One thing I really wanted to do on my week off work was go to Hay-on-Wye. I’d actually never heard of the place until I was in a charity shop looking at books and I started talking to a lovely gentlemen about my book collection. He also had a huge book collection, he had two whole rooms in his house dedicated to books. I secretly wanted to go to his house and have a look but 1) that would be weird and 2) I didn’t have a clue who he was. Anyway, he started talking about this place he goes at least once a year and spends a fortune on books, a place called Hay-On-Wye, so since this conversation I had really wanted to visit.
Fast forward to Friday (18th June) and that is exactly where my friend and I travelled to. I set off to pick my friend up at 6:20am and we set off from her house at 6:45am. We got to Hay-On-Wye at 9:20am. It was a long drive full of country roads and roads that weren’t even big enough for one car let alone two! Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures on this trip as my phone battery seems to be draining very quickly and I needed it for the Sat Nav for the journey back.
But fortunately, my friend took a few!
Parking – Oxford Road
We parked at a long-stay car park called Oxford Road. It holds around 400 cars and it has different prices depending on the type of vehicle you have e.g. a car with a trailer would be more expensive than a car. We had a bog-standard car so we paid £4 which allowed us to park there until 6pm. I thought this was really reasonable and the location was great too. There are some toilets just round the corner but seeing as peeing is apparently a luxury, you’ve got to pay 30p to use them.
Hay Cinema Bookshop
This was our first stop. There were a couple of shelving units outside the building filled with books that were only £1 each. Nothing caught our eyes so we headed on in to the shop. We asked the lady at the counter if they bought books (we had brought a few with us just in case) and she advised us to go upstairs to the office. We talked to another lady who took us to two gentlemen in another room. He asked us to put the books on a table, had a quick look through them and said that he wouldn’t want to buy any of the books. This was absolutely fine, we knew that this may be the case, but the way he said it and the way he looked at us was rather impolite.
We left the office, still with our books in hand and started looking around the shop. This was quite a large bookshop with two floors and lots of shelving around the walls and in rows too. There were thousands of non-fiction books all of which were categorised and there were ALOT of different categories. They also had a huge collection of antiquarian books too. My friend is the same as myself, we love fiction books, so we just decided to focus on the fiction sections. These were all over the place really. Newly acquired fiction was both upstairs and downstairs, general fiction was downstairs on the back wall and along some other shelves, and sci-fi and fantasy were upstairs towards the back too. They also had a small children’s section with only a very limited choice of young adult. Limited choice being a Twilight book and a couple of other books.
One thing I will point out though is they had a lot of mint condition recently published books and some of them were the second or third book of a series so if you have the 1st book of a series it might be worth looking here for the others.
I bought one book from here – A buffy the vampire slayer book for my buffy collection.
The Addyman Annexe
This was a lovely bookshop, a lot smaller than the one previous but still well stocked. They had some absolutely gorgeous books – I think they were children’s classics with special covers. I wish I had taken a picture now! As well as a good selection of children’s books, they had mainly non-fiction books covering several topics, antique books, and a section with new books which were all half the RRP.
The gentlemen who worked there came over and asked if we were looking for anything in particular so I decided to ask him if he bought books. He said he would have a look at them but possibly not but he was really nice about it. I followed him to the checkout area and he had a look at our books. He apologised and said he would only want to buy 4 books but would give us £1 each for them which we accepted. He was an absolutely lovely gentlemen and didn’t make us feel awkward like the last place. My friend bought some books from this shop.
C J Gibbons Butchers & Fine Foods
So this isn’t a bookshop but I just had to say that we stopped here and grabbed an Iced Bun and a Cream and Jam Doughnut and my goodness; absolutely sensational. You couldn’t eat in, so take out only but there was a bench to sit on just around the corner.
This wasn’t exactly a bookshop, it was just some shelves in the castle gardens (the castle is having some work done to it so there is a lot of scaffolding etc). There is a lockbox and if you decide you want to buy a book you just put £1 in the lockbox. Obviously, you could just take the book and nobody would know, apart from you of course but it’s not called Thief Bookshop is it.
This bookshop was one of the more forgettable ones. I had nothing against it but it was just one of those were nothing really happened and we didn’t buy anything. Again, similar to the other bookshops – mainly non fiction, antiquarian, good sized children’s selection and a small section for fiction. After nipping to the charity shop and giving them our old books so we didn’t need to carry them anymore we continued on.
Clock Tower Books
Again, this bookshop was one of the more forgettable ones – similar to the other bookshops – mainly non fiction, antiquarian, a small children’s section and a small section for fiction.
I would say we walked around looking for a toilet and something to eat for a good 45 minutes to an hour. We checked out a few places to eat but they were all so over priced or had unnecessarily lavish food. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to pay £12 for some chicken goujons and chips and why can’t we just have a regular cheese panini instead of jazzing it up to mozzarella, green pesto and red tomato and again, charging near on £7 for it. So, after finding some random toilets and again paying for the luxury of peeing, we decided to nip to Angie’s café. It was cheap and simple. Cheese and pickle bap – £2.60. That’ll do, donkey.
This was a fantastic bookshop, one that I bought a few books from. It houses a whole host of books form art and photography to occult and rock music. There are also a few themed rooms here including a Sci-fi room, a Steam-Punk room and a bat-cave. The books I purchased came from the Sci-fi room and the bat-cave. What I absolutely loved (the small things) is that the man who worked there didn’t use a till or a calculator to add up our purchases – got to keep that brain busy, haven’t you?
Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Café and Cinema
This was by far the best book shop we had visited. It was absolutely gorgeous inside. The books were well presented and very neat. The staff were very friendly and they had three floors of books to look through. They had both new and old books and covered pretty much every genre of book you can think of. The café was closed due to covid which was a shame as we would have loved to have dined there and we didn’t take note of the cinema.
The staff members we interacted with were lovely – they let us keep our growing pile of books we wanted to purchase behind the till so we could continue browsing. Once we had finally finished we went to purchase our books and an attractive young man served us. He was very friendly and polite, and out of all the shops we had been to so far, this was the only one to ask if we would like a bag. We very much did like a bag (it was paper too, yay!).
Broad Street Book Centre / Hancock and Monks Music
This is a shop combined of books and music. Each section of the shop is owned by a bookseller so it is worth looking at each section so you don’t miss anything – if you are looking for a particular subject then this won’t be in one place, a number of sellers may have books on that subject. I hope this makes sense. I’ve never been one for explaining well.
Before we actually entered the shop, I noticed a number 2 on the window. It read something like ‘number 2 in the booksellers guide’. We hadn’t noticed this on any other shop window and we asked each other “What guide?!”. The lovely lady in the shop obviously heard us and she popped outside with a guide in her hand. It would have been really helpful to have had this at the beginning of our day but never mind, we were still thankful for it.
We bought a few books from this store and the lady was so nice and friendly towards us.
The Old Electric Shop
I think we were in and out of this shop within 5 minutes. It was a very odd shop. Sort of a thrift type store with new and vintage items such as furniture, homeware, clothes and gifts but it was missing the price tag of a thrift store and instead presenting the price tag of a designer brand. It had a small book selection which was very disappointing but housed a vegetarian café. There was a very pretentious feeling throughout the store and from the staff so we didn’t feel comfortable staying here for long.
This shop was also a disappointment. It had an extremely small selection of books and I mean 20 to 30 books, tops. They were all also non-fiction which didn’t interest us unfortunately.
In the words of Forrest Gump – ‘That’s all I have to say about that.’
Green Ink Booksellers
I believe this store is the most recent addition to the bookshop community. It is a very pretty looking shop both in and out but again was left disappointed with the choice. We didn’t purchase anything from this shop.
So this was not a bookstore but a café that sold crepes. Who doesn’t like crepes, eh? We ordered Nutella crepes – I ordered without ice cream and my friend ordered with ice cream. I asked for a glass of Coke too but they didn’t sell it and only sold really random flavours of expensive drinks such as Dragon fruit and Mango and Elderflower and Cucumber (I made these flavours up, but you get my drift) so I just decided to have the crepes with no drink.
The crepes were enjoyable but we’ve had better. My friend was absolutely fuming (in a funny way) because as soon as she tasted it she knew that it was not real Nutella in the crepes. It was still good but would have been miles better with the real thing. The ice cream they served with the crepes was very thick and apparently tasted great.
Haystacks Music & More
This shop was down a back alley of sorts. It primarily sells CD’s, vinyl records and music books but does have a small section of general fiction and children’s books at the back. I will tell you though, the ‘aisles’ are so thin that even I, who is quite slender, was struggling to squeeze through the shop and it was very difficult to actually browse especially when you couldn’t even bend down. I thought I was going to get stuck in there forever.
That, my friends, was our adventure in Hay-on-Wye in a nutshell. Now, I titled this ‘Book Lover’s Paradise?’. That’s the question isn’t it, is it really a book lover’s paradise? In my opinion, and my friends opinion, no, not really but I suppose it depends on what you like. If you are in to your antique books and your non fiction, if you are looking for a certain genre of non-fiction then yes, perhaps it is your paradise. For me though, and for my friend, we both felt a bit disappointed by the whole experience. We expected to see bookshops full of fiction books well stocked for all genres but this didn’t happen. We also thought it would be more welcoming but overall felt like the whole town was actually quite pompous and pretentious and we just couldn’t get behind the overpriced food and the pay-to-pee situation there.
Thank you for taking your time to read this. Have you ever been to Hay-on-Wye. What did you think?
Thank you for reading.
Gee Liz Reads ❤