Top ten bookshops of Hay-on-Wye

Days out, Activity, Destinations

Posted by Ed Roberts on 16th May 2024

View over the rooftops of Hay-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye in the Wye Valley has a well-deserved reputation as the place to go to source that long-lost book. Before the internet sprang up, the hallowed aisles of this town’s shops were your last and perhaps only hope. Booksellers up and down the land would sagely nod and say to those who stood before them on a quest, “If you can’t find your book in Hay-on-Wye, abandon all hope of ever finding a copy.” Prospects for book collectors aren’t quite so bleak in this digital age, nevertheless, Hay-on-Wye still maintains its kudos and reverence as being the UK’s premier destination for all things literary. If you love bookshops and miss the days of seeing an independent emporium on every High Street in the UK, a holiday in Hay-on-Wye will take you back to a golden age. 

The town is characterised by its seemingly bottomless cornucopia of book specialists and general stockists. There are many specialist bookshops that stock children’s books, maps and travel tomes, autobiography, film and cinema memorabilia, and natural history and science compendiums to discover in Hay-on-Wye. Hay-on-Wye is also home to the world-famous, annual Hay Literary Festival each spring. Besides books there are lots of things to do in Hay-on-Wye, such as walks and dining. We have also compiled a handy guide to South Wales

One of the best times to catch up on your reading is on holiday; so why not book into one of our collection of Hay-on-Wye holiday cottages? We have properties of all sizes in Hay-on-Wye that are perfect for your book-hunting holiday adventures in the Brecon Beacons and South Wales

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There are currently 15 bookshops in Hay-on-Wye. Two are combined with record shops and another has a cinema. For a full list of current book emporiums (many with their own websites), visit this website.

In 1961, the owner of the fledgling Richard Booth's Bookshop bought a shipping container load of books from the USA. The stock was from libraries that had closed down across the nation. As a result, this drew in not only bookworms from far and wide but other booksellers, who opened up their own shops. 

The Hay Literature Festival usually takes place during the last week of May and the first week of June. For full days of this brilliant event, visit the website.

Top ten of Hay-on-Wye’s best bookshops

Are you ready to get lost in the maze of bookshelves in this wonderful Welsh town? Hay-on-Wye is a bookworm's idea of heaven, so read on to discover some of the town's literature hawking delights.

Interior (upstairs) of Richard Booth's Bookshop | Close up on a bookcase at Booth'sImages courtesy of Richard Booth's Bookshop

Richard Booth’s Bookshop

To stand apart from the competition, Richard Booth's Bookshop even has a cinema and a café to draw in the masses. With its programme of art-house and mainstream films, it’s a great addition for after hours, when you’re all shopped out. Richard Booth’s is one of the largest shops in Hay-on-Wye and is very modern and inviting with extensive displays of the best-sellers, and some off-beat and niche personal suggestions by the staff for those that want to look beyond the top-ten. Following a high street model, this is the place to go for new books, although they do sell second-hand stock.  

Good to know

  • Address: 44 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5AA
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9.30am–5.30pm, Sunday 11am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: The Hut Above The Hay | sleeps 2  

Woman reading a book at the base of tree

The Literature Laboratory

This insanely good Hay-on-Wye book emporium, The Literature Laboratory, specialises in well-being and self-help publications, as well as yoga mats, jewellery and bespoke fancy goods. However, you can find just about anything inside this quirky bookstore. It’s got something for everybody from children and on upwards. The stock has been meticulously curated to inspire customers to read and learn.

Good to know

  • Address: 4 Market Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5AF
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9.30am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: The Town House | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Hay-on-Wye's castle ruins | close up on a stack of contempoary fiction hardbacks

Addyman Books / The Annexe

The Addyman shops are famous for their surprises, their quirkiness and their knowledgeable staff. This duo of stores has a fun Instagram account with pictures of some of their more unusual items that come across their thresholds. Leave at least an hour-long window in your shopping schedule for a delve. 

Good to know

  • Address: 27 Castle Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 10am–5.30pm, Sunday 10.30am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: Swan Bank Cottage | sleeps 4 + 1 dog  

A table laden with second hand books

Francis Edwards

The well-established Charing Cross Road stalwart, Francis Edwards, has an off-shoot branch in Hay-on-Wye, extending their exemplary stock of over 3,000 volumes. They deal in books on all subjects, focussing on travel, art, architecture, history, literature and the social sciences. They are found above the Hay-on-Wye Cinema Bookshop. 

Good to know

  • Address: The Old Cinema, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9am–6pm, Sunday 10am–5.30pm
  • Stay nearby: Chapel Cottage | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs  

The River Wye on a clear day | A pile of hardback books in a shop

Hay Cinema Bookshop

Called the Hay Cinema Bookshop because it is located in a former cinema, this is one of the town’s oldest shops. With a wide range of books covering all subjects, not just film and TV. The staff rescued the shop a few years back by buying it themselves – they are cheerful and have specialist interests in different areas. Books range from the cheapest to rare collectors’ items worth £1,000s. 

Good to know

  • Address: Castle Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9am–6pm, Sunday 10am–5.30pm
  • Stay nearby: Chancery Lane Cottage | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Young girl selects something to read | Bookshelf of childrens books

The Children’s Bookshop

Junior visitors to the town will be utterly bewildered by the sheer choice of children’s books housed in the two local specialists. Just a short distance from the town is The Children’s Bookshop with an inventory of a-1,000-books large, from pocket money prices to rare editions. The Children’s Bookshop is owned by Stella and Rose who recently moved their Hay-on-Wye shop to nearby Tintern

Good to know

  • Address: Toll Cottage Pontvaen, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5EW
  • Opening times: Tuesday–Saturday 10.30am–5.30pm
  • Stay nearby: Grooms Barn | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs  

A human skull | the exterior of Murder and Mayhem BooksImage (R) courtesy of Tobacco and Regrets

Murder and Mayhem Books

Owned by Addyman’s, Murder and Mayhem Books contains everything literary pertaining to some of the most popular genres created. Crime and horror, and both fiction and non-fiction tomes line the shelves. For a twisty tale of the dark kind, venture in at your peril. You never know who may be shopping at the same time as you.

Good to know

  • Address: 5 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5AA
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: Cocoon | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs  

Typewriter and busy desk at the Poetry Bookshop | The rooftops of Hay-on-WyeImage (L) courtesy of the Poetry Bookshop

The Poetry Bookshop

If you love verse head to the Poetry Bookshop on The Pavement in the centre of town. With its regular programme of readings, this store is a perfect haven for those who enjoy language elevated to poetry in all its forms.  

Good to know

  • Address: The Pavement, Cranbourne House, Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5BU
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday 10.30am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: Lower Moor Lodge | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Countryside near Hay-on-Wye | Bookshop signage against lush tree canopy

Arden Books

Natural historians, environmentalists, naturalists, geologists and ecologists will be able to source that obscure book about tides, rock formation, lichens, bird migration or any number of variations on their chosen field at Arden Books.  This is a great example of a true specialist, of which the like is becoming scarcer on our streets each year. 

Good to know

  • Address: The Nursery, Forest Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DT
  • Opening times: Monday–Friday 9.30am–5pm, Saturday 9.30am–12 noon
  • Stay nearby: Silver Silo | sleeps 5 + 1 dog

Ancient maps and a compass

Mostly Maps

There are some of us that love a map. Whether it’s a local road map or a country map, there are some publications that can’t be supplanted by a Sat-Nav. Whether you’re looking for a map of trails for your trekking holiday in Bora Bora, or cycle trails in the Lake District , Mostly Maps probably have you covered. Also, stop here for a selection of travel guides. 

Good to know

  • Address: 2 Castle Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF
  • Opening times: Tuesday–Saturday 10.30am–5pm
  • Stay nearby: Ty Mary | sleeps 5 + 3 dogs

Map of Hay-on-Wye’s top bookshops

Find Hay-on-Wye’s top bookshops in this handy town map.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.