A travellers guide to Hay-on-Wye, Wales

From secondhand books to rugged peaks and fine dining, Hay-on-Wye is a picturesque spot for a weekend away.

Published 20 Nov 2016, 15:00 GMT, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 09:49 BST
The market town of Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh County of Powys, near the English border, is famous for ...

The market town of Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh County of Powys, near the English border, is famous for its annual literary festival. 

Photograph by Shutterstock

Why go?
Books, mainly. The annual Hay Festival has cemented the Welsh town's reputation as the 'Town of Books' (it's also gained fame as the 'world's largest second-hand and antiquarian book centre'), but there are also numerous quaint cafes and browse-worthy antique shops, as well as pubs and cinemas, not to mention a Norman castle.

What to do:
The spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park (taking in the Brecon Beacons mountains, Black Mountain Range, Fforest Fawr and Black Mountains) offers a host of activities — everything from caving and hiking to cycling and mountaineering.

Where to eat:
Nick Brodie's beautifully presented fare at Llangoed Hall is not to be missed. The emphasis here is entirely on the quality of the produce and allowing the extraordinary flavours to flourish on the plate.

Where to stay:
Set in 17 acres of the Wye River Valley, Llangoed Hall is a sumptuous Edwardian country house, decked out by owner Bernard Ashley (Laura Ashley's widower) in period furnishing and antiques. A fine dining menu draws on local ingredients, as well produce from the hotel's kitchen garden.

We like:
Richard Booth's Bookshop is where it all began, in 1962 — where the owner's vision to transform the town into a mecca for bookworms took shape after he imported huge quantities of unwanted US library books. His fascinating secondhand bookshop now has a cafe and a cinema.

Read more: Eight of the world’s best historic bookshops, from Portland to Paris

Published in the November 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) and updated in 2021

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