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Out & About in Hay-on-Wye

out and about in the Hay-on-Wye

"Hay-on-Wye is famous for one thing – books. It's a bibliophile's paradise. There are millions of them, and they are everywhere. The castle's a book shop, the cinema's a book shop, the fire station's a book shop - even the alleyways are book shops. And, if you’re lucky enough to visit in May you'll catch the annual Hay Festival of Literature."

Hay-on-Wye is a quaint little town nestled right on the border of Wales and England, making it the perfect gateway and base to explore the rest of Wales. The town boasts a magnificent 12th century castle, quirky boutiques and a plethora of unique book shops to discover and explore during your time here.


More adventurous visitors can attempt to walk up Hay Bluff and the Twmpa, a full day’s hike to complete both that will result in unparalleled views of the surrounding landscapes of both Wales and England. Hopefully you will be able to organise your visit during one of the many festivals that take place here, as the town specialises in celebrations of literature, arts and film. If you’re planning a stay with us anytime soon, we’ve put together a few interesting facts about the town so you can brush up on your local knowledge before the holiday!

  • People have inhabited and built in the countryside around Hay-on-Wye since the Stone Age. In 1959, a group of students from Clyro Court secondary school discovered over 2000 flint arrowheads dating from the Stone Age period at Old Forest Farm in Clyro. Other remains that also date from this period include a chambered tomb, not far from the entrance of Clyro Court and Arthur’s Tomb in Brewardine. This cements the historical significance of the town.
  • The settlement has an impressive 38 bookshops and two bookbinders, meaning that in a town with a population of 1,500, that’s one book shop per 40 residents. For this reason, Hay-on-Wye is said to be the world’s first book town, and Richard Booth is credited for its reputation as a global attraction, after opening the first book shop in 1962.
  • On April 1, 1977, Mr Booth declared Hay an independent kingdom and he himself was crowned king and ruler of this new state. His horse was named as the Prime Minister. Check the date of this somewhat surprising turn of events if you are confused.
  • On 1st April 2017, the 40th anniversary of Hay's independence was celebrated, but Richard Booth was not in Hay for it.  Instead he held another ceremony a few days later in The Swan at Hay honouring members of his loyal army, and announcing his chosen successor.
  • Hay Castle has a long and turbulent history and is one of the few medieval defence structures in the country that is still standing. According to legend, the castle was built by Maud Walbee in one night with her bare hands, using her apron to carry the stones. According to history, it was built by the powerful Lord William de Breose in the late 12th century.
  • Hay Festival has been the inspiration for other cultural events over recent years and is now staged in destinations all over the world. Exotic locations include India, The Maldives and Mexico.
  • The festival is thought to have been founded around a kitchen table in 1987. Over the last three decades, festival-goers have grown from 1,000 enthusiasts to an audience of over 250,000. The dates for the 30th annual festival this year are 24 May – 3 June 2018.
  • Hay Festival is thought to have been visited by not one, but two former presidents of the USA; Bill Clinton in 2001 and Jimmy Carter in 2008. Bill Clinton famously described the festival as ‘the Woodstock of the mind’.
  • As well as the Hay Festival, there are 10 other celebrations that take place in the town, further cementing its reputation as a festival town. Other festivals include Hay-on-Wye Winter Festival (much of which is held in The Swan at Hay), Hay Arts and Crafts Festival, Hay-on-Wye Horse and Pony Show and Hay-on-Wye Winter Food Festival.
  • The Welsh name for Hay is Y Gelli, which translates as The Grove and appears on all the signposts in the region. The town is twinned with Timbuktu in Mali.
To find out more about local events please visit The Official Hay-on-Wye website or for the Hay Festival.


Some places we'd recommend visiting during your stay with us include:

The Lion Street Gallery

18 Rabbit Fair Trade Store

Addyman Books

Hay Castle

For those wishing for a little activity during their stay:

Want to canoe?

Tregoyd Horse Riding

Hay Warren Fishing

We also work in partnership with The Activity People  to provide a range of fun and exciting things to do when you stay with the Swan.  If you want to try archery or clay pigeon shooting locally, let us know.  Full details of available activities can be found here.



Swan at Hay


The Swan at Hay

The Swan at Hay , Church Street, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5DQ

T: 01497 821 188     E-Mail:     © 2015 The Swan at Hay

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