Adventures of an Agoraphobic: Hay-on-Wye

It's been a while since I've done a travel post! This is a long one, so I apologise for the ramble!

Am reusing this old photo, because I realised I hadn't taken any outdoor shots! Fail.

I have been to Hay quite a few times in my life, often during their annual festival. But prior to this I hadn't been in Hay since 2012, and only then for half a day. We have family friends in neighbouring Herefordshire, so always pop in for a visit!

Because it's so small, I'm quite happy to walk around town on my own, because I know everywhere is about 5 minutes away. We stayed in a little cottage up on Bear Street, so we were right in the middle of town. Yet it was still really quiet at nighttime (I had a hard time adjusting when I came home because my room faces the main road) and on a clear night you can see loads of stars. No light pollution here!

Hay is a town of books. And I've lost count of how many bookshops there are. I feel like there are less than there used to be, but there are still quite a few. There are also antique shops, delis, independent clothes shops and a new craft beer shop. Truly, it is a middle-class hipster heaven.

I think my favourite bookshop is Addyman's (pictured below is their annexe bookshop, they have more than one shop, which is near the castle). All of their shops are quirky and packed full of stuff. In their main shop their sci-fi/fantasy room has cardboard cut outs of Captains Kirk, Picard and one of Gollum. Their horror room is painted black; their children's room has a bench where you can leave your kids to immerse themselves in the hundreds of books. I could spend hours in Addyman's, although this is true of most of the bookshops in Hay-on-Wye. There isn't really a bad one to go in!

As well as mooching around Hay, we popped into Hereford one day to have a look around and check out the cathedral. The chained library is so interesting, and you can go and see the Mappa Mundi (which my parents used to have a framed print of when I was little, it really creeped me out). The place was full of Nannas on a day out together; flocks of them were mooching around the grounds and eating all of the cake in the cathedral cafe.
We also went and had a quick look around the shops, calling in at Tiger (seriously, why doesn't Manchester have a Tiger?) as well as Topshop, where I bought pyjamas that say "coffee please" on them. Seriously, if you love me, bring me coffee. 


We also spent one afternoon hiking around the Brecon Beacons near Talybont, where we accidentally strayed onto the wrong path and got a bit muddy! It was really lovely walking through the forests and we saw an amazing waterfall. The only problem was getting eaten alive by midgeys! 
We got our National Trust on and called in at the Weir Gardens on our last day and Berrington Hall on the way home. The former I'd been to before so enjoyed the nostalgia (we found the tree that I fell out of when I was 16, smooth). As for the latter, none of us had ever been before. 


Berrington Hall was really interesting, and the gardens were lovely. My sister and I especially liked the Georgian fancy-dress room. We actually lost track of where our parents were because we were too busy messing around with wigs and hoop skirts. No photos unfortunately, because most of the costumes were kids' sized and we looked like right idiots! The gardens themselves were cool, designed my the famous Capability Brown, and we got to see a Georgian "ha-ha", which is basically a big ditch to keep the cows out without obstructing the view. Total nerd moment for my qualified landscape architect mother, but also for me as we learned about them when we studied Mansfield Park at university. A ha-ha prevents some of the characters from sneaking around a locked gate to get to the woodland beyond, and the Crawfords make suggestive jokes about it (a ha-ha is somewhere where the upper classes can't see you and what you might be up to *hint hint*).

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Ha-Ha in action - although it's difficult to tell where it is!

As my sister always says in her most grandma-like voice "ooh, I love a good National Trust garden". 

Serious 'heart eyed' emoji going on!

It wouldn't be a holiday for me if I didn't talk about food (I feel like I remember places by what I ate, weirdly enough). Obviously we were frequent visitors to Shepherd's Ice Cream Parlour - there are so many flavours to choose from and they're always switching things up! Their ice cream is made from sheep's milk, which is an interesting change and is less harsh on my stomach as cow's milk. 

For lunch, my number one place is the Richard Booth's Bookshop Cafe. Just look at that Welsh Rarebit! My mouth waters at the memory of it. I really regret not asking where they got the chilli jam from, because it was amazing. It was spicy yet sweet, and cut nicely through the rarebit sauce (which I feel was on sourdough bread, but don't take my word for that). The chips were amazing too and came with alioli. Man, I wish I had this meal again. My sister and I actually did the typical sister thing and shared our lunches - she had pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. I traded her one of my rarebits for a pancake, which I enjoyed as well. Often I find pancakes stodgy, but these were fluffy light. If that wasn't enough food, I got fudge for pudding. Which was literally just a piece of handmade fudge (I wrapped it up and saved it for later, was suffering from a serious food baby). If I'm honest, it was a lot nicer than the stuff you get in the fudge shop by the tourist information centre (although you don't get the extensive flavour selection).

We had a relatively relaxed attitude to tea, often Mum just cooked and we ate at the cottage. One night we had a chippy tea from Cafe Royal Fish Bar - Rob Lowe went there once so you know it's good. Chris Traeger is not wrong, because I have very high fish and chip standards (God, that sounds lame) and I really loved the fish. The portions are pretty big and the curry sauce is good. Yes, I'm northern and a curry sauce gal through and through. Sorry gravy. Another night we ate at Red Indigo, which is a lovely Indian restaurant. There are lots of places to eat in Hay, and I highly recommend Tomatitos (but I am biased - if you get served by a waitress called Meg or Amy then you should tip them lots and lots, gotta look out for my fam).

I managed not to go completely mad from spending time in the countless bookshops. I bought 7 books, two of which I gave to Kris. Not pictured is A Dance with Dragons Part 2, which I already owned but wanted to get the edition that matches all of my other copies. My original one just didn't look right on my bookshelf, so I'll probably just donate it. 

I also picked up the "Apocalypse Now In A Minute" card because it really made me laugh. Especially because it's by Francis Ford Coppola-Jones. They have a whole collection of these cards and you can get them across Wales, but I'd never seen this one before so had to buy it. And of course, I stocked up on the usual welsh cakes and Tregroes toffee waffles! 

Will I be returning to Hay-on-Wye? Of course!

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