Our editor Caroline explores the book-loving town of Hay on Wye and shares top tips on where to stay, shop and eat...
We were recently invited to stay at Westbrook Court, an architect-designed B&B which overlooks the Wye Valley in Wales. The B&B is a short drive away from Hay-on-Wye, the quaint market town, which lies on the border of Wales and England, and is well known for it's literary credentials and Hay festival which takes place every year around May-June time.
There are five suites at Westbrook, separate from the main house occupied by owner Kari and her family, and each one is decorated differently. Ours had a nod to the local town's love of reading with the fun wallpaper and small selection of vintage books on display. The room had a mezzanine area, meaning it felt more substantial than a regular B&B, as it wasn't just a bedroom, it had a living space with a small sofa and TV. The bathroom was luxurious with a roll top bath and large shower, with some deliciously scented local toiletries to try (& even buy!)
We were able to spend some time on our little deck, enjoying the early evening sun and the stunning views of the valley and the of the farmhouse, where breakfast was served the next morning. Kari prides herself in using local produce and suppliers and it was truly delicious.
A short drive from Westbrook Court, will deliver you into the town of Hay, which is a haven for independent shop fans. Our first stop was Days Household Goods. A large store filled with utilitarian style goods for the home, reminiscent of London's Labour and Wait. It was styled beautifully, with old wooden pigeon-hole style shelving and tongue and groove panelling, a must for kitchenalia fans.
A quick stop off in Flow, which appeared to be a shop of two halves. One half stocked outdoor wear and accessories, while the other side was filled with stationery, gifts and accessories. As a shop it seemed a little unsure of it's identity, but still worth popping your head in if you are passing by.
Of course you can't spend a day in Hay without browsing at least one bookshop. The ones we popped into were total bibliophile treasure troves. Both old and new books sat side by side, in shelves as well as stacked on the floor. The vintage books fed my photo-prop-hunting addiction with their beautifully illustrated covers, well-worn exteriors and gently yellowed pages. We even ate in a bookshop! At the back of Booths bookshop is a large cafe, perfect for stopping off for lunch or tea and cake.
Our final stop was the dreamy Old Electric Shop which can be found on Broad Street. Another large shop, it feels almost like an indoor flea market as there are various partners who sell their wares within the store. The focus is mainly furniture, homeware and lighting, but there was a little bit of vintage fashion thrown in for good measure. The shop also have a cafe where they serve seasonal organic dishes. It is also licensed and occasionally they host cocktail evenings!
A few other shops to visit while in Hay include: Eighteen Rabbit - a store selling ethical and fair trade goods, and who also stock 91 Magazine amongst other indie titles. Llewelyn and Company is the place to go for French antique furniture and decorative items. For eating, while we didn't get to try either out, we heard great things about both St John's Place and Tomatitos Tapas Bar. Hay on Wye is a small town, so probably a day is enough to explore it, but if you are staying longer there is of course lots of stunning scenery to see with the Brecon Beacons on your doorstep, and lots of outdoor activities to try. Westbrook Court have great listings on their website for things to see and do.
Thanks goes to Westbrook Court for putting us up for the night and allowing us to explore this beautiful part of the UK.
All photos: Caroline Rowland