Hay-on-Wye is famous for several reasons, one of which is the fact that most of the shops in the town are second hand bookshops, and there are various other buildings, such as the old cinema which have been converted into book shops. Hay-on-Wye is a market town in Powys, in the Black Mountains which are part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, as is the Penderyn distillery. It is an excellent place for university student to buy their text books, although there will be a lot of walking to be done before they are all found. However you can probably get whatever you want in the way of second hand books if you are prepared to search for it.
Hay-on –Wye is also famous for the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, which this year is held between the 23rd May and the 2nd June. The Festival takes place in a tented village and there are some events which are held in the buildings in the town. The guests are philosophers, writers, scientists, poets, film-makers and environmentalists so there will be something for everyone. Children and teenagers have special events that will interest them, Hf2 is for teenagers and there will be some of their favourite Young Adult authors present at the festival so they can meet their favourites. There are also workshops for younger children which encourage them to think creatively and to help them express themselves and think critically. Hay-on-Wye is the literary equivalent to Glastonbury, although the weather is usually better in Hay!
Then in August there is the Brecon Jazz Festival (9th – 11th August) which is also in the Brecon Beacons, so the area is the place to be this summer. Jules Holland is set to headline at the festival this year along with Acker Bilk and his Paramount jazz men.
Because of these two festivals you should book accommodation in the area early. However if you go to Hay-on-Wye on the spur of the moment the organizers offer a bedfinder service and they ring around for you for a mere ten pounds – which saves on mobile phone calls and petrol!
The Black Mountains were the backdrop for Bruce Chatwin’s novel “On the Black Hill” which you may remember. It was later a film. Apart from the festival there is horse-riding and trekking to be had as well as paragliding, swimming and walking or hiking.
On Thursdays there is a market in Hay at the Butter Market and there you can find everything for antiques and bric-a-brac to fresh fruit and vegetables, and game and fish in season. You can also find flowers and hand-crafted items there.
Even if you don’t like books too much, the scenery is truly awesome in the Brecon Beacons national park and there are many hostelries where you can eat and drink very well. Try the Welsh goats’ cheeses with cranberry sauce and dishes of cawl (lamb stew) if the weather is cold. Then of course there are several modern takes on the Welsh rarebit (sometimes wrongly spelled rabbit!) You may be lucky enough to sample Brains S.A. a strong beer which is said to be an acquired taste – don’t believe it – the first sip and you’re hooked!
Enjoy your trip to Hay and the Brecon Beacons – it’s a beautiful, unspoilt part of the UK and the people are friendly!