Monday, September 17

Monday Mishmash: Wry-on-Wye

(Hope you won't mind me recycling this post from 2009.
I discovered some of the links no longer worked, so
after updating them, I tweaked a few things, too.)

Although Cranbourne Books & Stamps looks like
it's at the seashore, this travel bookshop is actually by
the clocktower in land-locked Hay-on-Wye (below).
(Photo from

Inhabitants of the British Isles have long been known for their
eccentric ways, a wry sense of humor, and a love of books.
It should come as no surprise then that this picturesque
Welsh village just over the border from Herefordshire
is not only the book capitol of the world,
but the home of a yarn bomber.
(More about her later!)

Before 1960, Hay-on-Wye's main claim to fame was its nearness to Clyro and Baskerville Hall, which inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpiece, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Despite Conan Doyle placing his real-life friends' home in Devonshire instead of Wales, Sherlock Holmes fans (naturally) had no problem discovering its true location.

Then Oxford graduate Richard Booth opened a bookshop and set out to turn Hay, his new home on the River Wye, into the Book Capitol of the World. As far as bibliophiles are concerned, he has succeeded admirably.

Today, Hay-on-Wye has around 40 bookshops, meaning this tiny village has more bookshops per capita than any other town or city in the world. The main fare is second-hand books, but a surprising number of first editions in mint condition are also on offer. And Hay's inhabitants and visitors never worry about running out of reading material because some shops remain open 24/7.  Book addict heaven!

According to John aka Silversprite in Hay-on-Wye: Beyond the Long Tail
"Useful though is, where it fails, Hay-on-Wye fills the gap.
Obscure book? Book published in 1933 that Amazon says is “Unavailable”?
They’re probably sitting on a shelf in Hay-on-Wye. Somewhere.
And here’s the thing – there’s no instant look-up online of where that
book is on the shelf. You have to go hunt, and that is part of the fun
(Hunting also means a busy post office, patronized by non-locals shipping
to themselves and friends the other books they couldn't resist buying
while searching for the one that might be in the stacks!)

Naturally there are niche shops.

Cranbourne Books & Stamps, of course, specializes in books relating to travel.

But as a fan of mysteries and detective novels, Yours Truly would make a beeline for Murder & Mayhem at 5 Lion St., especially after seeing David Ian Wilson's photo at left.

To see the ghost on the shop's door, click on the photo, but be forewarned there are more of David's wonderful shots of Hay-on-Wye at Panoramio (and a nice map, too.)

Book lovers arrive in droves the year round, but for two weeks each year at the end of May, Hay's usual population of 1900 swells to around 80,000 when the area becomes the scene of The Guardian's Literary Festival.

Oh, right...

The yarn bomber.

She lives in Hay-on-Wye and secretly "bombs" the town with crocheted flowers and other items like yarn leaves that nearly match the color of a tree trunk. Those she hangs low so they'll be less visible to adults but not to children, who she says 'are more aware of the things around them'.

Her blog, Yarn Bombing Hay-on-Wye, is a warm and fuzzy look at Hay-on-Wye that you won't find in tourism brochures.

Think local beautification project.

Spreading smiles and goodwill.

Nothing "eccentric" about that.

You might also find these links about Hay-on-Wye of interest:

~ Totally Booked Out (2006)

~ Baskerville Hall Hotel in Clyro Court

~ Murder and Mayhem Bookshop by Mandrake

~ Australian Carol Middleton's visit to Hay-on-Wye (2008)

~ Hay-on-Wye: Beyond the Long Tail by John aka Silversprite

Have a great week!

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Nina P. said...

What a town! And I love the yarn bomber. (smiles) Now there must be loads of pubs, coffee houses, benches and parks to take your purchases and find a place to sit and read. Murder and mayhem would be a place I'd visit too. A good mystery is always exciting. Thank you for sharing this quaint little town. Love and Light, Nina P

Cal said...

Didn't know that about Richard Booth and Hay. And the 'ghost' shop looks worth a visit. Thanks for the yarn bomber link too.

HereBeDragons said...

What a great look at a cute little town. Well done! I want to visit now...

Dustjacket Attic said...

Ah old bookstores just excite me. I would make a beeline for murder and mayhem too.

Nell Rose said...

This is great! I never knew that the village had so many bookshops! I would be in book heaven! lol! great post! Nell

JamaGenie said...

Thanks, Nell. And there you are, just an hour or so away by car and you've never been there. For shame, for shame. ;-}

btw, I don't know of another English village so totally devoted to books, but there's a used bookshop called Swithin's in Derbyshire or Yorkshire where villagers congregate, and another whose name I don't recall right now not far from Land's End. I really should tidy up my bookmarks and post a list of quirky bookshops, which would only be the dozens I've found by surfing. I'm sure there are hundreds more! ;D