Hay-on-Wye : The Town of Books

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A destination for literature lovers

Imagine a place where it’s possible to find a fine bookshop in every corner. Now imagine this is also a picturesque and inspiring town to visit. This is exactly what you can find in Hay-on-Wye, a tiny market village located in the Welsh/English border, in the county of Powys, Mid Wales.

Also known as “the town of books”, Hay-on-Wye is obviously a popular destination for book lovers from all over the world. Some familiar faces like Bill Clinton have already been to the place to check the Hay Festival, a famous literary event held in the town annually.

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Besides this unique festival, the main attraction in Hay-on-Wye is obviously its nearly 40 bookshops. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to check all of them in just one day, so I’d recommend spending two or more days there.
Cosy cafes and restaurants, a renowned gastro pub and a gorgeous weekly market are also other attractions for those visiting the tiny town with population of nearly 2000 people.

And if you have more spare time and an adventurous spirit, there are plenty of activities to do on the bank of the river Wye or in the Brecon Beacons itself.

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I’ve started my visit to this magnificent region exploring the famous Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales, a highly recommended walk with a well-deserved stunning view from its summit. It was too windy to fully appreciate the view from the top, but that was a good way of being introduced to this fascinating peak.

Tracking down to Hay-on-Wye in a car journey that lasted about 40 minutes, we found a gorgeous bed & breakfast to stay at: The Swan, a three star family-run hotel placed in the centre of the town. The Swan has a gorgeous restaurant that I would recommend. Breakfast in this place is spot on.

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Exploring some of the bookshops is a unique experience. Hay Cinema, as you can predict, is an old cinema converted to a bookshop back in 1965 with over 200,000 titles available.

From second hand to antiquarian books, it’s a paradise for students looking for academic resources. It’s also a place to get lost between its many shelves in the isles and corridors. And they usually sells books outside the shop for only £1. Amazing!

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Another great pick is the Murder and Mayhem, totally dedicated to murder and crime books. Having a look inside this bookshop is like stepping into a crime scene. It’s bizarre and intriguing, as well as fascinating.

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There are books and more books everywhere! And every bookshop in this gorgeous town is worth a visit. Even the castle has a bookshop. So, expect to spend much more than you imagine. It`s just impossible not browsing for titles that you’re looking for and end up buying more many other books that you didn’t need. Oh well, we always need more books!

Eating well is the other feature in this place. And I’m glad we chose the Three Tuns, a renowned gastro pub with a Michelin star that was considered in 2010 “one of the best dining pubs in Britain”.

It is housed in a fine Grade II listed building that is believed to date back to 16th century.

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Food is excellent in the Three Tuns and it’s a very cosy place to chill out enjoying a bit of its rustic décor. I was pretty happy with my red meat and some chips.

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Farmers market : It’s quite a shame that I didn`t have the chance to stay a bit longer to check the farmers market, a very traditional attraction in Hay-on-Wye that every Thursday brings the best of fresh local food to town.

I also never had the opportunity to try the famous sheep milk ice cream. But I have the feeling I can visit this amazing little town soon again and explore a bit more of Hay-on-Wye treats. We always need more books, anyway.

Published originally here on January 28th 2015

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I'm a Brazilian journalist based in West Midlands. In Brazil, I have worked with International Trade and Logistics publications. Now in the UK, I keep writing and I dedicate myself to a new project : Midlands Trade - a blog focused on business in Europe and Brazil. It's also supporting small businesses throughout the #MeetTheBusiness.

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