Words and Photography by Sam Hardwick
Beams, banisters and bookcases. The distinct aroma of old ink and aged pages. Floorboards moaning with the history of every person to wander upon its surface. Throw these into a mix and then to me, you have a bookshop with atmosphere and character. Time and time again I have found myself drawn to one particular shop. Richard Booth's Bookshop, located in the little town of Hay-On-Wye.
Hay-On-Wye, on the England/Wales border, is world renowned for the endless bookshops that line its streets. The first few times I visited, I felt like I was navigating a labyrinth of lanes. I still get a little disorientated at times, but it makes book hunting all the more fun! Geared with a modest sized rucksack, I traverse from the car park, hopping shop to shop.
Each possible route through the town is crammed with book, coffee and antique shops. Regardless of the route taken, my start and end point stay the same. Check out the maps above, showing you where I park and the location of Richard Booth's Bookshop.
Upon entering Richard Booth's Bookshop you're welcomed by a view down the length of the shop. Customers browsing different shelves, sections, and table displays. There is a more than healthy balance of new and second hand books to sift through. Shop clerks happy to answer any enquiries and lend a helping hand.
Make your way down the tables, passing the book filled glass cases, and you'll come to a few wooden steps leading down under the shop. These steps take you into a whole different scene. Low ceiling, stone floor slabs, and narrow passages between the many book shelves. If you like sci-fi and horror this is the most perfect setting for browsing the genres. I personally love the piles of books yet to be sorted that cover parts of the floor.
Explored the ground floor, wandered the basement, now it's time to check out upstairs. Follow the grand wooden staircase up and around to the first floor to be greeted by yes, more books!
The inviting tunnel above guides you towards a lounge area, with very comfy seats for you relax and read your possible purchases.
At the time of my visit there was a beautiful display celebrating book binding, with a very special version of Charles Darwin's 'On The Origin of Species'.
I should also mention the very generous sized cafe that resides on the ground floor. This bookshop seems Tardis like! The cafe serves up great coffee and other drinks, as well as tasty food!
Richard Booth's Bookshop, a much needed visit to maintain a lasting lifestyle of book reading.
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