The Perfect Trip to Hay-on-Wye
You've heard of the world famous book town haven't you? You HAVEN'T?! Go immediately! This summer, I visited Hay-on-Wye for the first time ever and it has ended up being one of my favourite places I've ever been. Full of charm, lovely people and endless bookshops, I couldn't have asked for anything more! Let's cover some things you'll need to know for your trip:
If you're in London and you don't have a car you will have a hilarious time trying to navigate the world of a quant Welsh village without the luxuries of Uber and CityMapper. I arrived by train: London Euston – Hereford, and then took the shuttle bus to Hay-on-Wye. There are only a few of these running each day, so make sure you line up the arrivals and departures of your train to avoid waiting around the Hereford car park for too long. If all else fails you'll have to take a taxi there which will cost around £50 one way.
Where to stay:
I believe there is only one hotel in town: The Swan at Hay. It's often booked up in far in advance and can be quite expensive, so make sure you're booked in ahead of time if you prefer this kind of accommodation. I stayed in a charming Airbnb right in the middle of town and there are a lot more choices if you go down this route. There are also bed and breakfasts as well as converted farmhouses etc on Booking.com. Where ever you stay, you'll be totally and utterly charmed, I'm sure!
There is a market every Thursday that runs from 9am - 2pm. There are plenty of baked goods, as well as a wood fired pizza van that was a perfect filling lunch. The Sandwich Cellar and The Salad Project were both affordable and friendly breakfast/lunch spots. If you fancy cooking in your own accommodation, there is a large Co-op on the main road, a short walk away from the town. There is a delightful old fashioned sweet shop which sells exceptional fudge if you have a sweet tooth, that was taken directly out of my childhood dreams. If you're looking for something really special, one of the best meals I've ever had in my life was at Off-Grid Gourmet. A 5-10 minute drive from the main town, or in my case, a 1h15m walk away...! You pay £50 a head and are given more food than you would ever be able to eat. It's BYOB so it ends up being an amazing deal considering how many courses you're offered. You'll sit at a large table with the other diners in a beautiful location, watch the sun go down, eat and roast marshmallows. This was a very special evening!
The main event! There are bookshops all over the place. And they're pretty hard to miss. If you just type in 'bookshop' into your Maps app, you'll be swarmed with suggestions in the town centre. If you go to the visitors centre, you can pick up a handy map that has all the bookshops listed. Here are some of the bookshops I visited:
Hay Cinema Bookshop VAST! We're talking hundreds of thousands. You will get lost. And you will be overwhelmed
Murder and Mayhem A themed bookshop filled with plenty of amazing books, and a skeleton or two
Hay Castle Bookshop (The Honesty Bookshop) Make sure you remember to put £1 in the box!
Green Ink Booksellers Beautiful bookshop with some modern books and collectable editions
Richard Booth's Bookshop The closest you'll get to a Waterstones. It's huge, with a wonderful range, including new releases
The Poetry Bookshop
The Addyman Annex
Castle Street Books
If you have time for anything after all the book shopping, feasting and exploring, here are some other things I did that were the cherry on top of my already amazing long weekend:
Market (Thursday 9am-2pm) Mentioned above!
Artisan market This runs on the first Saturday of every month. Lot's of lovely homemade goodies to shop for
Walks It may seem obvious, but living in south London means I don't see trees very often, let alone have beautiful walks to go on! It was a real treat to go for a country walk every day and it's a must for city dwellers. Just don't startle the cows...
Wild swimming The River Wye is beautiful! Take a picnic blanket down there, eat a pastry, read one of the many books you've purchased and take a refreshing dip. I found a quiet spot to lay out in the sun and stare at the swans
Star gazing A very small town in the countryside allows for some pretty amazing night skies. My airbnb had a small wood fire hot tub. I set it up a couple of hours beforehand, and with a glass of red wine in hand stared at the sky until my whole body was a prune
I hope this guide has been helpful for anyone looking for their next lovely trip away in the UK. I am aiming to return every year – ideally, for the literary festival that takes place in early summer – as this is a very special place indeed!