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  • Writer's pictureSarah Price

"Visiting the World's first Book Town!": A Guide to Walking in Hay-on-Wye'

Did you know that the famous 'book town' of hay-on-Wye, is actually in the Brecon Beacons National Park? Now known as 'Bannau Brycheiniog'

Not only is there a multitude wonderful bookshops, cafes, a castle, etc to visit in the town, but the town's setting within the landscape, is also a great reason to spend some time here, and get those walking boots on & set off on foot.

A Group of walkers near river Wye in Hay-on-Wye
Walking in Hay-on-Wye

I am amazed at how many people, even those who live here, don't know that Hay-on-Wye sits within the protected, and treasured National Park.

You only have to walk out of the historic town to the south, and you will quickly realise why it was included as part of the Park. The famous long-distance trail called Offas Dyke winds it's way gradually up hill alongside the border of England & Wales, in the form of a stream, or 'Dingle' as we say around here, called the 'Dulas brook'.

Hay Bluff common above Hay-on-Wye
Offas Dyke sign on Hay Bluff common

After this, the trail takes you up through stunning fields and woodland, & then you suddenly arrive at the foot of Hay Bluff mountain which commands epic views!

On a good day, you can see the Malvern hills to the east, & the highest point in South Wales; Pen-y-Fan mountain, to the west, & in between the glorious Wye river valley with the Radnor hills behind.

I can't advocate enough the benefits of a little exploration on foot whilst you visit Hay-on-Wye. After spending some time discovering this hidden gem of the town, if you venture out a little further in the immediate surrounding countryside, you will be able to connect the history you may have learnt at the Hay castle perhaps, or the story of the Reverend Kilvert, the famous Victorian local diarist, or the fabulous art you may have seen in the town's many art shops. The the shape, sound, & feel of the landscape, will give you a real sense of place.

Walk Hay private guided walker at Hay-on-Wye
Walker at King Richard's grave

Why not visit where the, 'self-proclaimed' King of Hay-on-Wye, Richard Booth is buried at a local village church, only a mile or so over the fields from town. There you will also find an ancient 'ring-work', a beautiful converted mill, not to mention the stunning little church with it's extremely old font, & a very special stained window made for the the millennium.

A short stroll from here uphill is another treat; a motte & bailey castle set on top a tree-covered hill called 'Mousecastle', as you amble down again, there is Hay town before you, & also the Mountain top now peaks it's head out to create a spectacular vista.

Walk Hay route to Neolithic stones
Neolithic burial stones Hay-on-Wye

You may well think that this border town location is historically just about the Norman's with their castles, & the battles between the English & the Welsh. Well that's not where the history ends! Did you know that about 2 miles out of Hay town centre there is a Neolithic burial stone site? Or if you take a look, once you reach the moorland below Hay Bluff mountain, and you will also discover another ancient mound with stones.

walkers relaxing next to the river Wye
The Warren beach in Hay-on-Wye, Wye River

I can't forget also, the spectacular river Wye which flows majestically by the town forming the natural defence which was made use of by the early settlers.

An area called 'The Warren' held in trust by the local community, is well worth walking to, as part of your exploration. A beautiful curve in the river here has created a wonderful pebble beach prefect for enjoying the water perhaps, skimming stones, and watching the wildlife.

Town Clock Hay-on-Wye
Hay-on-Wye town centre

If you are planning to visit us here in Hay-on-Wye, pack your walking footwear as well as your toothbrush!

The landscape, it's history, and the beauty of this place, will reward you for taking a trip on foot out a little further than the pavements.

Remember there are plenty of places to enjoy a pint, and/or a yummy meal to reward your walking efforts when you return!

I recommend:

Walk Hay are here to help you explore on foot this area & many other places close by. Hire a Walk leader to create a bespoke walk for you and your Family/Group, or book a 'ready-made' guided walk with a guide, or join us on an Event Walk soon.


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