IT is the headquarters from which he famously plotted his rise to royalty but now the selfproclaimed ‘King of Hay’ is selling his beloved castle.

Richard Booth has surveyed his ‘kingdom’ and its worthy subjects from his fortress on the mound for more than 30 years.

From planning his next move in the fight to promote the second- hand book, to entertaining an array of famous friends, it has become a landmark synonymous with the origins of Hayon- Wye’s literary success.

So it is with a heavy heart that the well-known bookseller, now in his 70s, has decided his glorious reign must come to an end.

“The reason I want to sell is that my role is now the kind of founding father of the International Organisation of Book Towns,” he said. “I am very, very sad to lose the castle but the full theory of book towns is more important.”

Having spread his ‘book town’ model to several European countries, his sights these days are firmly on his global commitments.

At its height the ethos saw him own seven bookshops in Hay turning over £500,000 a year and led to the sale of ‘the most famous bookshop in the world’, Booth’s Bookshop, for a figure close to £1 million.

His passion for the trade will never wane, he insists, but the focus of his work is perhaps less relevant to Hay than it once was.

He also claims tourism locally is no longer promoted very well and says he could put it right, had he the chance.

“I’ve also decided by divine right to appoint myself the leader of the Welsh Assembly,” he teases.

“I know I can promote Wales 200 times better.”

In the meantime the site itself, which dates back to the 1400s and was partially damaged in the civil war and latterly in two separate 20th century fires, is on the market with estate agent McCartney’s for £2 million.

It comprises a castle keep, a Norman gate, the main Jacobean manor house, a cottage, various outbuildings, the original stables and three shops.

McCartney’s senior consultant Ryan Williams said: “It’s an incredible opportunity for the right buyer. It is an iconic building in the centre of Hay.”

But despite the move Mr Booth’s base will always be at his home in nearby Cusop, which has been in his family since the 19th century.

And the legacy which began with the castle’s purchase in the 1960s – and brought Hay its own passports, a currency, the occasional scandal and, of course, the second hand book – will surely not be forgotten easily either.

“My country house is my country house, but my interest in life is book towns,” he says. “And that has been my life.”