Having recently moved to the area I thought I would share with you some of my favourite things that attracted me to South Wales’ quirky, characterful book town, and my experiences and discoveries I have made a long the way.
Explore the medieval fortification and 17th-century mansion house of Hay Castle in the towns centre. Originally constructed as part of the Norman invasion of Wales, the castle was designed as a ring work overlooking the historic town in the late 11th century. Whilst there are plans to restore this part Norman, Jacobean and Victorian castle into a lively cultural space, for now, you can explore its grounds, dive into history, and enjoy the view from the top of the steps- it’s one of the best in Hay!
Why not have a potter around the vibrant local market, held in Hay’s centre every Thursday 8am to mid afternoon. Trading for over 700 years, this market offers over 40 stalls selling a diverse range of goodies located around the town in Memorial Square, Cheese Market, Butter Market and around the Clock Tower. Whether you love your fresh fruit, meat, fish, bread or cheese, this market is a bustling place for shoppers and foodies! Other stalls sell plants, vintage clothing and beautifully hand made gifts to enjoy. And if you are planning a weekend visit do not miss the Saturday market in the newly renovated Hay Cheese Market!
Whilst Hay is full of many established and renowned vintage and second-hand boutiques, The End shop and gallery is in a league of its own, packed full with unusual objects, textiles and antiques for every budget! Whether you are an interested buyer or not, the owner Marina Rendle is a talented curator and stylist and has many stories to share! You will find this little gem at 20 Castle Street.
Restaurants and Café’s –Hay’s food scene
Wining and dining couldn’t be more enjoyable as Hay has a wide variety of delicious cafes, pubs and restaurants to cater for all taste buds! If you have a sweet tooth take a visit to Shepherd’s café and tuck in to their famous ice cream! Made locally with sheep’s milk, there are 16 flavours to choose from everyday. Try some of the unusual seasonal varieties such as damson, lavender and tayberry. With less than 7 per cent fat, there’s no need to feel guilty about ordering an extra scoop or two.
If fine dining is more your thing, why not try out St John’s Place. This new restaurant does not fail to impress with its traditional British cuisine. Each dish and ingredient is meticulously selected with flavour and presentation in mind by chef Julia Robson. St John’s is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and is a real boost for Hay’s food scene!
If you fancy burning off the calories and taking a break from the food scene, what a more dreamy way to fit in some exercise than to paddle down the Wye! Canoe or kayak your way down the river at Wye Valley Canoes in Glasbury in Hay. This is a particularly idyllic stretch of river, with small beaches along the way to stop off at and take in the views!
You cannot deny the underlying beauty of Hay’s rural and natural surroundings with the notoriously stunning Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains located on Hay’s doorstep. If you enjoy a hike, just South of Hay are two striking hills, the Twmpa and Hay Bluff. With these memorable and photogenic views you can see all the way across to Pen-y-Fan: the highest peak of South Wales. You will be on top of the world.
If the weather does not prevail or if you fancy a gentler walk, take a stroll down to The Warren. This pretty meadow and river beach is accessed by the path beside St Mary’s Church or along the Wye from the bridge. This charming place is the local’s best kept secret! Have a picnic, take a book, skim stones and spot the canoeists glide by.
Richard’s Booth Workshop
This huge but welcoming space, formerly owned by Richard Booth ‘King of Hay’, has been restored with aesthetic and authenticity by the new owner, making Richard Booth’s one of the most beautiful bookshops in the U.K to visit. Relax, digress, wander and lose yourself to a hugely diverse and wide variety of books. The shop includes a café and a 48-seater cinema!
The Globe at Hay is a much-loved centre of arts, ideas and performance. From live music to quiz nights, debates to DJ sets, comedy to free film screenings, the globe offers a dynamic, active and contemporary arts programme to uplift and vitalize the towns culture scene. On the exterior, the beautiful historic chapel façade remains, but inside visitors are greeted with a fusion of colourful antique furniture and an upbeat café, open 7 days a week serving only the best locally sourced home-cooked food and a good selection of quality tea, coffee, Wye Valley ales, fine wines and delicious cakes! Not to be missed, there is plenty going on with daily events to see and discover for all ages!