For a thousand years, this remarkable structure has been part of the landscape. Part Norman, part Jacobean and part Victorian, Hay Castle has been a home to invaders, patriots’ citadel, country manor and a world-famous bookshop.
The motte, rising 3m to a summit 20m across near the parish church south-west of the town, is probably the site of the original Hay on Wye Castle, 'castello de haia', which is mentioned in 1121. It was probably built by William Revel, one of Bernard de Newmarch's knights. Later in the 12th century, a more commanding site to the north-east was utilised for a large oval ringwork 85m by 70m.
Matilda de Braose is said to have built the stone keep in c1200, but it is perhaps more likely that she added the gateway arch to a tower built in the 1180s. She died of starvation at the command of King John, who burnt the castle and town of Hay in 1216 while attempting to suppress the rebellion of Giles and Reginald de Braose.
They were burnt again by Llywelyn Fawr in 1231 and had to be rebuilt by Henry III. In 1232 and 1237 he granted the townsfolk of Hay the right to collect a special toll to pay for walling in the town with stone. The castle was captured by Prince Edward in 1264 and by Simon de Montfort's forces in 1265.
The remains of the castle include a four-storey keep and a beautiful arched gateway. The multi-gabled Jacobean manor was severely damaged by fire in 1939, and again in 1977. Remnants of the 18th century formal gardens and 19th century terraced gardens can still be seen.
The present day castle in the heart of Hay-on-Wye - sometimes called the Town of Books - site of the Hay Literary Festival, which for ten days every year attracts the most exciting writers, thinkers and artists to inspire and entertains hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Building on this creative tradition, Hay Castle has taken on a new life - as a major centre for culture, arts and education.