This past bank holiday weekend we headed to Hay-on-Wye on the border of Wales specifically for the purpose of obtaining a lot of books. If you’ve been reading along for a while now this will come as no surprise but for those who may have stumbled across the blog for the first time the secret’s now out… am a huge bookworm. Not only is Hay renowned for its many vast and unique second-hand bookshops but it also plays home to the Hay Festival, which just so happened to also coincide with our visit.
Now in it’s 30th year, the Hay Festival celebrates all things bookish. It runs for two weeks (ending 4th June in 2017) and has an array of different events including conversations with authors, artists, playwrights, comedians… basically anybody who writes for a living! The evenings are also made up of live music and/or comedy. While you purchase tickets for the individual events you want to attend (usually £7-10 each depending on the event) the festival site is free to enter and so you can turn up just to take advantage of the excellent street food, peanut butter ice-cream, pimms and huge bookshop if you wish.
The festival site is located a short walk from town and it’s easy to navigate your way there but there is also a shuttle bus to and from the site which will cost you only £1.50 for unlimited trips that day and runs almost constantly – there always seemed to be one ready and waiting.
As we arrived a day before the festival we had actually already bought 6 books before we even got onto the site (oops!) and there are so many second-hand bookshops to explore in Hay that you could easily spend all day there hunting for bargains. My personal favourite one we visited was Addyman’s, which is the one you’ll most likely see photos of if you google “Hay bookshops”. There’s a reason for this as it’s absolutely beautiful inside. My favourite section? The old penguin classics shelves of course!
Addyman’s also has a little “Books Passage” down the side of the shop, which is very aesthetically pleasing (something us book lovers care about a lot), especially as all of the books are organised by colour. Not necessarily great for finding any specific that you want but with second-hand shops the joy is discovering hidden gems of books you never would have found otherwise. The sister shop across the street Murder & Mayhem specialises in crime and detective fiction and is suitably decorated for such a genre.
And there are other reasons to put Hay on your radar
Overall Hay-on-Wye is a beautifully situated country town that is very easy to get to by bus from Hereford, which in itself is easily accessible from London by train in around 3 hours. The rolling green hills that surround the area provide excellent walking opportunities and make for a picturesque escape from city life.
Hay provides the perfect opportunity to eat and drink in local pubs, stop for coffee in street cafes and support small independent businesses. One of these that I couldn’t not mention in this post is the fairtrade store Eighteen Rabbit, which is honestly one of my favourite shops I’ve discovered and if I lived in Hay I’d be much poorer for buying things in there all the time – as it was I left with several items in just one visit!
Not only does the shop stock beautiful handcrafted products including jewellery, bags and purses, chocolate and decorative ornaments but the owners source all of the products themselves by meeting with local craftsmen and women across the world and offering them a fair price so that they see more of the profits of their work. The principles that the company trades by are all transparent and available on their website (as are their products so luckily you don’t even need to be in Hay to support them!)