From a young age, bookshops fascinated me. I loved being able to browse the genres and authors and live out my very own Beauty and the Beast moment of being surrounded by books and even, during one particular visit to New York, be pushed around the room on a wooden ladder Belle style.
As I am from the North East of England, I spend much of my time seeking out homely, independent retailers both to get my fix of leather-bound loveliness and to support my local fellow bookworms. Now I’m not saying that buying from a chain store is negative in any way, but I love the idea of browsing the shelves of a shop that someone has put their blood, sweat and tears into and chatting to them about their recommendations of which there are always many.
One day I too hope to be one of these people and open my very own bookshop in my Grandma’s name, the woman who introduced me to some amazing books and to whom I am forever grateful.
Here are my top 5 book shops in the North of England, please take the time to visit them if you are ever in the area, I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
DRAKE The Bookshop, Stockton on Tees
Stockton on Tees is a modern town situated in the Tees Valley area. Despite its industrial history, granite walkways and fountains that change colour, many hidden treasures can be found up the quiet side streets and hidden yards. Drake the Bookshop is one such treasure.
From the moment you step into this stunning shop, you know that you are in a cosy, family environment from the smell of coffee and cake in the corner to the smile on Richard Drake’s face as he greets you. The shop is family run and is a true Cinderella story. Richard and his wife Mel started as a small start-up business on Stockton High Street in the Enterprise Arcade which features a range of pop-up shops and from there built their empire.
The shop is so warm and comforting that you could easily pass away the day chatting to the lovely proprietors, getting excellent recommendations, listening to the huge variety of author talks and browsing the beautifully organised shelves. If you are ever in the Teesside area, have a wander along Silver Street and see for yourself.
Barter Books, Alnwick
I have loved Alnwick since I was a little girl. Set on the beautiful Northumberland coastline it is a true destination for any bookworm, especially those Harry Potter fans among us who may like to visit the castle which featured in many scenes from the films and was also featured in Downton Abbey among other television dramas.
Upon entering the town, you can find this wonderful book shop which is by far the quirkiest yet cosiest I have ever visited. Set in the old train station, when you walk through the door you are instantly hit by that wonderful smell of old books, cakes and a roaring fire.
The shop offers a huge range of second hand books which are hand-selected by staff and beautifully looked after. As you browse the huge shelves full of old classics and new gems, an elegant train set passes around the shop above your head to remind you of the history behind this wonderful establishment. With a café, an honesty book for hot drinks and biscuits and the welcoming tones of the staff, you could easily spend the day here perusing your many options.
My favourite thing about this shop is that with arm chairs and sofas dotted about the place, you can have a seat and read the first few pages of your potential purchases which for me is a huge bonus and allows me to get a feel for the book before I buy. I know that I have spent many an hour, and many a pound, in this treasure of a store.
The Keel Row Bookshop, North Shields
Situated on the River Tyne at the coast and known for its association with the early days of railways, North Shields has always been a tourist destination for history enthusiasts and ice cream lovers alike. Established in 1980, this stunning bookshop was renovated in 2006 by the new owner and now stocks a wonderful selection of second hand and antique books.
From the moment you walk in, you instantly feel transported into the library of Hogwarts as you pass through the stunning selection of leather-bound titles, bursting shelves of classics and piles of books patiently awaiting some shelf space.
The owners, Anthony and Alice, and their staff make you feel instantly at home and for those History buffs among you their keen eye for North East heritage is apparent throughout the store. An array of maps and prints are also available which add to the quirky feel of this truly delightful bookshop.
As an additional offer, you can also have your books valued here which initially I must admit seemed an unnecessary service for myself as I tend to hoard all of my books, however when I left university and have a huge array of expensive history texts I found it very useful.
If you have any books like this, it is definitely worth getting them valued as in my eyes, it allowed me to use that money to buy more books that I hadn’t read.
The Whitby Bookshop, Whitby
If you love horror and all things Goth, you will surely have heard of Whitby. Found in the Borough of Scarborough, this quaint seaside town has long been renowned for its spooky Abbey, high cliffs and even a Viking attack! I’ve always been a huge fan of Whitby as a town.
It offers everything that I love: the sea, great food, cosy pubs, sweet shops that make your teeth drop out of sight, horror in the form of Dracula and a fantastic bookshop. This shop offers a luxurious selection of both new and second hand books across a huge range of genres and has, due to the town’s links with horror and all things gory, an enviable collection of horror novels and non-fiction titles. Browsing the shelves, you can easily pick up an old company of the Bram Stoker classic while at the same time finding the latest new paperback.
What makes this shop truly special is that all of these literary treasures are packed into a stunning shop with a spiral staircase to make any stately home owner jealous which even has the added creaky sound for a real spooky atmosphere, it truly is worth a visit. If you ask politely, they might even let you fly down the stairs like Mary Poppins.