It’s totally normal to plan your holidays around books, right?

My husband fancied going away somewhere this Easter and since he has an actual proper job while I just “look after” our children* and therefore have masses of downtime, (by which I mean that occasionally they have naps At The Same Time, also known in our household as A Miracle,) I was put in charge of choosing an appropriate location and accommodation. ** So, obviously, I decided to visit a Book Town.

I’ve wanted to visit Hay-on-Wye for a little while now, and although I’d love to stay there with a friend over the Literature Festival, that kind of treat is going to have to wait a while, at least until my youngest child is a smidgeon more independent. (Translation: doesn’t demand Mummy’s Milk every two hours during the night. Every. Two. Hours. YAWN.)

So instead we agreed to spend a whole day exploring bookshops and wandering around the town. Bliss. And, obviously, visiting all these lovely bookshops, it’d be rude not to buy a book or three or even *cough* thirteen, so I did and now I think my TBR pile is officially Out of Control.

There is nowhere on my bookshelves for these to go. Nowhere. Nor is there room for more bookshelves. #firstworldproblems

There is nowhere on my bookshelves for these to go. Nowhere. Nor is there room for more bookshelves. #firstworldproblems

A mere minute’s stroll away from the car park we found Greenway’s Corner Bookshop where I found what seemed like an extremely suitable first purchase, ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ by Malcolm Pryce, and listened to a couple have a book related argument. Ah, Hay, even your bickering is literary.

Me: very excited about a whole day of book shopping. The children: shockingly disinterested. But they enjoyed looking at sheep from the car window on the journey, so there was something for everyone to enjoy that day.

Me: very excited about a whole day of book shopping. The children: shockingly disinterested.


Next up we found ‘The Addyman Annexe‘, where there are so many books they’ve even been used to decorate the stairs.


Unfortunately, not everyone was quite as enthralled as I was, so we decided to find a spot of lunch next. In a book cafe, obviously.

This is Richard Booth’s Bookshop, complete with book cafe serving super tasty food and a cinema (sadly not visited).

Three whole floors of new, secondhand and antiquarian books on every subject, whole shelves devoted just to Jack the Ripper, or Orchids. A. Maze. Ing. By this point my husband and son had disappeared, muttering something about fresh air and ice cream, but my daughter was content to keep me company as long as she could test out her newly developing crawling skills.

After many happy minutes spent browsing the seemingly endless shelves, I decided I’d better head to the till and decamp before I purchased half the shop’s stock. Next up, the wonderfully named ‘Murder and Mayhem‘, a small shop devoted to…well, what do you think?


This is where I found ‘The Cutting Room’ by Louise Welsh, whose gripping novel ‘The Girl on the Stairs’ I recently devoured (reviewed here).

Finally, the day was drawing to a close and there was time for one last luxurious meander round a bookshop while my husband took the children to the park. The appropriately named ‘Hay-on-Wye Booksellers‘ was another treasure trove of little rooms packed to the rafters with books. Books were everywhere.

After I had spent ages a little while browsing and buying, I felt that I had abandoned my family long enough it was time for dinner, so I gathered up my final stack of books and headed for the till.

Of course, leaving a book town is easier said than done, and having spent so much time in adult bookshops it seemed only fair to finish the day by popping into the Children’s Bookshop on our way back to our B&B. (I did also attempt a mad dash to visit the Poetry Bookshop in the middle of dinner, but they closed at 5pm.)


So, three bonus books and one hasty dinner later, we finally headed for our holiday home, with my new purchases firmly locked in the car boot to ensure I would “be sociable” on the journey home. (It’s alright; I had a magazine stashed in the glove box.)

I think I enjoyed the day so much because all the shops I visited had a large selection of secondhand books, meaning that in each shop I felt like I might find anything hidden in its depths. So farewell to Hay; I’ll be back one day. Now to put those interior deign ideas into action…

* his translation: eat chocolate, drink tea and occasionally shout “stop that!” My translation: keep two small children fed, well-rested and not actually dirty while washing mountains of laundry and crockery and, yes, mainlining chocolate and tea.
** I admit that I failed at the “finding suitable accommodation” part, but only because I’m a perfectionist. And it gave my husband an opportunity to show off how brilliant he is at booking places, so that’s fine.