Hay Festival Returns This May: Here’s What to Do and Where To Stay

Hay festival

Words Helen Brown

The Hay Festival programme will be announced later this spring so it’s time to start planning your visit. There is a wealth of culture and sightseeing to soak up in the picturesque market town of Hay-on-Wye for first-timers and frequent visitors. Here’s a few suggestions of what to do and where to go during your stay.

What is Hay Festival?

Hay Festival began around a kitchen table in 1987 and continues to attract the most exciting talent of the literary world to inspire and entertain. Writers, filmmakers, comedians, politicians and musicians come together to share stories and ideas in an engaging programme of events. This year, the festival turns 30 and will take place in Hay-on-Wye from Thursday 25 May to Sunday 4 June.

Hay Festival sees Nobel Prize-winners, novelists, scientists, politicians, historians and musicians talk with audiences in a dynamic exchange of ideas. This year’s programme comes out April 3 and will be available to 
view online at hayfestival.com

Things to do in Hay-on-Wye

Hay Festival welcomes thousands of visitors to Hay-on-Wye every year but it’s sublime setting makes it a special place to visit any time. The picturesque Welsh market town is nestled on the banks of the River Wye. It sits beneath the Black Mountains and on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. As well as location, Hay has a wealth of admirable attractions to boast about. These include a castle, craft market, dozens of bookshops, luxury camping, beautiful B+Bs, an independent cinema, and the famed Shepherd’s sheep milk ice cream. The old market town has a population of fewer than 2,000 residents, which swells to hundreds of thousands during the annual Hay Festival.

In addition to the town’s 30 independent bookshops, Hay-on-Wye is also home to a wide range of independent clothing and lifestyle shops. The famous Fair on the Square  additionally runs in the town centre during the festival and sells locally grown produce and crafts. If you do find yourself with a spare minute for a shopping spree during your visit, take note of a few highlight shops. These include Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Bartrums bookshop, Murder and Mayhem Bookshop of Addyman Books and Mostly Maps. But there’s more than just books. Beer Revolution is a craft beer specialist, Llewelyn and Company a beautiful interiors shop and Rawhide offers unique trinkets and gifts. Old Electric is a one stop shop for, well, a lot of things. Stop by here for wide selection of furniture, lighting and homeware, as well as delicious vegetarian dishes from the cafe.

Where to stay

Visit Hay is a one-stop-shop for accommodation, eateries, shops, activities and events in Hay-on-Wye and the surrounding area. Accommodation listings will be posted closer to Hay Festival but there is something to suit every style and budget. Book accommodation online or contact the team via 07375 396748 or [email protected].

Getting there

  • By carFrom the M5, follow signs for Hereford, then for Hay-on-Wye. From the M4, follow signs for Abergavenny, then Brecon and then Hay-on-Wye. For your satnav, the address is: Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5PJ.
  • By train The closest station from London is Hereford (21 miles away) and the closest from Wales is Builth Wells (19 miles away).
  • By coach:Hereford bus station serves coaches from London Victoria, Heathrow airport, Cirencester, Gloucester, Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham and Worcester via National Express.
  • By bus:
    Route number 39 from Brecon to Hereford via Hay-on-Wye runs six to nine services a day, depending on the date. 

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