The Town Of Books: A Literary Guide To Hay-On-Wye

Hay-On-Wye, aptly named Britain’s ‘The Town of Books’ is a reader’s paradise. It seems to be immune to the dying-bookshop trend, as it has 21 bookshops filled with rare editions, recent releases, poetry, and so much more.

I’ve visited twice now, my bank account crying both times, and I can’t wait to go back and add to my reading pile. It’s just a never-ending world of books, and I never seem to walk away from there feeling like I bought everything I wanted – there are always more books to discover!

My favourite bookshops in Hay-On-Wye

Hay Cinema Bookshop

So this bookshop has 200,000 books!! Renovated from a restored cinema, Hay Cinema Bookshop contains every genre you can think of, non-fiction titles like art, music, history and zoology, stunning editions of classics and even a few rare finds. It’s the longest established bookshop in this little town, and you can see why it’s been so successful. I actually got lost in here; my sister came in to find me, and suddenly we had no idea where the exit was, wandering around and just finding more bookshelves – I encountered so many more sections that hadn’t explored yet, so I will definitely be returning soon!

Richard Booth’s Bookshop

Richard Booth, the self-proclaimed ‘King of Hay,’ is known for partly setting up Hay-On-Wye’s second-hand bookshop success. He opened his bookshop in a building that was previously a fire station, purchased books from the deteriorating libraries in America and used them as the beginning stock of the newly opened Richard Booth’s Bookshop. The shop has a quirky atmosphere, comfy seating, and three floors rammed with wooden bookshelves and displays. There’s also a cafe and cinema, but I am yet to take a look at these.

Addyman Books

Addyman Books is divided into three separate shops throughout Hay-On-Wye, and each one caters to different tastes. This one, located on Lion Street, is painted in a beautiful blue colour with intricate patterns that made it feel so luxurious, and the floorboards creaked, and it just smelt of books (obviously), and oh my god I didn’t want to leave. There is a small room dedicated to Penguin Random House, with elaborate shelves filled with vintage Penguin Classics. I had never seen so many vintage Penguins in one place before!

Addyman Annexe

The second out of the three Addyman bookshops (I still need to visit the third – Murder & Mayhem bookshop), it can be considered to be one of the more insta-worthy in Hay-On-Wye. This particular bookshop isn’t just about celebrating the stories told through the written word, but it also celebrates the beauty that books themselves have. The books are organised by colour, and there are little reading nooks dotted throughout the shop.

The best thing about this place, though? The sign outside stating that Kindles are banned.

Hay-On-Wye Booksellers

Hay On Wye Booksellers is one of the most memorable bookshops in this small town, and that is partly due to its unique style. It has a vintage appeal – black and white wood panelling, two floors of wooden-shelving and a little swinging sign; it certainly stands out from the rest of the street. The books range from well-known bestsellers, rare editions, and beautiful covers, you will definitely need to set aside some time when visiting this one. There are sofas and plenty of space to move about, so you’ll feel right at home.

Green Ink Booksellers

Green Ink Booksellers is the newest bookshop to open in Hay-On-Wye, joining the town of books in 2018. I love that in a world where bookshops are becoming a dying trend, there are exceptions like these that give hope for the future of bookselling. The outside of the shop is beautiful: painted in a vibrant teal and gold lettering for its name, you really can’t miss it. The shop focuses on history, philosophy, and literature, spanning over two levels. If you go down the creaky steps, you’ll find editions of memorable classics – an entire shelf dedicated to Enid Blyton was the highlight for me.

The Bookshops I still need to visit

The thing with Hay-On-Wye is that there are just so many bookshops, each requiring a decent amount of time to look at every bookshelf, that it’s impossible to see them all within one or two visits. There are still a few bookshops I need to see, such as:

Murder and Mayhem

This bookshop sells exactly what the name says. Filled with solely crime, thriller, and horror books, it’s high on my list for my next trip to Hay-On-Wye. As the same owner runs it as the Addyman bookshops, I have high expectations.

Poetry Bookshop

It’s strange for me to put this on my list as I don’t love poetry that much. However, as it’s the only bookshop in the UK dedicated solely to poetry, I am curious to see what’s on offer. There are a few poets that I like (Christina Rossetti is my favourite!), so I might surprise myself and find some hidden treasures hidden amongst the shelves.

Honesty Bookshop in Hay Castle

There is a bookshop on the castle grounds!! Hay Castle is currently under construction, so it’s closed until 2020. If only I had realised that Honesty Bookshop is still open! Definitely need to go back soon. This bookshop consists of open shelves against the walls of the castle grounds and has been there since the 1960s. There is a payment box there, all books are £1, and all money goes towards the castle. It’s a beautiful idea that allows you to read a book and enjoy the small bustle of the town centre, and I cannot wait to see it for myself.

Other Things To Do In Hay-On-Wye

Hay-On-Wye is the town of books, but there are other places to see for those who aren’t so interested in the bookshops (probably those who have been dragged there against their will – apologies to my boyfriend). What makes Hay-On-Wye so sweet is that there is nothing but independent shops and eateries – not a single branded in chain in sight (Other than a small Co-Op and Spar).

Here are other places of interest:

Hay Castle

Right now, as I mentioned earlier, the castle is closed for renovations until 2020. This beautiful building is under threat – the walls are collapsing, there are signs of extreme deterioration, the Norman Keep is severely unstable. However, part of the grounds themselves are still open, and they are lovely to walk around if you need a break from all those bookshops.

Independent Shops

Bookshops aren’t the only shops available in Hay-On-Wye. As we walked around the cobbled streets, we found CD and DVD shops, antiques, shops selling costumes, crafts, fudge, anything you can think of.

Another notable store

Another shop that I visited that deserves a mention in this post is Bartums & Co. It’s a beautiful stationary shop that spans across two floors and supplies a range of stationery and writing instruments, such as fine pens and calligraphy, pots of ink and quills, high-quality paper and notebooks, office supplies, bookmarks, letter writing sets, files and folders and so much more. It even smells like an old, traditional stationary shop – it’s a writer’s haven!

On the second level, there is a desk with paper and different types of fountain pens and ink so you can see which pen is right for you. I came out of there with a new bucket-list bookmark (lists all the must-read books of all time) and a letter writing set, but I also almost came out with a set of temporary book tattoos, a new notebook, and a handful of pens. I had to be stopped as by the time I had reached this shop, my bank account was crying…

Eateries in Hay-On-Wye

I have to admit, I wasn’t blown away by the selection of eateries in Hay-On-Wye, but that’s because I couldn’t see that many to choose from, so I’m sure there’s plenty there to find.

For lunch, we went to a cafe called The Shepard’s Parlour, which served freshly made sandwiches, ice cream, soups, and more. The iced coffee was amazing, and my mozzarella sandwich tasted lovely. Will be returning to try the cakes though!

We went to the restaurant at The Three Tuns, a pub with a cute little courtyard at the back, fairy lights running along the wooden staircases. It was an Italian menu, I had crab tagliatelle, and it tasted delicious. However, the brownie was the best part of the meal by far!

If you’re a bookworm, you NEED to visit Hay-On-Wye. It’s a book paradise, filled with rare treasures and well-known favourites for half the price you would expect to pay at Waterstones; safe to say, you will never want to leave.

(I recommend going once you’ve been paid though – your bank account will be very empty after your visit!)

My favourite books of 2018

Today I’m going to post my favourite books of 2018. Not all of these were necessarily published this year, although there are quite a few on this list that were. This list is in no particular order; I feel that choosing my number one book of 2018 would be an impossible task. Every time I think I know the answer, I suddenly discover a new book that I love just as much!

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

“Death, once conceived, was rapacious. It took all with it .”

If you follow me on Insta, I’m sure you’re sick of me talking about this book by now. So I’ll make it short. If you like historical fiction, gothic horror, or are simply looking for a book that you can’t put down, then this is the one for you. It’s set in an old mansion filled with dark secrets, the main character is forced into a lonely and horrific situation and any person that lives in that house is far from safe.

The Corset – Laura Purcell

“But then I have noted that murderous thoughts seldom trouble the pretty and the fashionable.” 

Again, once I have raved about far too many times. But the second novel by Purcell is just as dark and terrifying. This one starts with a young woman, Ruth Butterham, who has been accused of murder. This Victorian gothic tale explores her life leading up to this point, uncovering a sad and dark past, while the second narrator, Dorothea is determined to help her as much as she can.

You can read my review of these two books here.

The Eve of Man – Tom and Giovanna Fletcher

“Against all odds, she survived. The first girl born in fifty years. They called her Eve…”

I love the world that the Fletcher’s created in this book, as well as the characters. The second book is currently being written, and after the ending in the first, it better come soon. It’s a book that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but once I started reading, I could see why so many people were raving about it. It’s the story of the first girl to be born on Earth in fifty years, and it’s one you definitely want to read.

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

“So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.” 

We are incredibly lucky to have the NHS. Adam Kay kept a diary when he worked as a junior doctor, and now he’s published it so we can all experience his ups and downs. From unbelievable patients and funny remarks, this book provides an insight into the work of a doctor, in a witty and sarcastic way.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

I’m not one for books about motivation, sorting out your life, etc. because frankly I find them quite dull. I just can’t get into them, I don’t find them interesting or motivating, and I just end up putting them aside. But Big Magic is a different kind of motivational book. It is aimed at creatives, helping you work towards your goals and whatever it is that you are passionate about. Gilbert explores the concept of ‘inspiration’, and gives us insight into her creative process. If you are struggling to make a start with your creative endeavors, this book will provide you with the kick that you need.

Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi

“I may have implied on several occasions to several different people that I may have been Jesus Christ, but I haven’t decided yet what I am or who I am.” 

I read this book as for university, and it is one that has stayed with me. It’s an account of the case and trial of Charles Manson, as told by the persecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. While it did take me a while to get into it, I still learnt so much about Manson, and it was interesting to see the amount of work that went into the case by the police.

All That She Can See – Carrie Fletcher

“To the voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough: do be quiet.” 

My friend recommended this book to me and I’m so happy she did. It’s such a sweet book, where the protagonist has her own little bakery (you will get very hungry when reading this!) and just wants to make people feel better with her sweet treats – and her ability to see emotions. But of course, nothing ever goes to plan, and she runs into some trouble along the way.

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

“While I was repairing a broken shelf in the crime section, I overheard an elderly customer confusing E. L. James and M. R. James while discussing horror fiction with her friend. She is either going to be pleasantly surprised or deeply shocked when she gets home with the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey she bought.”

I have this thing for books that are set in bookshops and libraries, so of course I bought this one as soon as I saw it. Shaun Bythell is blunt and sarcastic, and is filled with details about the book-buying process, the customers that he encounters and his not-so-reliable staff. It sounds like he wants to put people off running a bookstore, but strangely, it made me want to own one even more?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?” 

This book is so cleverly written, it just had to be featured in this list. Full of traditional crime-noir motifs, complex characters and inner battles between the protagonist and the bodies he inhabits, it’s a read that you will not want to put down. It’s long, over 500 pages, but that’s because there are so many events and little details that all add up to the novel’s conclusion, nothing could be missed out. I did struggle to get into it first, but after the first few hosts, the situation is explained and the rest of the book is clear.

Read my review for this book here.

A Christmassy time in Bath

Bath is probably my favourite city that I’ve been to. I love its appearance and the fact that it’s full of creative people. The coffee shops aren’t bad either! It’s also known for its Christmas Market, and it isn’t hard to see why. With over 200 chalets, fake snow drifting over Southgate and a variety of carol singers, it’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit.

I returned to Bath for two days to see the market, as well as some of my favourite places. I left feeling excited and Christmassy, a little nostalgic as well.

So, because I’m not quite finished with Bath yet, here’s a few of the places we visited.

Boston Tea Party

The entire two days were pouring down with rain, so when my boyfriend and I arrived, we hurried to one of my favourite coffee shops – Boston Tea Party. We visited the one on Alfred Street as it’s larger. I ordered the Raspberry Mallow Hot Chocolate, part of their festive menu, and my boyfriend had a mocha. And we both ordered brownies, as BTP’s brownies are the best, no question. The hot chocolate was incredible! The marshmallow-base made it thick, and it wasn’t too sweet either. I’ve never had anything from BTP’s Christmas menu before, but if they’re all as good as that hot chocolate, then I’m definitely going back for more.

Topping & Company

Bath has plenty of bookshops, which is one of the reasons why I love it. My favourite has to be Topping & Company. It’s jam packed with books, plus wheelie ladders to help you reach the top. They offer hot drinks while you browse, and sell signed editions of some of their books. I found a signed edition of The Penguin Classic Book, which is on my Christmas list! There was also a beautiful edition of Black Beauty that I found and was so tempted to buy. We sheltered from the rain in here, with a pot of Earl Grey and coffee.

The market

The market is spread throughout the streets of Bath, lights glowing in the evening sky. The chalets range from homeware to skincare, cheese to chocolate. Obviously, the latter two were my highlights. I bought two boxes of brownies from Chatley, vanilla fudge and honeycomb. The honeycomb brownies are incredible (I’m eating them now while writing this!), they are so chewy (the best type of brownie) and have large chunks of honeycomb, in each piece.

I also tried my first Baileys hot chocolate. I’ll admit it wasn’t my favourite; I didn’t understand the hype. At first, all I tasted was the burning taste of alcohol, but after a while, it calmed down, and the thick chocolate flavour took over. I did enjoy that part, but wouldn’t necessarily repurchase.

There was a beautiful stall, Meticulous Ink, that sold wax seals, bookmarks and fountain pens, to name a few. The woman running the stall was lovely, and I bought a beautiful bookmark based around Oscar Wilde. She has a store on Walcot Street, and I’m going to visit next time in Bath.

As expected at a Christmas market, we sampled a variety of vodkas (and my boyfriend tried quite a bit of gin as well), a chocolate flavoured one was my favourite. One of my highlights was that my twenty-six-year-old boyfriend, four years older than myself, got ID’d, had no ID, and so was not allowed to try any. More for me I guess?

Cosy Club

I went to Cosy Club so many times during uni. It is so sophisticated – expensive but worth the money. The cocktails are amazing, and the food is to die for. The staff are always cheery; you can’t leave here in a bad mood!

We came here for breakfast (although by the time we got there it was more lunch) and had the shakshuka, which is one of my favourite items on the menu. It’s warming and comes with toast, the perfect thing for a cold morning. Accompanied by excellent coffee, of course

Marina Cottage

A quick note on our b&b, Marina Cottage. Although we didn’t spend much time there, it was amazing. Underfloor heating, a breakfast bar, and books! There were little bookshelves next to the sofas with old editions of Penguin Classics. Including Wuthering Heights! I was so excited, and I hope to stay there again so that I can have more of a good read.

There was also a dishwasher, and the kitchen was stocked with tea, coffee and fresh milk in the fridge. It wasn’t adjourning any other building which was lovely, and we had two floors that we didn’t have to share.

Bath is still one of my favourite places to go, and I hope to return soon. Also, I’ll be visiting the market next year…hopefully (fingers crossed!).

The Diary of a Bookseller: my perfect bookshop

Where I live, there aren’t really a lot of options when it comes to bookshops. There was one, The Forest Bookshop, but that closed down, and other than that it’s just libraries. But even then they don’t have the greatest stock. Each city near me has a Waterstones which I love, but it’s not the same as an independent store full of hidden gems.

When I moved to Bath, I fell in love with the number of bookshops that I found. Topping & Company is my favourite, books of every genre imaginable, signed editions, events, all complete with a cup of tea to drink while you browse. It is the closest to my perfect bookshop that I’ve found so far.

I recently read The Diary of a Bookseller, and it got me thinking about what it’d be like to own a bookshop. How big would it be? Would it be second-hand, which genres would it sell? What would it look like?

I’ve written down some of the key characteristics that my bookshop would have, but I’m pretty sure they’ll change over time. Right now though it sounds like the perfect place for me to be right now, so warm and cosy and, of course, filled with books!

Tea and coffee station

There is a well known quote, ‘The secret to a well balanced life is a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other’, and it’s fair to say that no truer words have been spoken here. I want my bookshop to feel cosy and inviting, and the ultimate way to welcome someone is with a hot beverage. Served in the prettiests cups, all mix and match and related to books one way or another, in a variety of sizes (the biggest mugs will always be used for hot chocolates, served with cream and marshmallows, obviously) with a few biscuits or chunks of chocolates. Teapots for tea, and cafetieres for coffee.

Unless it’s a latte, in which case it shall be made with the most instagrammable coffee art ever.

Armchairs

One cannot be expected to walk around trying to carry a handful of books and a hot drink in my bookshop. Soft armchairs complete with throws will be dotted throughout the store.

A fireplace

I’m that type of person who is always cold, and so a fireplace is essential. My bookshop would be quite big, so there will be some heaters here and there as well, but the main space will have an extravagant fireplace to keep my bookshop warm. There wouldn’t be any music, so the crisp snap of a blazing fire will add to the cosy atmosphere. And it can easily be decorated for celebrations, like a wreath at Christmas or ‘cobwebs’ at Halloween.

Ladders

My bookshop will have more books than anyone can imagine, and visitors will need to reach them all.

One of my favourite scenes from Beauty and the Beast is when Belle is in the bookshop on a wheelie ladder that glides along the shelves. I think having a few of those will be perfect in my shop, and I’m sure bookworms would be very excited to see them. It adds a fun aspect to my bookstore.

Second hand books

My bookshop would consist of both new and used books. Even though I’m not a fan of used books myself just because I don’t like folded pages, creased bindings, etc, I love the idea of a book being passed from person to person in its life. And I don’t write in my books, but sometimes seeing other people’s annotations can be cool, especially if it has some sort of meaning.

Plus, coming from someone who has way too many books, second hand bookshops are a great way to get rid of books that you don’t have room for, so I’d love to help people clear their shelves!

Book recommendations

I love book recommendations. When it comes to finding a new read, blurbs aren’t helpful. I prefer it when someone says to me ‘If you like so-and-so, you’ll love this book!”. I’d have little signs or posters dotted around, swapping them regularly for different books. I’d also include one in every online newsletter that I’d write (Customers can sign up to them so they can hear about the bookish events I’d hold!).

Open from early in the morning until late in the evening

I’m talking maybe 8am-10pm. I remember at Bath leaving work at 6pm and everything would be closed. For those who have busier lives than me, how do they find time to run to their local bookshop? Plus, imagine spending a cold winter evening sat in a bookshop, next to the fire surrounded by endless cups of tea and books. I’d never leave.

Now that I have a plan, I just need to win the lottery to get the ball rolling.

Do you ever consider running a bookshop? What would it be like? What are your favourite stores to visit?