Travel & Archaeology

Romney Marsh: The Fifth Continent

Hidden churches and lost villages in a landscape coloured by the sea.
Hidden History / Romney Marsh: The Fifth Continent

Romney Marsh: The Fifth Continent

5 Days


per person

Discover the hidden churches and lost villages of one of Britain’s most intriguing regions. Based in the historic Mermaid Inn in Rye, and guided by local resident and archaeologist Dr Christopher Cole, this is an especially revealing tour of a unique corner of England, full of famous names, fascinating stories and strange mysteries since the times of Julius Caesar.

“The world, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh” (The Ingoldsby Legends by Richard Harris Barham).

Itinerary: Use the tab menu above for full itinerary and other information.

Dates & Prices:

All dates are Monday to Friday.

  • 21–25 June 2021. Early booking price only £875.
  • 26–30 July 2021. Early booking price only £875.
  • 23–27 August 2021. Early booking price only £875.

Low Single supplement only £90.

Early booking is recommended, and please indicate a second choice date if possible.

What’s Included:

  • 4 nights bed & breakfast at the historic Mermaid Inn, Rye.
  • An included 3-course evening meal on the first night.
  • Daily guided excursions in a small coach.
  • A unique group of Norman and Medieval churches, each with its own fascinating story to tell.
  • An archaeologist helps you discover the lost villages and hidden history of the Marsh.
  • Literary associations, military history, smugglers, murder, shipwrecks and ghosts all contribute to this most revealing and appealing of tours.

How To Book

Reservations & Enquiries: To reserve your place or enquire further simply fill in the booking form, or call us on (UK) 0121 444 1854. There is no commitment and no payment at this stage; reservations are provisional until we have confirmed availability and proceeded with booking and payment.

More Info: Click on the tabs for more information on the itinerary, the hotel and how to get there.
For more background on Romney Marsh visit Peter Faulkner’s excellent website here.
For more about the tour leader, Dr Christopher Cole click here.

  • Departure Time
    21 June 2021, 26 July 2021 and 23 August 2021.

Day 1 (Monday): Arrivals.

Make your way to one of the quieter parts of England’s glorious south coast and the charming small town of Rye, overlooking Romney Marsh and the coast from its hilltop setting (see the ‘Hotel’ and ‘How To Get There’ tabs above for directions and further information).

Check-in at the historic Mermaid Inn, in the heart of the old town, and meet your tour leader, Dr Christopher Cole, for an early evening walking tour of Rye before enjoying an included 3-course evening meal in the hotel, well-known for its use of local produce and its fine Tudor dining rooms.


Day 2 (Tuesday): The Eastern Marsh.

Today we get a feel for the landscape and heritage of Romney Marsh by exploring its eastern side. Our first stop is the tiny hamlet of Burmarsh, where we visit the church of All Saints, commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother in the 12th century and still in fine condition. At Eastbridge we discover our first lost village of the Marsh, and then at Newchurch we find a peaceful village green, the leaning tower of the splendid St Peter and St Paul’s church, and an important RAF history.

We stop for lunch at the Star Inn, St Mary-in-the-Marsh, which has been welcoming guests since the 15th century, including Noel Coward who lived next door. The local church is also full of interest, with its fine Norman tower and grave of Edith Nesbit, author of the Railway Children. We conclude the day with a visit to the colourful seaside village of Dymchurch, with its glorious sandy beach and rich history. A sea wall was begun here by the Romans, and by Medieval times Dymchurch was home to the Lords of the Level. It was also a base for some of England’s most notorious smugglers, whose exploits inspired the Dr Syn stories of local author Russell Thorndyke.


Day 3 (Wednesday): Across the Marsh.

At Fairfield we find the most iconic of Romney Marsh’s hidden churches, standing alone in a field and the sole survivor of the lost village it once served. Our visit here is a true step back in time. Nearby in the quiet village of Brookland, the Church of St Augustine offers a unique octagonal, wooden bell tower, and the adjacent Royal Oak pub offers a great home-cooked lunch in it’s Elizabethan rooms. In the afternoon we make our way to the market town of Hythe, one of the jewels of the Kentish coast with its historic centre and Victorian seafront promenade. Of particular interest is the Church of St Leonard’s, famous for its crypt housing thousands of human bones and skulls, the largest collection in Britain and an important scientific resource. It is said that some of the dead could be Saxons, Danish raiders or men killed at the Battle of Hastings.


Day 4 (Thursday): The Western Marsh.

Today we focus on the western half of the Marsh, much of which was still under the sea in Medieval times. Its landscape history is a dramatic story of interaction between people and environment as whole towns have become landlocked, new harbours have arisen, and dry land has come and gone. The town of Lydd was once an island. Its impressive church is one of the longest and tallest in Kent and recent studies have identified a 5th century Romano-British basilica in its walls. The small village of Ivychurch centres around its very large St George’s Church, known as the ‘Cathedral of Romney Marsh’, and the adjacent pub, the Bell Inn, which is a great place to stop for lunch.

Old and New Romney are about 2 miles apart and between them lies the lost village of Hope, with only its lonely church ruins left standing. Both Old and New Romney have Saxon origins and are not actually much different in age, just two ends of a long harbour on the estuary of the River Rother. The prefixes ‘old’ and ‘new’ came about in Norman times as the harbour grew, only to disappear virtually overnight in the Great Storm of 1287, which diverted the river and left both towns landlocked. The Church of St Nicholas in New Romney still has mooring rings in its walls, where ships were once tied up. Founded in 1066, it is one of the oldest Norman structures in England. It may even have been the final resting place of King Harold, after his death in the Battle of Hastings.


Day 5 (Friday): Departures.

Check-out after a leisurely breakfast and make your way home. Before leaving, why not climb St Mary’s clock tower for wonderful views of the town and its surrounding countryside, or pop into Lamb House next door, home of the author Henry James? Why not stay longer and explore more of the area?

Tour Location

Situated in the south-east corner of England, Romney Marsh is one of Britain’s most unique and intriguing regions, renowned for its natural beauty, diverse wildlife and rich history. This 5-day tour, based in the historic town of Rye, has been created by local resident and professional archaeologist Dr Christopher Cole, who will also be your guide. His passion and knowledge of the Marsh, its people and its history give this tour an especially intimate insight.

Travel To The Mermaid Inn:

The Mermaid Inn is in the heart of Rye and very easy to find, whether arriving by road or rail. Ideally, you should aim to arrive on the Monday before 5pm. This will enable you to join the early evening walking tour of Rye before enjoying an included 3-course evening meal in the hotel.

Road: Situated on the A259 east of Hastings, Rye is a short drive from the M20 at Ashford travelling on the A2070, and if travelling south on the A21, take the B2089 to Rye.  When you arrive at The Mermaid Inn you will find an on site car park for 25 cars.

Train:  Rye is served by The Marshlink Train that operates between Ashford International, station, with the High Speed Link to St. Pancras, through to Brighton.  Travel time from St. Pancras to Rye is one hour.  The station is a 5 minute walk to The Mermaid Inn.

Use the + and – buttons on the map to zoom in and out.

Mermaid Inn RyeThe Mermaid Inn is a truly unique historic building and a genuine example of Tudor architecture. It dates from 1420, although the cellars date from the 12th century. It is still in family ownership and their loving stewardship maintains its authenticity while adding modern day comforts, friendly and attentive service, and fine food and wine. The bar offers local Ales and a selection of more than 90 whiskies. There are two restaurants, a boardroom and two lounges. The Small Lounge overlooks the cobbles of Mermaid Street, which was once the main route to the harbour in years gone by.

Mermaid Inn DiningWith its sloping ceilings, creaking floorboards and numerous staircases, the Mermaid Inn offers a totally different experience. It has 31 unique bedrooms, each named after a person from the history of the Inn and Rye.  They feature magnificent carved beds, fine oakwood panelling, Caen stone fireplaces and latticed windows.

Contact Details:
The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7EY
Telephone: 01797 223065
E Mail:

  • Mrs MacKenzie

    Marvellous few days, thank you for organising it so well. I would like to do it again. Price was very acceptable and good value. Can’t come up with any negatives!

  • Mr Williamson

    Chris is an excellent guide with the right level of knowledge and anecdotes, he knows the area and the churches like the back of his hand. His work on the marsh meant he was able to give us information that is still unpublished

  • Mrs Macey

    I’m a happy & satisfied customer. I have & will continue to tell friends about your trips & recommend them

  • Mrs Rogers

    I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the holiday, and went home feeling enriched and happy

  • Mrs de Laat

    I would just like to let you know that I very much enjoyed the trip round Romney Marsh last week. Chris was an excellent guide who made the experience most worthwhile and I particularly liked the easy going nature of the tour which in no way detracted from the wealth of information imparted. I will certainly recommend the tours to others

  • Mr Rowley

    Very enjoyable trip, faultless administration and a good itinerary conducted at just the right pace. You won’t remain ‘hidden’ among my friends and contacts

  • Mrs Jones

    It was an excellent tour and very informative

  • Mrs Emerson

    Very good. Well organised. Chris Cole was excellent

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