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The Town of Books: Hay-On-Wye, Wales

Hay-On-Wye, a small village in Wales, is an unlikely bibliophile’s paradise.

Nestled along the river Wye just across the Welsh border from Herefordshire, England, Hay-On-Wye boasts nearly 40 secondhand bookstores. There are no Borders or Barnes & Nobles within the village confines.

With used bookstores in the U.S. going out of business at a rapid pace because of the competition from large chains and online booksellers, Hay-On-Wye stubbornly bucks the trend, holding onto its proud tradition as “the town of books.” The village hosts an annual 10-day literary festival, which attracts bibliophiles from throughout Europe.

Strolling through the narrow streets I encountered one gem of a shop after another, each with its own unique flavor. There's the Honesty Bookstore with no clerk on hand but a notice to “please put money in the letterbox opposite” after you’ve made your selection. There’s a poetry bookstore, a cinema bookstore and a bookstore where each book is just one pound.

In the center of town is the 800-year-old Hay Castle, crumbling after invasions by Normans and others. It’s also now a used bookstore with rummaged-through bookshelves flanking its entrance.

The town was transformed into a literary haven by an eccentric booklover named Richard Booth. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, Booth declared Hay-On-Wye an independent kingdom with himself as monarch. His autobiography is prominently displayed around town with its striking cover photo of Booth in royal garb sitting on his throne alongside a stack of tomes.

Hay-On-Wye is a lovely Welsh community blessed with picturesque scenery and an abundance of bed and breakfasts. Even non-readers would find it a pleasant stay. But for the passionate bibliophile who laments the passing of his favorite haunts, such as Wahrenbrachs or Duttons in L.A., this little village is well worth a special journey.

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Hay-On-Wye, a small village in Wales, is an unlikely bibliophile’s paradise.

Nestled along the river Wye just across the Welsh border from Herefordshire, England, Hay-On-Wye boasts nearly 40 secondhand bookstores. There are no Borders or Barnes & Nobles within the village confines.

With used bookstores in the U.S. going out of business at a rapid pace because of the competition from large chains and online booksellers, Hay-On-Wye stubbornly bucks the trend, holding onto its proud tradition as “the town of books.” The village hosts an annual 10-day literary festival, which attracts bibliophiles from throughout Europe.

Strolling through the narrow streets I encountered one gem of a shop after another, each with its own unique flavor. There's the Honesty Bookstore with no clerk on hand but a notice to “please put money in the letterbox opposite” after you’ve made your selection. There’s a poetry bookstore, a cinema bookstore and a bookstore where each book is just one pound.

In the center of town is the 800-year-old Hay Castle, crumbling after invasions by Normans and others. It’s also now a used bookstore with rummaged-through bookshelves flanking its entrance.

The town was transformed into a literary haven by an eccentric booklover named Richard Booth. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, Booth declared Hay-On-Wye an independent kingdom with himself as monarch. His autobiography is prominently displayed around town with its striking cover photo of Booth in royal garb sitting on his throne alongside a stack of tomes.

Hay-On-Wye is a lovely Welsh community blessed with picturesque scenery and an abundance of bed and breakfasts. Even non-readers would find it a pleasant stay. But for the passionate bibliophile who laments the passing of his favorite haunts, such as Wahrenbrachs or Duttons in L.A., this little village is well worth a special journey.

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Comments
2

We've been there! Very nice story here. Read a book about Hay-On-Wye called "Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books" by Paul Collins. Really nice read. Any part of Wales is worth a visit. My favorite destination point for sure.

Sept. 16, 2009

As a resident of Hay-on_Wye I can confirm that it is a wonderful place. But nothing stays the same. King Richard has now been deposed and a Commonwealth instated. There is a video report on the public execution in the town's Buttermarket here:

http://www.marchestv.co.uk/VideoPlayer.aspx?ID=40

Oct. 13, 2009

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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