A book lover’s nook
SEE, DO, STAY, LOVE THE UK. THIS MONTH: A SECRET 16TH-CENTURY APARTMENT IN HAY-ON-WYE
GO & STAY
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.
SEE & DO
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.
EAT & DRINK
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