I recently went to the bookworm’s paradise on earth. It was, somewhat unexpectedly, located in a small town in Wales: Hay-On-Wye. If you live in the UK, you likely know the name, due to its famous annual arts festival. If not… well, I recommend adding it to your ‘must see’ list.
Hay-On-Wye is a tiny town that is ninety percent book shop.
Yep. You read that right. They are literally everywhere you look.
There are so many bookshops that some have their own specialities, like crime, poetry or cinema.
Hay-On-Wye wasn’t always this way. It all started in the seventies, with a man, Richard Booth (who, from what I can gather from Wikipedia, is quite eccentric – he has referred to Hay as an independent country – and himself as the king of it – and issued passports), getting sick of watching people grow up and move away to big cities. Hay, he decided, needed a trade. Being a rich kid with a recently inherited estate, he decided that trade may as well be books. In the seventies, a whole bunch of American libraries were closing down, so Booth and his friends went over to pick up a load of books on the cheap. Back in Hay armed with a plane-full (probably it wasn’t that many, but it sounds good), Booth opened his bookshop. The trend caught on, as he hoped it would, and thus the Town of Books was born.
I didn’t feel like I had nearly long enough in Hay-On-Wye. After spending my short few hours rushing from bookshop to bookshop, I had barely enough time to investigate the rest of what the town had to offer. We made a quick stop at the ice cream parlour, Shepherd’s (ice cream made with sheep’s milk – sounds weird, but tastes great), and Eighteen Rabbit, the Fairtrade shop I only wish existed in my hometown. In addition to the shopping, Hay is also situated in the middle of a hiker’s dream: The Black Mountains.
What I am saying is that there is no reason not to visit Hay-On-Wye.
If you’re going and want a travel buddy, let me know. I’m already dying to go back!