Hay-on-Wye Revisited

A coupe of years go we visited the small town of Hay-on-Wye, famous for its second-hand bookshops. We’re back this weekend to stock up on more books (and vinyl too if possible).

Once again we stayed at The Bear bed and breakfast. I would recommend that you stay there too but the owners told us today that they have sold the place and it will be shutting in October. That’s a great shame as it is a terrific place. However, fear not, as David and Andrew who run it have bought a new, bigger, place just a few yards down the road which they are to renovate  and open for spring 2019. Go there instead!

Hay itself is a pretty little place but it would be nothing without the book shops. On the Saturday as we walked between the shops we were joined by a fair few others doing the same. It was busy without being overpowering – the residents may have felt differently though.

Something we didn’t do the last time we were in Hay, for reasons that are hazy, is visit the specialist motorsport bookshop Pole Position. Given my interest in the sport this is something of a surprise. Perhaps one thing that contributed to it is that the shop isn’t actually in Hay itself but a mile or so beyond the borders. This time we walked out there to visit it.

Situated in the reception of the Ashbrook Garage you can pick up a copy of Pole Position while having your car serviced. The space is small but they did have a good selection of motorsport related books so I managed to pick up a couple I hadn’t got. I also had a good chat with the owner who said that he has all sorts of other memorabilia at home that there just isn’t room for in the shop. That was a shame but probably for the best!

Back in Hay itself we made several forays into town filling bags with books before retreating back to the hotel to drop the off before setting off again.

There is a huge variability in the quality of the bookshops themselves. Your gold standard is Richard Booth’s, named after the man that started the whole thing off. At the other end there are some pretty tatty looking places filled with equally tatty books. You wonder how some of these places can make any money to cover the rent on a shop but the real money, we’re told, is in the sale of high-end, rare, editions which go for hundreds. Most of what you see is second hand stock that you wouldn’t find in a charity shop mixed with some new. There seemed to be a lot of 50’s/60’s Penguin editions or maybe it was just that covered what I was looking for.

In the end we came away with two big bags of books including two that the owners of The Bear gave me. Hay’s a fun place to visit and this weekend the weather was lovely which made it even better. We have already decided we will go back in a couple of years once the replacement for The Bear is open and stock up on books once again.