe is the northern terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, the world's smallest gauge (15 inches) line. The track, which is nearly 14 miles long, runs a parallel course to the coastline, passing through Dymchurch and New Romney to Dungeness.

During the Second World War, the service was taken over by the military and used to transport the secret Operation Pluto pipeline; it is now a much-loved tourist attraction, and also carries some lucky local children to school in New Romney.

Tel: 01797 362353.

Martello Towers

Built between Folkestone and Seaford as defence against possible invasion by Napoleon were 74 Martello Towers. Their walls were up to 13 ft thick, and each had a huge cannon mounted on top. Although never needed for their original purpose, they were later used to combat smuggling and as signalling stations and coastal defences during both World Wars. Three of the towers survive at Hythe; one, along West Parade, was converted to a house in the 1930s, the other two are on the beach and owned by the MoD.

Brockhill Country Park

Brockhill Country Park was once part of a large estate dating back to Norman times and you can still see the old manor house next to the park - the rest of which, all 54 acres of it, is dominated by a large grassy valley, bisected by the Brockhill Stream as it makes its way to the Royal Military Canal at nearby Hythe.

There are two trails around the park, ranging from three to six miles long and linked to the Saxon Shore Way for those wanting a longer walk. Postling Down, to the north, is rich in low-growing herbs and a haven for many beautiful butterflies.

Tel: 01303 266327.

Port Lympne

Set up to protect and breed rare and endangered species and return them to safe areas in their native homeland, Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, sister to Howletts, has been owned by The John Aspinall Foundation since 1984.

Royalty and many other famous people have stayed at the mansion at the centre of the park, which is surrounded by 600 acres. The rooms are lavishly decorated and the landscaped gardens enjoy spectacular views right across Romney Marsh.

The park is home to the largest breeding herd of Black Rhinos outside Africa, as well as Siberian and Indian tigers, African elephants, small cats, monkeys and Barbary lions.

You can marvel at the world's largest gorillarium, The Palace of the Apes, and even save your air miles by taking a day safari on The African Experience and see giraffe, black rhino, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and antelope.

Tel: 01303 264647.

The South of England Rare Breeds Centre

Set in 120 acres of unspoilt countryside, the nearby Rare Breeds Centre offers everything an active young family could wish for, from friendly farm animals to a soft play barn and two outdoor play parks. There's lots to do, from a walk-through butterfly tunnel and aviary, woodland discovery trails and bumpy rides on the Big Red trailer.

Tel: 01233 861493.

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