Not sure what all the fuss is about to be honest. I guess if you're into books then this is an ideal location but that's all it's good for. The town possesses many independently run shops which are poor and of no interest to the younger generation. Parking seems to be wherever you like, it's a nightmare to drive through. The 3 tuns pub does provide good quality food albeit at a price. Kilverts also provides food however it is very pricey and would advise people to take plenty of cash if they're planning on eating there! One can enjoy a leisurely stroll down by the river for all of 10 minutes before heading back into town. If you're into canoeing then there are plenty of opportunities to canoe down the wye to hay from Glasbury, something which I can thoroughly recommend as the scenery is wonderful and it's so peaceful.
I was feeling very seriously stressed with work and my partner decided to take action and arrange a long weekend (Saturday-Tuesday) for us away from everything (she had ulterior motives as I was to find out). Being uncharacteristically decisive, she decided immediately upon Hay-on-Wye and within an hour she had arranged everything – accommodation, train tickets and even had the time and number of the bus we were to get – thanks to the extremely useful website (see Official Website above and of which a bit more later). Although she was disappointed that we could not go sooner, I felt very cared about and much happier (so her actions achieved their aim) and the few weeks wait passed by very quickly. We were soon arranging cat duty and emergency cat back-up and on our way. After 2 hours on a train and 40 minutes on a bus we arrived and found our cottage which had been left open for us by its owner. The cottage was 18th century, catered for only 2 but was very reasonable in price and advertised itself as being ‘romantic’ – being cynical city-dwellers we imagined chintz and frills and were delighted to discover that it was in fact beautiful, well-equipped (with all kitchen appliances, CD player, large TV and washing machine) and with a lovely garden (and a home-made cake to welcome us). It was also perfectly placed for the bookshops. (For anyone interested in the accommodation check out 21 Swan Bank Cottage on www.CliftonHouseHay.co.uk). Hay-on-Wye is on the Welsh side of the Welsh/English border in the county of Powys. It is a town that dates back to medieval times with an 11th century castle overlooking the town (literary romantics will definitely love the castle). It is a genuinely beautiful town, and its pace was so relaxed like a Mediterranean village which Time itself seems to have forgotten about. Its relative isolation makes you feel completely cut off from everything, and for me my worries seeme d to belong to another universe. But more importantly for my partner and as I was to discover, the town has 39 bookshops (and counting). The town’s concentration of bookshops is incredible and made the place seem almost magical. Everything from second-hand to brand spanking new, from 5p to incredibly expensive first editions was available and covering every conceivable subject under the sun. We spent hours each day looking, discovering and buying until we became over-stimulated by the number and range of books. The two largest bookshops – Booth Books and the Hay Cinema Bookshop had a phenomenal amount of stock – it would take more than a day in each shop to look at everything. By the third day many of the general second-hand bookshops started to blur into each other so we decided to hit the specialist bookshops. My partner loves poetry so we went to the aptly named ‘Poetry Bookshop’ – this was very impressive and we also appreciated the fact that the specialist booksellers have an excellent knowledge of their stock and subjects. After stopping for delicious ice-creams at Shepperds (highly recommended if you visit) we headed into the Castle bookshop. This covers 4 specialist areas – Cinema, Art & Architecture and North American Indians and is set within the castle itself. I was almost beside myself as I found book after book on film that I had wanted and for ridiculous prices. It was also in the Castle bookshop that we first met the self-proclaimed ‘King of Hay’, Richard Booth who now owns the castle and was the man with the dream of making Hay-on-Wye the book centre of the world. He is a true eccentric and walks around the town with the air of a King. But he created his vision, and now the town is not only host to 39 bookshops but also to the Guardian Hay Festival of Literature (31st May – 9th June 2002) and The Times Hay Festival. One of King Richard’s aims was to make the books on sale international in their range and this was striking across all the bookshops – books from all over the world were on offer. After buying 30 books we realised that unless we left everything we’d brought with us behind we would have to stop. Fortunately for us the town consisted not only of bookshops but many art and craft shops. Of these I would recommend the Craft Centre which had a range of units selling beautifully designed and crafted objects of all kinds – from wooden sculptures to crystals. The crystal and candle shop is especially worth a visit with the unit divided into different ambient areas and including a candle cave. The only problem we had in Hay was the lack of decent food shops as we were self-catering. There were a few groceries selling basic vegetables and a whole-food shop which was closed for half the time we were there, but other than that it was the Spar. Clearly we were not alone in this, as a lady in a Landrover screeched to a halt beside us desperate to know where food was to be had. After fantasizing about opening a bookshop we then decided that a good food shop would be the way forward. We do not drive but if you do and you are staying in self-catering accommodation in Hay then I would suggest that you bring your own supplies with you. Despite our grumbles this did not spoil our stay in any way. If you are thinking about visiting Hay-on-Wye I would recommend that you check out their website www.hay-on-wye.co.uk. We found it extremely useful and it gives good information and links for accommodation, bookshops, arts and crafts, food and drink and leisure activities. It also gives helpful information on getting to Hay-on-Wye especially for those who do not drive. The nearest train station is in Hereford which is 22 miles from Hay. We got the train to Hereford and then a bus to Hay (the Hereford county bus station is only a few minutes walk from the train station). The website gives bus details. However, a word of warning if you are getting train and bus – do check out bus times because there are only 4/5 buses that go to Hay each day and you could be left waiting for some time. If you love books you should visit Hay-on-Wye. We arrived home feeling very relaxed and very pleased with our purchases and we have a stack of books to get through.
I've been to Hay on a number of occasions before for one reason only , books, books and more books. Hay is surprisingly on the River Wye and situated close to the English border, can't give the English to many books!! It's only some half an hour from Brecon and about the same from Hereford. We decided to do something with the one night in two weeks that we are children free and go somewhere we love hence Hay. A market town its famous for its books and antiques with there being thirty seven book stores in total, and all with in easy walking distance. There are all sorts of bookshops selling old dusty books that quite bluntly do not interest me to stores selling what seem like new books for the fraction of the price on the cover. The streets are narrow and the town feels as if it has not changed for years. Housing in the area is silly money with a little cottage costing at least £100,000 just because of where it is although it is lovely countryside that is ideal for long walks. In May of this year the Sunday Times Literature Festival was held in Hay and the Offas Dyke run starts in June. We decided to stay up in Hay for the night and mix with what looks like a number of eccentric locals. We stayed in the 'Swan on Hay' for £70 a night for the both of us and were quite disappointed. The room was small and the walls paper-thin but the bed was comfy and it was on suite. In the night we went to the local French restaurant 'The Penny Bun' which was packed. The food and cost was quite reasonable, I had homemade pate to start followed by Pigeon done in a gorgeous sauce for £20. The only drawback was the length of time we had to wait, a bottle of red for the main course to be served. On Sunday morning we had the cooked breakfast which was reasonable and took a walk along the Wye to get rid of the cobwebs. The bookshops then started to open at 10am and we wondered around the ones we did n ot have a chance the day before. If you love books this is the place for you between Jackie and myself we bought twenty four books, her's mostly cookery. Even if you don't like books and idilic place for a weekend break if a bit expensive.