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Visiting Camber Castle

Camber Castle is a 16th-century fort built by Henry VIII. It overlooks the Camber anchorage and Rye Harbour, and the ruins were a tourist attraction in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 20th century, it was returned to military use, and today, the ruins are open to visitors through guided tours.

Parking

There is no vehicle access to the castle’s facilities via road. However, the nearest car park can be found at Winchelsea Road, Rye, TN31 7EL. 

From there, it’s about a one-mile (1.6 km) walk to the castle across some fields. You’ll see these just off the A259, 1.6 km (1 mi) south of Rye, off Harbour Road. 

There is a public footpath starting at Brede Lock. Please note there may be livestock such as sheep in and around the path! 

 

Price

English Heritage Society members

Free entry with membership card

Adults

£3.00

Children (age 5-17)

Free

Concession (students with official card and people 65+ with ID)

£1.50

 

Opening

The interior of Camber Castle is open for guided tours on the first Saturday of each month. The tour starts at 2 PM (14:00). See here for updated open times.

Location and Access

Camber Castle is located at Harbour Rd, Rye TN36 4JS, United Kingdom

The castle is about an 8-minute drive from the town of Rye (5.5 km / 3.4 mi) away via A259. It’s a 25-minute drive from the nearby town of Hastings (19.1 km / 11.9 mi away). 

Bus access is available from the surrounding areas in Winchelsea or Rye, and then, you’ll need to make a 2.41 km (1.5 mi) walk proceeding from there. 

Alternatively, you could take the Stagecoach 344 Hastings - Northiam and then take a 1.21 km (0.75 mi) walk from there. 

Similarly, you could take the Rye train and then walk 2.01 km (1.25 mi) from there to reach the castle.

Know Before You Go

  • Camber Castle’s exterior is viewable at any time, but the structure’s interior is only open by guided tour. The tour is managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust and only periodically.  You can check out Camber Castle for the nearest times for a tour and Sussex Wildlife Trust for upcoming events.
  • If you have one, remember to bring your English Heritage Membership Card. 
  • There are no facilities at the castle, including toilets. However, there are plenty of options for food and drink in nearby Rye or at Rye Harbour. The closest restrooms are just over a mile away, opposite the Rye Heritage Centre next to the Strand car park, TN31 7DB.
  • Only assistance dogs are allowed at the castle. 
  • The castle area is family-friendly and open for kids to play. However, games and kites aren’t permitted due to the sheep in the field. 
  • Please be aware that you’ll be given a verbal warning of any high height areas during the castle tour.
  • Photos and films are welcome at the castle. However, advance notice must be given for the use of commercial, corporate or professional photography or filming.

Places To Stay Nearby

Old Borough Arms

Kilometres from the Castle: 2.6 km (1.6 mi)

Old Borough Arms is a 4-star hotel overlooking the Strand Quay in the town of Rye. A quaint bed and breakfast inn dating back to 1720, it houses nine individually decorated rooms with en suite bathrooms, free wi-fi, and TVs with DVD players.

Book

Rye Lodge Hotel

Kilometres from the Castle: 3.1 km (1.9 mi)

The Rye Lodge Hotel is a 3-star hotel in the town of Rye set in a Tudor building. A sophisticated (i.e. “cultured”) hotel set within walking distance of the town's major sights, rooms feature wi-fi and TV amenities as well as tea and coffee making capabilities. 

Upgraded rooms have ornate furnishings and common areas. In-room spa treatments are available, as well as an elegant restaurant and champagne bar.

Book

Hope Anchor Hotel

Kilometres from the Castle: 2.6 km (1.6 mi)

Hope Anchor Hotel is a 3-star family-run, 18th-century hotel in the town of Rye. The classically decorated rooms with quayside views feature complimentary wi-fi and flatscreens, along with tea and coffee making. 

Free breakfast is served in-room or in the common area. Complimentary access to the Rye Sports Centre is also offered. 

Book

History of Castle 

Camber Castle, also known as Winchelsea Castle, was a 16-century Device Fort designed for coastal defensive purposes against the French. One of the first castles in England intended to be defended solely by cannon, Camber’s landlocked position overlooks the Sussex shores.

 

Construction began in 1512 and ended in 1544, though by that time - according to Atlas Obscura - the castle’s advanced design had become obsolete due to environmental factors. 

After the River Rye “silted” up and the Camber cannons could no longer reach the sea’s new harbour location, the fort became more of a lookout than an artillery fortification. 

Though the castle remained manned and operational until 1637, its military value was long ago spent. 

By the 18th century, the castle and its surrounding countryside became a popular picnic spot. During World War II, the English occupied the castle again to warn of any potential coastal attacks. 

Nowadays, set amidst the beautiful coastal countryside, the restored Camber Castle harbours as many birds, flowers, and sheep as tourists. 

Time Line


-1486

The first fortification at Camber Castle may have been built around this time by Sir Richard Guldeford, the Master of the Ordnance. King Henry VII gave him the manor of Higham in exchange for Sir Richard promising to construct a tower fort to protect the anchorage. 

However, there’s no surviving documentation or evidence indicating a tower was actually built at this time. 

-1512-1514

The construction of the castle’s first artillery tower was started and completed during this time, under order by King Henry VIII, who became king in 1509. Camber Castle is built between the ports of Rye and Winchelsea, overlooking the south coast of England. 

The castle was fortified for heavy gun defence due to Henry VIII’s more aggressive policy toward neighbour France than his father, the previous king. 

-1539-1540

By 1539, due to the threat of invasion from France and Spain, Henry VIII ordered increased defensive structures be built to improve England’s coastal defence. 

As a result, additions to Castle Camber to convert it into a more substantial keep with gates and towers, including a more comprehensive concentric design, were completed. 

Camber became a part of a collection of forts across England called the Device Forts. 

-1542-1544

Redevelopments were employed upon the castle due to the problems with the initial design. 

Tower heights and floors were raised, walls were strengthened, and four new bastions were added. 

Construction was completed in phases over these years, the stone provided from demolished monastic buildings in Winchelsea and the nearby Fairlight and Hastings quarries. 

-1545

The castle has a garrison of 28 men, a captain, and between 26 and 28 artillery pieces, including cannons, culverins, and other wrought-iron guns. In July 1545, a French raid was carried out at nearby Seaford, and the castle was believed to have engaged in military action as a result. 

-1573

Due to silting starting to block the entrance to the Camber body of water on which the castle sat and was designed to protect, authorities in Rye expressed fears to the English Parliament at this time that the Camber “was damaged beyond repair.” 

Initial complaints of the Camber’s silting process ruining its anchorage and thus declining the castle’s strategic value were issued to Parliament as early as 1548. 

-1584

Due to fresh threats of war between England and Spain, Queen Elizabeth I invested £171 on repairs to the castle as a defensive measure. 

-1588

War between England and Spain broke out in 1585. In 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, a Jesuit priest named Father Darbysher and Roger Walton, a Spanish spy, engaged in a conspiracy to hand over the castle to an invading force of French and Spanish soldiers. 

However, the plot never came to fruition. 

-1593

Due to a new crisis with Spain, the English navy rounded up brass guns for the conflict from numerous forts along the south coast, including Camber Castle.

-1636

Though by this time almost entirely ineffective as an artillery fortification due to the Camber’s silting and lack of range from its cannons at the new anchorage along the coast, the local towns campaigned through the 17th century to keep the fort operational. 

However, in 1636 King Charles I issued an instruction to demolish the castle. The garrison and artillery assets left the fort the following year. The castle wasn’t fully demolished.

-1642

During the English Civil War (1642-1651), Camber was used as a munitions store by the citizens of Rye, who sided with Parliament. 

During the conflict, Parliament agreed to have the munitions removed and stored in Rye; the following year, due to fears of a future occupation by Royalist forces, Parliament ordered the castle’s roofs, gunports, and living accommodations dismantled. 

As a result, Camber wasn’t used as a Device Fort during the Second English Civil War in 1648. 

-1660

A royal survey by Charles II, after the Restoration, finds the castle to be ruined.  

-1785

The antiquarian Francis Grose wrote about Camber Castle’s decline, attributing its degradation and lack of military value over the course of its history due to the superiority of the British Navy’s ability to protect the coasts. 

-1804

Lieutenant Colonel John Brown surveyed the castle to examine its functionality in response to the threat of Napoleon and his armies building in France. 

Thought to turn the castle’s primary tower into a Martello tower, a popular circular gun at the time was considered but never moved forward with. 

-1805-1807

The painter J. M. W. Turner visited the castle during these years and later depicted the castle in landscape paintings and sketches of the area

-1931

The ruins were now privately owned and opened to visitors, and a proposal was made to turn the castle area into a golf course. The project wasn’t moved forward, and the facility was instead built at the nearby Castle Farm.  

-1940-1945

The British Army used the castle during World War II, potentially as an early warning site outfitted with anti-aircraft searchlights. 

Trenches were dug in the north bastion, and military training was conducted around the castle.  

-1951-1962

After WWII, archaeological surveys and excavations by the English Ministry of Works were completed, and the ruins were temporarily closed to the public.  

-1967

The English state took over guardianship of the castle. The process of restoring the castle’s structure was undertaken with the eventual prospect of reopening the castle to the public. 

-1977

The Department of National Heritage bought the castle. Then, in 1984, the government agency English Heritage took control of the castle and put forward plans to reopen the castle property to visitors in 1993. 

Final archaeological assessments were made, and the castle was opened in 1994. The site is currently protected under U.K. law as a Grade I listed building

Camber Castle Occupants

Camber Castle spent most of its existence manned by a garrison of about 30 men and nearly as many artillery cannons. Some of the notable persons to reside in or visit the castle over its existence are listed below:  

  • Sir Richard Guldeford, English Master of the Ordnance, and his son, Edward Guldeford
  • Stefan von Haschenperg, Moravian engineer for King Henry VIII
  • Father Darbysher and Roger Walton, a Jesuit priest and Spanish spy that conspired to take the castle during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604) and failed 
  • Francis Grose, English antiquarian, draughtsmen, and lexicographer
  • J. M. W. Turner, English Romantic painter

Images of Camber Castle

Camber Castle Camber Castle Camber Castle
Camber Castle Camber Castle Camber Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Camber Castle Facts

Camber’s name is derived from the French word for “bedroom,” meaning “safe haven.” According to Atlas Obscura, this name was picked due to the castle’s coastal position and the cannon fortification’s primary purpose of protecting English fleets coming into the harbour. 

Camber Castle differs from other Device Forts along the English coast due to its Italian architectural influences, as designed by its original engineer, Stefan Von Haschenperg, a Moravian man and subject of Bohemia (past names for regions in eastern, present-day Czech Republic). 

Though now ruined and inaccessible, underground passageways running underneath the castle once existed as a way to allow the fortified garrison of soldiers to escape in an emergency or surprise attack by a besieging force. 

Camber Castle Q&A

Can You Bring a Picnic?

You can bring a picnic to Camber Castle. There are grassy areas available around the area that make for an excellent picnicking area. Unfortunately, there are no food and drink options at the castle but plenty in the nearby town of Rye and at Rye Harbour. 

Are Dogs Allowed?

Dogs are not allowed at Camber Castle. There is an exception for service dogs, however. Only assistance dogs are allowed on-site at the castle. 

Are There Tour Guides at the Castle?

There are tour guides at the castle, but only the interior. Guided tours are organised by Sussex Wildlife Trust and are typically operated on the first Saturday of each month. Additionally, school visits can be arranged via a phone call: 07884 494982

Can I Take Photos and Videos at the Castle?

English Heritage welcomes photographers to the castle and hopes the photos will be shared on their own social media profiles. However, advance notice must be given for commercial or professional photo or filming shoots to certify availability, including any relevant permissions or paperwork. 

 

Additionally, drone flying is not permitted near the castle due to its delicate nature unless you are contracted to do so and satisfy the necessary criteria. See here for more details.

Location of Camber Castle

Camber Castle is located about 3.2 km (2.0 mi) from the harbour town of Rye, with a population of about 9,000 people. Positioned in the country of East Sussex, the castle is about 103 km (64 mi) southeast of London. 

Camber Castle’s address is Harbour Rd, Rye TN36 4JS, United Kingdom. 

Other Places To Visit Near Camber Castle

Some other potential points of interest for a traveller, within 32 km (20 mi) of Camber Castle and the town of Rye, are detailed below:

Rye Castle Museum

Open seven days a week throughout the year, except on Christmas, the Ypres Tower and Rye Castle Museum offer historical perspectives from the 14th century. Outfits, weapons, and medieval artefacts of all kinds can be viewed inside the museum. Walk through the tower and eat at the on-site medieval pub. 

Rye Castle Museum is in the town of Rye, approximately 2.9 km (1.8 mi) from the castle.

Lamb House

An old Georgian house in the town of Rye, the Lamb House is the former home of United States novelist Henry James. Features a peaceful walled garden and interior full of history you can read about on-site or on the House’s website. The ground floor and garden are open from Friday-Tuesday every week with no prior booking needed. 

The Lamb House is in the town of Rye, approximately 2.7 km (1.7 mi) from the castle. 

The Storymaster’s Tales Interactive Theatre

A studio theatre featuring “beautiful artwork and fabulous folklore worlds” performs live shows and sells tabletop adventure board games. Immersive fantasy shows with props and production value, featuring English actor and former Doctor Who star Tom Baker, provide fun for the whole family. 

The Storymaster Theatre is in the town of Rye, 2.6 km (1.6 mi) from the castle. 

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

On the same landscape as Camber Castle lay the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. A vast plot of natural land to explore, featuring habitats for maritime birds and the rare species of Spangled Button Beetle

The nature reserve is southeast of the town of Rye, approximately (4.3 km) 2.7 mi away from Camber Castle. 

Camber Sands

Further along the coast of the south shoreline, a visitor will find the Camber Sands beach. There is around 3 km of picturesque shoreline to walk, with lifeguards on duty, water sports, and parking. 

Camber Sands is about 8 km (5.0 mi) away from the castle. 

Horne’s Place Chapel

This historically relevant chapel was built in 1366 by William Horne and offer free entry to the public. 

Attached to Horne’s old manor house, the structure was attacked during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and now stands as a privately owned but publicly available historical building. 

You can read more about the chapel’s availability and its history here

The chapel is 14.5 km (9.0 mi) away from Camber Castle. 

1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield

Visit the aptly named town of Battle to sight one of England’s most historic battle sites. 

Here, in the year 1066, the armies of King Harold and William the Conqueror clashed at what would become known as the “Battle of Hastings.” This battle would shape the future of England. 

View the gatehouse exhibition, walk to the roof of the abbey, and stand in the very spot where King Harold fell, now marked by the Harold stone. 

The Battle of Hastings historical site lay about 22.5 km (14 mi) from the castle. 

Dymchurch Martello Tower

Built in the early 1800s to defend against potential invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘Martello towers’ were designed to protect England’s southern and eastern coasts. 

In the small village of Dymchurch, this tower features a restored look and functional accommodations for a garrison, including a storeroom for food and munitions. 

Open for free to tourists to explore. 

The Dymchurch Martello Tower is approximately 32 km (20 mi) from the location of Camber Castle. 

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