Hay-on-Wye is a picturesque town located on the Welsh side of the Welsh/English border. Swept by the river Wye on the north, with the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons to the south and west, Hay-on-Wye enjoys a truly unique and stunning countryside location.
It takes just 20 minutes to walk around the circumference of Hay, though despite its relatively small size, the town has plenty to offer from legendary book shops to medieval castles and not to mention the world-famous Hay Festival.
So if you’re planning on visiting this delightful corner of Wales, why not have a read of our handy guide detailing some of the best places to discover in the local area…
With over twenty bookshops to choose from, Hay-on-Wye has become internationally renowned for its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops. Playing a key part in the town’s transformation was the late Richard Booth, dubbed the “King of Hay”. Opening his first bookshop in 1961 in the town’s former fire station, Richard Booth’s Bookshop stands proudly as the world’s largest second-hand bookshop housing over 500,000 volumes. And it’s no surprise this attraction is so popular – this one of a kind bookshop is complete with a cinema, café, and studio!
Trading for over 700 years, Hay-on-Wye enjoys a vibrant market every Thursday from 8am to mid-afternoon. From the centre of the town, you can enjoy over 40 stalls serving delicious hot food, roasted coffee, artisan bread to fabulous gifting stalls selling fresh flowers, jewellery, and vintage items to name just a few.
The Hay Festival
Founded in 1987 around a kitchen table in Wales, the Hay Festival has become one of the world’s largest literature festivals attracting thousands of people to Hay each year. Bringing readers and writers together in conversations, the ten-day festival, which takes place in May, has seen many great speakers over the years from Salman Rushdie to Stephen Fry. Designed to inspire and create positive change, the festival has a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment. For example, in 2018 82% of waste produced on site was recycled and the mains electricity for the festival is now provided by 100% renewable energy.
Surrounded by picturesque views of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons amongst the winding River Wye, there is no shortage of stunning scenery from Hay-on-Wye. Many people visit the area to cycle the unspoiled Welsh hills but hiking is equally as popular. For example, a three-day Walking Festival has been set up in October hosting up to twenty walks for all abilities and interests. If water sports are more your thing you can take the short drive from Hay to Glasbury and hire a canoe or kayak from Wye Valley Canoes and enjoy a few hours on the beautiful River Wye.
Eating and Drinking
Hay is not short of places to eat and drink. From vintage coffee houses to divine dining, there is something to suit everybody’s taste buds. If rustic charm is your thing, you’ll want to visit The Old Electric Shop, a bohemian-inspired café serving contemporary vegetarian food amongst a unique selection of furniture, gifts, clothes, and books. If you’re looking for a sophisticated lunch or evening menu, why not try Chapters, a newly opened restaurant in Hay. Serving local, seasonal food, this British restaurant prides itself on ethical sourcing, sustainability, and minimal waste.
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