A weekend in Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli): Hay Castle
Thirteenth century home to the self-styled 'King of Hay'
Photos and report by Mike Slocombe, May 2006
Hay's strategic position on the Wales/England border and the county boundaries of Brecknockshire and Radnorshire has resulted in the town's castle being the focus of many battles over the centuries.
The castle was destroyed by the English King John in 1216, and not long after the Welsh Prince Llewellyn was busy setting fire to the place.
Walking up to the castle. Slowly.
The castle was listed as defensible against the Welsh in 1403, with ownership passing to the Earls of Stafford (later Dukes of Buckingham. Further damage was suffered during the conflicts of the 1460s.
The last Duke to own the castle managed to remodel the keep before being executed by Henry VIII in 1521.
In the 1660s James Boyle of Hereford built a new mansion on the site, with most of the curtain wall being demolished during the Civil War.
Later owners didn't like the wall much either, with more of the ancient stonework sent crashing to the ground as part of a scheme to to improve the views from the mansion.
As often is the way around these parts, the place slowly fell apart over the following centuries before being restored in c1910, with the Wellington family moving into the house.
Steps up to the Jacobean mansion.
The eastern part of the castle was gutted by fire in 1939, and in 1961 the near ruinous fortress was bought by the somewhat eccentric bibliophile Richard Booth.
Booth soon set about restoring the castle and sorting out its crumbling thirteenth century tower and decrepit Jacobean mansion.
Books for sale in the castle grounds
With a keen on eye on getting the town on the map, Booth proclaimed Hay an Independent Kingdom, and crowned himself King and Ruler of the new state on - appropriately enough - the 1st, April 1977.
Viewing showing the derelict section of castle.
After opening a used bookstore in the old fire station in the middle of the village, Booth helped Hay become known as a world-class centre for books. Other bookstores followed in various outbuildings around the castle.
Although the western part of the castle was gutted by a serious fire in 1979, Hay - and its yearly Book Festival - has become famous, bringing tourism and income to the sleepy town.
MORE CASTLE VIEWS
Looking from the castle entrance on to Castle Steet.
Rows of books for sale.
Bookshelves and castle.
Honesty box in castle grounds.
Looking down to the street from the motte.
Bookstores are scattered around the various outbuildings of the castle.
View from street entrance.
The impressive Jacobean chimneys.
The castle from the street as the light fades on a May evening.
War monument and castle, taken in the Welsh rain.