What bookshops should we visit in the UK?


Call me crazy, but I actually like January. I like resolutions and setting goals. I like the cold weather and gloomy days (hot cocoa, anyone?). But most of all, I love that January means I get to start planning my warmer weather trips.

I was going to wait to write this post until after we’d booked our flights, but that important detail continues to elude us due to external factors. (Like how we still don’t have an exact date for Luke’s phd viva. The best we’ve gotten from his examiners is “Circa April 2013.” I kid you not. “Circa.” Annoying, yes.) Thankfully, all the uncertainty hasn’t shaken our faith that we are indeed going to England sometime in March until sometime in May. And so I’m announcing it now, ticket (not) in hand, because I would really like your advice on a very crucial site-seeing question: Which independent bookstores should I visit in England?

outdoor-books-honor-payHay-on-Wye has long been on my list of places to visit. The tiny village is famous for its bookstores, of which it boasts over thirty. It is essentially a village of books.
wenlockbooksWenlock Books is quite near my in-laws’ stomping grounds, and yet I’ve never been to this quaint and well-stocked bookstore that gets rave reviews from nearly everyone who goes.  (You know what I’m realizing. It only tells half the story when I post pictures of the bookstore and not the picturesque little streets they sit on.)muchwenlockThere. That’s better. See what I mean? How does a bookstore not thrive in an environment like this?

mrbsshopmontageI will most certainly be revisiting Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. Have you been? You must go! It is simply the most delightful place to spend an afternoon in the entire city of Bath. Forget the Roman Baths, forget the Royal Crescent (unless it’s a rare sunny day, in which case, go. Soak up some vitamin D immediately). But otherwise, head to this bookstore straight away. It celebrates all that is tingly, warm fuzzy, and pleasurable that is reading.

bookbargebookshopFinally, I will be tracking down the Book Barge, which I’ve featured on this space a few times before and whose mission I absolutely adore. Mostly I’m looking forward to sitting down with owner Sarah Henshaw and asking her “How in the world did you pull it off?”

Now I turn to you, dear readers. What are some of your favorite bookshops to visit in the UK? Where should I go? I’m at a particular loss when it comes to London, so please, be generous with suggestions.

  1. Baggins is (I believe) either the biggest or second-biggest bookshop in the UK. It is a forest of delights and I could literally spend all day there if I had the time! It is in Rochester in Kent, which is a beautiful town in itself, all cobbled streets and tea shops. Definitely worth a visit :).

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