A book lover’s nook


The Simple Things - - ESCAPE | MY CITY - Words and photograph­y: JEN CHILLINGSW­ORTH


As a fam­ily of book lovers, we’ve had Hay-on-Wye with its lit­er­ary fes­ti­val and nu­mer­ous sec­ond-hand-book stores on our list of places to visit for some time. Ex­cite­ment lev­els were high as we crossed the bor­der into Wales, even more so when we found the apart­ment. Reached by a se­cret pas­sage­way, the Pave­ment Palace dates back to the 16th cen­tury and re­tains many orig­i­nal fea­tures. It’s on two floors – down­stairs is a fully equipped kitchen and fam­ily bath­room with an­tique mir­ror-lined walls, a huge bath and over­head shower. Up­stairs, the liv­ing area is light and roomy, with a wood­burn­ing stove to keep you cosy in the evenings. There is one large bed­room with beau­ti­ful oak beams, a su­per king­size bed and en suite. I left the sky­light blinds open as I loved drift­ing off to sleep gaz­ing at the stars. For ex­tra guests, there’s a sofa bed in the liv­ing room that can com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date two chil­dren or a teen.

Af­ter a day ex­plor­ing, we gath­ered on the sofa and curled up with one of our book pur­chases and rev­elled in the peace and quiet.


For us, the week­end was all about the many book­shops. My favourite was Ad­dy­man Books on Lion Street, a gem of a store, full of lit­tle nooks and cran­nies, hid­den stair­cases and crammed with books on ev­ery sub­ject. My son dis­cov­ered the teenage sec­tion and promptly set­tled him­self in a prime spot by the win­dow.

Di­ag­o­nally op­po­site Ad­dy­man’s is its sis­ter store, Mur­der and May­hem. As a fan of crime fic­tion, I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed: the ex­te­rior matched the off­beat in­te­rior with a chalk out­line body painted on the floor and piles of vin­tage Agatha Christie nov­els to leaf through.

Walk­ing around town we kept our eyes peeled for all the hon­esty box book­shops. Most are lo­cated in the grounds of Hay Cas­tle but we stum­bled upon one hid­den down an al­ley­way.

The town has a thriv­ing in­de­pen­dent shop­ping scene in­clud­ing fan­tas­tic fash­ion and lifestyle stores. I was par­tic­u­larly taken with Eigh­teen Rab­bit, where I bought a Welsh tapestry purse, and the util­ity store, Day’s House­hold Goods, which was stuffed with enam­el­ware, blan­kets and kitchena­lia. I also re­ally liked The Al­ley, »

which sold plants, vin­tage gar­den items and macramé plant hold­ers. As well as the shops, there’s a weekly flea­mar­ket, a flour­ish­ing arts cen­tre – The Globe at Hay – host­ing a wide range of events, and an in­de­pen­dent cin­ema run by book­seller and self-pro­claimed ‘King of Hay’ Richard Booth. Hay’s lo­ca­tion also makes it ideal for walk­ers wish­ing to ex­plore the Bre­con Bea­cons.

Poor weather meant our ex­plor­ing was re­stricted, quite hap­pily, to its shops and cafés.


Di­rectly op­po­site the apart­ment is The Old Elec­tric Shop, a shop and café. The menu is all about sea­sonal, lo­cally sourced food. We went for the br­uschetta with herbed mush­rooms and salad. It was de­li­cious.

We bought bread, cheese and wine from the Hay Deli, as well as fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles from the fan­tas­tic Cas­tle Green­gro­cer. On Sun­day we had brunch at the Hay Café – veggie break­fast with home­made Glam­or­gan sausage which kept our hunger at bay for hours be­fore we suc­cumbed to cof­fee and an el­der­flower sor­bet in Shep­herds Ice Cream Par­lour. We left Hay re­laxed and with stacks of books, long­ing to re­turn. The Pave­ment Palace thep­ave­ment­palace.com. The Hay Fes­ti­val takes place an­nu­ally in May; hayfes­ti­val.com.

The apart­ment, be­low, is decked out in a mix of old and new. It’s a hop, skip and jump to Hay’s many book shops, such as Mur­der and May­hem, (left) and home­ware store Day’s House­hold Goods (op­po­site, top left)

A ver­i­ta­ble em­bar­rass­ment of shops and cafés, in­clud­ing The Old Elec­tric Shop (above and left), means you can mer­rily pot­ter all day in Hay

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