Castle Farm Self catering Holiday cottage in the wilderness of South Wales

What to do in Hay on Wye

Picture of Hay-on-Wye high street.

It’s cute, quirky and possibly the best place to be if books are your thing, Hay-on-Wye is one of the prettiest places that you could hope to visit when you find yourself in the Powys area. One of the biggest attractions for the town is the town’s amazing literary festival every summer. However, Hay-on-Wye is so much more than that. There are the readings, talks, debates, the activities for the kids and the fun for the adults. But there’s more here than the festival, so read on to find out why a visit to Hay-on-Wye will always mean you’re busy, having fun and keen to go back.

The Bookshops

Did you know that people affectionately call Hay-on-Wye the “Town of Books”? The printed word isn’t just a sacred thing, it’s a way of life here. The bookshops may have declined in their numbers over the years, but you’ll still find thirty of them in this town. It’s something rebellious to be able to walk into a bookshop filled with actual books, with pages to thumb and spines to break, browsing for books in an old-fashioned way rather than on Kindle. You’ll find copies of books long out of print, first editions and even - if you’re lucky - signed author’s photographs of the favourites. It’s an easy way to wallow in nostalgia, so don’t put the bookshops to one side; breathe them in, instead.

Cultural Evenings

While the bookshops and literary history is the stuff of legends, you can’t underestimate the cultural scene of the town. Not just with art to browse, but with The Globe at Hay. You get to watch regular music shows, comedy nights and drama events unfold over a perfectly crafted latte. You can also flip through the vinyl at Haystacks, bringing back that nostalgic feeling. It’s things like the vinyl you can look through that keep Hay-on-Wye feeling stopped in time, but that’s precisely why people visit. A fantastic cultural scene, including the How the Lights Get In festival, enables the visitor to absorb some of the best musical acts, live debates and philosophy nights with comedy and art.

Boats, Bikes & A Little Nature

The town itself has a lot going for it, but with the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons as the backdrop just sets it all off. The winding River Wye, forests in their abundance and sparkling lakes means you have an adventure laid out before you. You can head to ‘Want to Canoe’? Who offer tailored canoeing excursions that last from half a day to a week. This gives you the chance to explore the river, camp at the riverside and visit all the sites that are drenched in history along the way.

The Wye is really enjoying a boost in popularity at the moment, but it’s not difficult to see why. The miles of water don’t just offer something beautiful to look at. You can walk the embankments, picnicking in perfect spots and hunting for The Warren - the local river beach. You skim stones here, relax in the sunshine and make plans to do some coarse and game fishing. Chub and barbel are the most popular species, and there are plenty of local sources that sell tickets online for you to plan your day correctly. When you’re done with as much fishing as you can handle, you can head to Gibbons Family Butchers for huge, delicious pork pies to add to your picnic feast.

If you’re into exploring, Drover Cycles offer some of the best mountain bikes for hire. This allows you to see the Wye another way, and they can also give you advice on the off-road pathways that inject a little adrenaline into your soul. There are different routes, with the green routes being accessible, to the black routes being a killer 28-mile loop that takes all day - and hurts! - But if adventure is your thing, you’ll love it. You may not like being off-road, and that’s okay because you can also cycle the long climb up to the Gospel Pass, which is the highest public road in Wales. From here, you will have one of the most spectacular panoramas in the area. If you cycle on down to the next valley, you’ll find the 12th-century Llanthony Priory before you. The church is now a ruin, but the pub isn’t, and after all that cycling, a hearty selection of good food and beers will be a welcome offering before you head back.

Hay Castle

A monument in history, plenty of English and Welsh figures have fought for, contested and invaded Hay Castle over the years, with centuries of fighting buried in its roots. There are tales from the past to marvel at, but the events that are put on today are the ones that make it worth planning your own invasion. The castle that you can see right now has had repairs, additions and changes made to it over the years to keep it standing. The 11th-century roots give it the features you see to help you understand that Hay Castle is believed to be the oldest Norman tower in Wales.

Foodie Fun Galore

If you’re a lover of food, you’ll love to take a bite out of the local fresh foods and drink. Hay-on-Wye is famous for its foodie treats, and you can meet traders and producers of local bread, cheeses and meats. Not only that, but there are so many places to settle down for a bite to eat you’re going to be spoilt for choice. There are bookshop cafes and pubs, as well as the Tomatitos for some amazing Spanish tapas. If you want to have a good night out, head over to Beer Revolution right in the middle of Hay-on-Wye. Here’s where you’ll find some fantastic craft beers from around Europe.

Hay-on-Wye has so much going for it, and there’s a reason it’s just so popular. Don’t be fooled by this small town - there’s more to it than you think.

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