There’s so much more to Hay-on-Wye than the annual literary festival that takes place in early summer. It’s the perfect place to escape from daily life all year round and although it’s small in size, you can easily wile away a weekend pottering around the endless bookshops and quaint cafés. Not to forget its proximity to the stunning Black Mountains.
Start the day exploring the pretty market town, spread around the 13th century Hay-on-Wye castle, whose walls are lined with books. If you’re a book worm you’ll be in heaven with more book shops than you can shake a stick at (you’ll even find stacks of books down cobbled alleys).
Richard Booth’s bookshop and cinema is a must, Europe’s largest second-hand bookshop. You can easily spend hours here perusing the thousands of books, but the café is the perfect spot for brekkie or brunch. I opted for boston baked beans with pancetta and a fried egg on sourdough toast, but I wished I could also fit in the buttermilk pancakes with vanilla whipped yoghurt and maple syrup, which also looked delicious!
I love a good hike, so the Black Mountains were next on my list and is only a short 20-minute drive away. We parked at a local picnic area at the base of Black Hill, which was a short (but very steep hike up the Cat’s Back, where you can walk right along the narrow ridge of the hill – and the views of Herefordshire are incredible.
If you can spare another hour or so, go the extra few miles to Hay Bluff, a milestone on the border of England and Wales, which overlooks Hay-on-Wye, before wending your way back the way you came (or venture down one of the main footpaths into the valley to join back on the trail). At many points you only have the local sheep to share the amazing views with – escapism at its best.
You’ll be no doubt knackered after an afternoon hiking, so spend the evening visiting a few of the local pubs, like the Three Tuns and the Blue Boar, where you can tuck into hearty fare in front of a roaring fire. The perfect end to a perfect day!
Where we stayed
We found a cute little cottage, right in the centre of Hay-on-Wye called Ty Bychan, which was really reasonably-priced and perfect for a weekend.