Visiting Hay-on-Wye, the World’s First Book Town

Monday, 10 January 2022

The Hay Castle Bookshop

January is bleak, so to have something to look forward to we took ourselves on a little reading retreat and really there was only one place we thought to go - the world’s first book town (we think this might be a self-proclaimed title?)! Hay-on-Wye is a small market town just on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, UK.

Book Reccos in the world's first book town

Getting there is super easy, there's one large car park by the information centre which we parked in with ease and everything is within walking distance.

What to do in Hay-on-Wye

We spent an afternoon mooching around the town which is probably the perfect amount of time, although a day would also work depending on the speed at which you book browse, and we predominantly spent our time looking in all of the independent shops and having yummy food and coffees in cafes.

We’ll get onto the bookshops but if you’re after beautiful homewares, second hand clothes and crafty items then you’ll be delighted to learn that Hay-on-Wye is a treasure trove!

There are apparently over 15 bookshops in this one little town, which we’ve looked up afterwards as we lost count of how many we went in and out of, there’s just so many and they all have such extensive second-hand book collections (Lauren expanded both her Paulo Coelho and Elif Shafak collections!)  so we’ll highlight a few of our favourites.

The Hay Castle Bookshop is an open air bookshop in the castle ruins which runs on an honesty policy whereby if you see a book you like, you’ll leave your coins in the money box. We found a few of our reccos including My Dark Vanessa, The Ice Cream Girls and The Invisible Girl.

Hay-on-Wye Bookshops

Richard Booth’s Bookshop is probably the biggest bookshop spanning across a few floors and selling  new and second-hand books, as well as gifts, games AND there’s a café so you really can spend hours on end in here.

Richard Booth Bookshop
Photo credit: Richard Booth Bookshop

Green Ink Booksellers was the newest second-hand bookshop in the town and felt light and airy inside and had a great range of children’s books.

Green Ink Booksellers
Photo credit: Green Ink Booksellers

It would be remiss not to mention the Hay Festival in this blog post, although we weren’t there for it, it’s a staple in the town’s calendar every late May/early June and brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. We’d love to go back for it but if you’re planning a trip perhaps see if you can tie it in for this time of year!

Where to Stay in Hay-on-Wye

We feel like we completely lucked out finding a very affordable luxe pod for our two night stay at Cynefin Retreats just an eight minute drive out of the town.

Cynefin Retreats
The Hazel Luxe Pod where we stayed

There are a few luxe pods all really well spaced out so that they are really private, in fact we didn’t see anyone else there during our stay! Each pod has a double bedroom, a bathroom with a huge shower, a fully equipped kitchen with a dining table and lounge area complete with a log burner.

The heated floors meant we could open the big glass doors so we could enjoy our morning coffees alfresco whilst feeling really cosy (sometimes log cabins can be chilly but this definitely wasn’t!)

Cynefin retreats hot tub

Each luxe pod has a fire pit, which we failed to light with the wood provided - we could have bought more for a few £s but after acknowledging that we are city girls who don’t really know how to start a fire, we decided against it and lit the log burner inside instead. Shame really because they provide you with a few yummy marshmallows for roasting!

There is also a hot tub on the deck which is always running so no faff there apart from taking the lid off, it’s the perfect heat and we spent an afternoon reading and drinking  wine. It's also slightly under cover, so if you do get some Welsh rain (highly likely) you can still enjoy the tub.

To see our day out exploring Hay-on-Wye check out our reel on our Instagram!

In this blog post, you'll see the books we have mentioned are linked to, a hub where you can buy books online but from independent bookshops. Please support small businesses.  

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