The popular Welsh town that still feels like an independent kingdom


Different towns have different niches. You take your family to Newquay if you want to surf, to Bath for Roman ruins, to Stratford upon Avon for Shakespeare. And if you can’t stand any of them and you simply want to curl up with a book, you take them to Hay-on-Wye, a little Welsh market town where 1,600 residents share 20-ish bookshops and a seemingly infinite number of cosy reading crannies.

On the face of it, those numbers don’t make sense. Surely those bookshops can’t stay solvent. Are they all missing an economics shelf? Is the town run by bibliophile thugs who pummel non-compliant shopkeepers with the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary?

The truth, as you probably know, is that Hay has a big…

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