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Hay-on-Wye – the world's first book town

Video - Around Hay on Wye (4 minutes 7 seconds)

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This video covers the area around Hay on Wye.

Although the lion's share of the video is about the town of Hay, it also shows nearby Hay Bluff and Whitney Toll Bridge.

The video is an excerpt from
'A Year on the Wye' DVD - click here for more details

Crucial Information:

Welsh name Y Gelli (meaning Grove)

'Hay' is derived from a fenced or hedged enclosure.

Population: 1900

Situated on the English/Welsh Border

Twinned with Redu in Belgium and Timbuktu in Mali


The original castle in Hay on Wye only exists as the motte (the mound on which the castle was built).

Parts of the current castle may date back as far as 1070 – which would make it the oldest Norman Tower in Wales.

During Norman times, the settlement was split into English Hay and Welsh Hay.

The distinctive town clock was built in 1881 at a cost of £600.


The Book Town

In recent centuries Hay was known as a market town. However since the 1960s it started establishing itself as a Book Town – with many bookshops (mainly second hand and antiquarian) cropping up here.

In fact although other towns have re-established themselves as book towns around the world, Hay on Wye did it first.

Today there are about 30 bookshops in Hay – one for every 63 inhabitants.


The King of Hay on Wye

On 1 April 1977 Hay on Wye was declared independent kingdom by Richard George William Pitt Booth. At the same time he took on the role of monarch of this kingdom – Richard Cœur de Livre (Richard Book Heart) and declared his horse as prime minister.

This was of course tongue in cheek. However Booth opened the first bookshop and did much to create the town of Books Hay on Wye is today. In 2004 he was awarded an MBE.


The Hay Festival of Literature & Arts

The Woodstock of the Mind” Bill Clinton 2001

Each year, for ten days in May and June the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts takes place. Originally a literature festival, in recent years its remit has expanded to include film previews and music performances (in 2009 it incorporated the Brecon Jazz Festival).

The festival was devised in 1988, and for many years used venues around the town of Hay on Wye, including the local primary school. In 2005 the festival moved to a permanent site just outside of the town.

Since 2002 the Hay Festival has been sponsored by the Guardian newspaper – prior to that it has been sponsored by the Sunday Times.


A Year on the Wye DVD

A Year on the Wye DVD cover


  River Wye screensaver


The River Wye at Hay-on-WyeThe River Wye at Hay-on-Wye
The River Wye at Hay-on-Wye © Star Video 2011


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The clock tower at Hay-on-WyeThe clock tower at Hay-on-Wye
The clock tower at Hay-on-Wye © Star Video 2011


Centre of Hay-on-Wye © Star Video 2011



Hay Castle, Hay-on-WyeHay Castle, Hay-on-Wye
Hay Castle © Star Video 2011



© 2011 Star Video