Hay-on-Wye, or Y Gelli, is an unusual borderland town on the edge of the spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park. Until the arrival of bookshops its primary function was as a cattle market, where farmers came in from surrounding areas to buy and sell stock. They drove in sheep and ponies from the hills through the narrow streets of the town. Now it clearly deserves its title of Book Town, as there are numerous bookshops and also an increasing number of artisans trading in the town. Furthermore, Hay is a Walkers are Welcome town and has an annual Walking Festival, as well as the world famous Literary Festival and a Bike Festival, so tourism is now embedded in the town’s make up; thousands come to enjoy these events. Hay was at one time a major crossing point of the River Wye and has had a turbulent history: Hay castles (there were two) are reminders of this period of repression and conflict during the early Norman period. In the 19thC the town settled to an agrarian existence. The arrival of the railway from Hereford in 1864 provided the wherewithal to transport local produce east; it was known as the Egg and Bacon line! What makes Hay-on-Wye so appealing is the exceptional diversity of landscapes, from the serenity of the Wye to the etched outlines of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. There’s also a rich rural culture; take for example the writings of the Reverend Francis Kilvert, or the photography of Alfred Watkins about the area. In this book, several walks feature Hay itself, but there are as many in the Golden Valley, a few miles to the east. It is one of the quietest corners of Herefordshire and the foothills leading to the Black Mountains are magical. Almost each and every settlement has a castle mound and Norman church situated nearby, a reflection of harsher medieval times. Now these places are sleepy enclaves, many of which have good footpath networks that are walked, but not by many. Hay-on-Wye is a new Kittiwake destination, and more than worth a visit!