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Holidays in Hay-on-Wye

Pretty market town on the Welsh countryside border

UK | Wales | Mid Wales | Hay-on-Wye
Hay-on-Wye castle

This pretty market town on the banks of the River Wye is home to a world-famous literary festival.

Just inside the Welsh border, surrounded by pleasant countryside, is Hay-on-Wye. During the 1960s, the town became the second-hand book capital of the UK and eventually, the Hay Festival was launched. The annual event draws writers and literary fans from across the globe, and was described by ex-U.S president Bill Clinton as “Woodstock for the mind” during his visit. There’s plenty to do if you’re not a fan of books, though. The narrow streets are full of interesting independent shops, cafes and restaurants and the town is a stone’s throw from some of the region’s most scenic countryside where you can hike, cycle and swim.

Shopping is best taken slowly in Hay-on-Wye, especially if you’re looking for a specific book. There are around 40 bookshops and many of them are second-hand, so you’re bound to find what you’re looking for with enough time and patience. There are also a number of excellent antique shops and galleries. One of the best is The End, which is full of unique artworks and antiques.

Every May, the town is transformed for ten days for the world-famous Hay Festival, when thousands of writers, politicians and comedians tell stories and share ideas. The festival is held in a tented village which is free to enter. The price for events within the festival range from £5 to £20.

Memorable countryside

Hay-on-Wye is an excellent base from which to explore the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. The Offa’s Dyke Path is a long-distance walking route which roughly follows the Welsh-English border for 177 miles. The path can be easily accessed from Hay-on-Wye, whether you want to take on the whole 12-day trek or just sample a short stretch.

At 2,907 ft, nearby Pen y Fan is South Wales’ highest peak and rewards hikers with some of the region’s most breath-taking views. There’s no better way to explore the River Wye than by drifting on its gentle currents, and a number of companies rent out canoes close to the town centre.

“This pretty market town on the banks of the River Wye is home to a world-famous literary festival.”

There’s no shortage of good places to eat and drink in Hay-on-Wye, whether you’re looking for a cosy pub or a fine dining restaurant. The Three Tuns is a rustic, welcoming pub which dates back to the 16th century. Here you’ll find a roaring fire, well-stocked bar and critically acclaimed food. The Blue Boar is a favourite with locals and a great place to watch the world go by with a pint of local ale. For delicious, fresh dishes in a unique setting, try St. John’s Place.

If you've been inspired to visit this wonderful part of Wales, take a look at our Hay-on-Wye cottages for even more great holiday ideas.

While you’re there

Hay-on-Wye Castle

Take a wander around on Hay-on-Wye's most historic buidling.

Hay Literature Festival

Celebrate some of the world's best writers and the power of ideas at the Hay Literature Festival.

Hay-on-Wye Market

Local produce awaits you at this market set amongst the independent shops.

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