Hay-on-Wye, The Town of Books - Enchanting Havens
Hay-on-Wye, often abbreviated to just "Hay" is a small market town in the historic county of Brecknockshire in Wales. With over twenty bookshops, it is often described as "the town of books", and is both the National Book Town of Wales and the site of the annual Hay Festival.
I have been going to the Hay Festival since I was a child, where I was able to see illustrators talk about their works on some of my favourite books and authors describing the processes they go through to create rich worlds and entrancing characters, but mostly I would follow Stephen Fry around and eat fudge. All one would have to do is wait at one of the main junctions, fudge at the ready, and after a matter of moments Mr Fry would walk past on his way to a photo shoot or a televised talk. It was truly wonderful to watch some of the greatest authors and actors of the century pose back and forth with books and little cakes.
Below is from talk from Hay Festival 2017: Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry - Myth Makers
Hay-on-Wye has now become a destination for bibliophiles in the United Kingdom. It holds two dozen bookshops, many selling specialist and second-hand books although the number has declined sharply in recent years, many becoming general antique shops and similar. Hay-on-Wye was already well known for its many bookshops before the festival was launched. Richard Booth opened his first shop there in 1962, and by the 1970s Hay had gained the nickname "The Town of Books".
Narrow winding streets lined with beautiful old brick buildings, each place luring you in to look though the crooked windows at the curious things inside. The bookshops glow invitingly, antique shops are around every corner and in every nook and cranny of this town there is something charming waiting to be discovered. Wrapped in the lush green of the countryside Hay-on-Wye is truly a literary paradise.
Since 1988, Hay-on-Wye has been the venue for an annual literary festival, which draws a claimed 80,000 visitors over ten days at the end of May or beginning of June to see and hear big literary names from all over the world. Devised by Norman, Rhoda and Peter Florence in 1988, the festival was described by Bill Clinton in 2001 as "The Woodstock of the mind". Tony Benn said: "In my mind it's replaced Christmas".
But as an adult I am not one for large crowds, even ones made of subdued intellectuals and the bookish. So I prefer to plan my visit around the event of the festival, early May or late June, when there is still a buzz in the air but I can enjoy exploring the bookshops almost entirely to myself.
My last visit was in June 2019 and I came home with a first edition of Siegfried Sassoon - The Old Century and seven more years, from the Addyman Annexe, I was delighted. There is no better day out than spending many hours sifting through what feels like hundred of thousands of books in many different bookshops, each shop with their different themes and heritage. The atmosphere in this town is wonderful, full of a character in the buildings and the people. I would encourage anyone who is a deep lover of books to come and hunt for treasures.
The Greek Myths Retold and seven more years
Stephen Fry Siegfried Sassoon