Not just a Book Town
Why should you visit Hay on Wye for a long weekend. The book-loving town of Hay on Wye is more than just a cover story. With quirky independent shops, stunning natural scenery, medieval ruins and outdoor pursuits, this Welsh charmer is a real page turner.
Nestled on the banks of the River Wye and surrounded by the undulating countryside of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Hay on Wye is a small Welsh town with its identity firmly established in books. But dig a little deeper and you’ll soon find a collection of interesting things to do for a long weekend in Hay on Wye beyond its internationally acclaimed literary credentials.
The beautiful setting is a great place to start a long weekend with outdoor pursuits for all tastes. Backing on to the rugged Black Mountains and tucked into the Wye Valley, hiking trails range from tranquil river strolls to punishing mountainous climbs. The meandering river Wye is perfect for a scenic paddle and country lanes and hilltop roads provide a myriad of cycling options. For a more sedate outdoor adventure, The Warren is an idyllic river swimming spot next to an alluring pebbled beach and large common.
The shops in Hay on Wye have created a town with a sense of self that is seldom found in the UK. Distinctly devoid of twee, not really posh and far from grungy, the vibe in Hay on Wye is confident, relaxed and easy-going. The annual Hay Festival may draw the crowds, but the charming river-side town has its own allure any time of year.
Friday in Hay on Wye
Do this: Explore the By the Wye Woods
Arrive at By the Wye after 3pm and check in to your treetop accommodation. Settle in and then head out to explore the woods, keeping an eye out for bugs in the trees and paths for little feet to explore. Play in the natural playgrounds, skim stones in the river and look out for otters.
Eat here: Top Pub Grub
Forgot cooking on the night you arrive, take a ten minute stroll across the bridge in to town and relax in the lovely beer garden at The Swan at Hay.
Saturday in Hay on Wye
Visit this: Hay’s Bookshops
The first thing to do in Hay on Wye is to discover what put this pint-sized Welsh destination on the map – its love affair with books. For anyone who gets their highs from browsing through interesting and quirky bookshops, Hay on Wye has enough to satisfy even the deepest addiction. With a focus on rare antiquarian books, there are many surprises to be found on the shelves. Visit the Hay on Wye Tourist Information Centre and can pick up a red map of the town’s 23 bookstores, as well as bookbinders, printers and more stores beyond the town’s border. I recommend grabbing this and then planning out a route for your first day, making sure you note the stores you definitely want to visit, as it’s likely you’ll run out of time to see them all! Our favorites – Richard Booth’s Bookshop, the largest second-hand bookstore in Europe, is spread over a Instagram-worthy 3-floor emporium. The owner is credited with starting Hay on Wye’s book craze and his store is the best place to soak up the book-loving vibe. The Poetry Bookshop is the only second-hand book shop in the UK devoted to poetry and Murder & Mayhem covers detective fiction, true crime and horror. The Children’s Bookshop holds a large and varied stock of over 20,000 books, covering all aspects of children’s literature.
Do this: Swim at The Warren
If your visit to Hay on Wye coincides with some nice weather, the Warren is a small rocky beach on the banks of the Wye River which is perfect for wild swimming . Beyond the beach, a small grassy area is a great spot to have a picnic or kick a ball around for a lazy afternoon. There are a couple of different ways to get to the Warren from Hay on Wye. Firstly, you can walk from St Mary’s church. It’s a lovely 20-minute stroll with glimpses of the river appearing between the dense foliage of the trees lining the water.
Eat here: Your own tent!
Order a BBQ food hamper from By the Wye to be delivered to your accommodation and cook up a storm on your firepit or BBQ.
Sunday in Hay on Wye
Visit this: The Independent Shops in Hay on Wye
There’s an understated cool vibe in Hay on Wye that extends beyond the shelves lined with rare and interesting tomes. Hay on Wye is a town has a wonderfully diverse high street; the independent shops are the first glimpse of a self-assured destination. They’re quirky and interesting, but still friendly and welcoming and if you get a chance, leave the kids with the other half for an morning of blissful browsing.
Flow is a family owned and run business offering an ever changing, carefully curated collection of clothing and functional, and decorative items to enhance your life. Bain and Murrin’s is an emporium packed with unique clothes, shoes, accessories and general stuff from people with an eye for retail. Mostly Maps is an online and retail business specialising in fine, rare and unusual antique maps. The vinyl revival is alive and kicking in the bright purple Haystacks Music. One family have have three stores on the high street; number two style, number two collection and number two home. They stock beautiful and stylish clothing, shoes, accessories, homewares and gifts. The Great English Outdoors makes and sources beautiful things from natural materials. Handmade leather goods including studded dog collars and Russian reindeer leather wallets; a range of ethical tailored clothing and wool knitwear and a collection of useful but beautiful homeware made from slate, horn and wood; old and new Welsh wool blankets and textiles. The HayMakers is a co-operative of designer-makers selling a range of high quality crafts, including ceramics, prints, carved and lettered stone, felt hats and scarves, hand- painted silk ties, turned wood and jewellery. The Welsh Girl uses heritage textiles with a contemporary twist. Julie Leonard, aka The Welsh Girl, creates limited edition items from traditional Welsh tapestry
Do this: Book a guided sightseeing tour with Sarah from Walk Hay
Get the lay of the land and go on a guided walking tour of Hay on Wye. Find out it’s history and culture and get an insider’s guide on the best shops and places to eat. Coffee and cake included!
Eat here: Go for Brunch at The Globe at Hay
They combine seasonal and sustainable ingredients from local suppliers with passion for global flavours, to create delicious, nourishing dishes. the family-friendly cafe and restaurant is relaxed and vibrant, and on warm days you can choose to eat al fresco in their large garden and if you time it right, you can enjoy listening to the open mic, a hugely popular event.
Monday in Hay on Wye
Eat here: Breakfast at The Granary
Have a lovely lie in, making the very most of your luxury accommodation before your 10am checkout, leave your car in the By the Wye car park and head over the bridge to grab a late breakfast at this lovely town center café. Top Tip – Grab one of the outdoor tables for some excellent people watching.
Do this: Plan your next visit to Hay on Wye!!
The Best Time to Visit
Hay on Wye and the scenery that surrounds it has something to offer at any time of year. Between June and August the British weather is at its best. But bear in mind that for a fortnight each May, book lovers from around the world descend on the peaceful town of Hay-on-Wye in their droves, eager to be a part of its internationally renowned literary festival. In Summer the town will be buzzing and the countryside a lush shade of green. From September to November tourist numbers and accommodation rates start to cool off with the weather. Over winter there will be a crisp chill in the air and the surrounding mountains might be frosted with snow creating lovely conditions for a fresh wintery walk. The town will also be much quieter.