NESTLING in the hills that form the border between England and Wales, Hay-on-Wye is a quirky little town best known as Britain’s capital of second-hand books, writes Carwyn Jones.
And that’s what my wife and I did when recently given an opportunity to visit.
It’s a lovely little town where, for a few days, we got to move about at an altogether slower pace.
From walks along the winding Wye riverbank, to poking in and out of shops – books or otherwise – enjoying a cuppa and cake in a café, or dining in at our splendid accommodation on fresh food and produce from Hay’s independent traders, this little corner of Britain is well worth a visit.
For a town so small, there are plenty of options when it comes to finding places to eat out - pubs offering tasty food and ales, a number of restaurants and delicatessens. Quality local produce was available just a few steps from our door.
A highlight was the weekly market on a Thursday morning - a real delight, especially the cake stall. While the Welsh rarebit from The Globe, a converted chapel now operating as a café and all-round arts venue made a tasty midday treat. A couple of miles further out, and the Baskerville Arms provided some hearty teatime fare, washed down with beer from the Wye Valley Brewery.
In need of blowing away a few cobwebs, a short drive followed by an equally short walk up to Hay Bluff offered a wonderful view across the Black Mountains into England on the one side and Wales on the other, with Hay peeking out.
Its position at the northern tip of the Brecon Beacons makes Hay an ideal base to explore the stunning peaks and majestic hillside scenery on offer inside the national park.
Another appealing feature to outdoor types is the Offa’s Dyke Trail, the path which follows the historic border barrier between England and Wales, designed to keep the Welsh at bay. It passes along the edge of the village and can be followed for as long a walk as you desire.
Or if taking to the water tickles your fancy, canoe rides down the Wye can be arranged.
All too often self-catered holiday accommodation in Britain has one key flaw. It may be ideally located, but the interior décor leaves something to be desired, giving the impression the owners have furnished the accommodation with the cast-offs from their own home.
That’s certainly was not the case here. Our riverside holiday house ticked all the right boxes, is beautifully designed to luxury standards with all mod-cons on hand to make the break a breeze.
With a ground floor terrace overlooking the river bank and an upstairs balcony where we spent time reading our purchases, it felt like a luxury home from home.
* Carwyn Jones stayed at a Hay Riverside Retreats cottage.
* One week from £595 rising to £910 in summer. Sleeps five. Weekends £395 - £595.
* Late availability offer (January-March) - special discount of 10% by quoting ‘Sheffield Star’: Now £535 for up to five people for one week. Weekends and short breaks from £356. n Contact www.HayRiversideRetreats.com or telephone 01497 821080.