7 Quirky Independent Bookshops in the UK

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When was the last time you visited independent bookshops? Perhaps it has been a while, maybe even never. 

But really – you’re missing out. The UK hosts some of the most vibrant, eclectic bookshops around.

I’ve narrowed these down to just seven independent bookshops.

Is your favourite on this list? Got a must-visit to recommend? Give them a shout out in the comments below.

(Belper, Derbyshire)

Bearded Badger Books is a teeny, tiny bookish spot in the Derbyshire town of Belper. It’s great.

Based in the incredibly quirky 1924 Building, it’s a charming little retail space with a whole host of new and used books.

Following immediate success as independent publisher Bearded Badger Publishing in 2020 (with books like Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel), Paul Handley – the bearded badger himself – struck out into the retail space in April 2021. 

As a fairly new bookshop in a brilliant retail space, I’d strongly encourage you to visit if you’re in the area.

(Nottingham)

Nottingham is home to a rich history of rebel writers, including Lord Byron, Alan Sillitoe, Stanley Middleton, and D.H. Lawrence.

It’s also home to Five Leaves Bookshop, a self-styled radical and independent bookshop. Five Leaves stocks a range of political and literary writing, in addition to the more mainstream fiction you’ll find in a certain well-known chain.

Blink and you’ll miss it – Five Leaves Bookshop can be found down a side-street on Nottingham’s Long Row – opposite the council house. It’s a secretive location, but one that Five Leaves loyalists are more than familiar with by now.

We are radical in that the shop supports those who want to change the world for the better. This is reflected in the books we stock and the events we promote.

Independent publishing, independent thinking, independent writing. That’s good enough for us. We pay the Living Wage.”

Five Leaves Bookshop

(Watchet, Somerset)

Independent Bookshop Harbour Community Bookshop
Credit: watchetcommunitybookshop.co.uk/

Next on this list of fine independent bookshops is one I came across entirely by accident whilst visiting my family.

Harbour Community Bookshop can be found in a small harbour village in Somerset called Watchet. Interestingly, for the literary buffs amongst you, Watchet plays host to the statue of the Ancient Mariner – the mariner of Coleridge’s epic poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Coleridge’s cottage is also just a short drive away in Nether Stowey. There you can sample the finest tea & cakes, whilst sitting under the tree in which Coleridge allegedly wrote This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison. It’s a hoot.

Watchet’s bookshop itself is a humble place, packed the rafters with a range of used books donated by locals. You’ll find fiction, non-fiction, children’s books – pretty much anything.

And let’s be honest, is there anything more exciting than a bookshop with rotating stock? The not knowing what hidden gems you might find on any given visit.

It’s also worth mentioning that, since opening in 2009, Harbour Community Bookshop has raised almost £200,000 for good causes. Not bad for a bookshop way off the beaten track. Much of its profits go into charitable work, community initiatives, and – of course – maintenance of the shop. 

Its appeal is primarily in the location, but if you happen to be in the area, do pop by Watchet, grab a cuppa & a used book, and take in the sights of the harbour.

Independent Bookshop Imagined Things
Credit: imaginedthings.co.uk

(Harrogate, Yorkshire)

Imagined Things is my favourite bookshop that I’ve never visited.

But, rest-assured, it’s the number one bookshop on my to-visit list.

Located in the beautiful Harrogate, famous for Yorkshire Tea, Taylor’s of Harrogates and, of course, Betty’s Tearooms, Imagined Things is the ultimate cozy bookshop for readers.

Imagined Things boasts a wide range of books, from the latest commercial and literary fiction, to YA novels and children’s books.

Plus merch. Loads of bookish merch.

Imagined Things run author events on a regular basis, promoting homegrown talent from the local area.

Oh – they also have a bookshop fish tank (because why not?!), a bookshop dragon called Fable, AND their own bookshop poem:

At Imagined Things we see
The world a little bit differently…
We’re proudly independent, one of a kind,
Delighted to be different with many wonders to find.
Books that never run out of charge,
Stories that stay with you forever little and large.
Books to order the very next day (everything being ok),
Plus cards, gifts and stationery to do things your way.
Always improving, honest and fair,
A local bookshop that will always care.
A world without bookshops would be so sad indeed,
So let us cater for your every reading, writing, stationery need!

Imagined Things' Bookshop Poem

I can’t wait to visit this place. How many bookshops have this sort of character and independent spirit?! I love it.

(Nottingham)

Independent Bookshop Page 45
Credit: page45.com

Love your comics, manga, and graphic novels? 

Look no further than Page 45 in Nottingham – a veritable trove of comic book goodness.

Aside from Leeds’ OK Comics (which is also an excellent place worth visiting) Page 45 is a really unique spot.

Here you’ll find one of the richest collections of comics and graphic novels in the UK. Haven’t got what you’re looking for? No problem, the folks at Page 45 are more than happy to help you try to get hold of a copy on order.

They’re friendly, welcoming to new readers, and a fine example for all comic book stores everywhere.

Independent Bookshop Scarthin Books
Credit: scarthinbooks.com

(Cromford, Derbyshire)

Scarthin has a great reputation up and down the country. I know people who will travel just to visit the bookshop.

And in the heart of Derbyshire, it’s no surprise why. 

Independent Bookshops Scarthin Books outside

Cromford's bookshop, not far from Matlock Bath, is surrounded by picturesque scenery and some great pubs.

The bookshop itself is pretty spectacular too! Boasting an excellent range of books, Scarthin has something for everyone.

You can even have afternoon tea inside, surrounded by books.

In fact, it might just be the most beautiful bookshop on this list.

Independent Bookshop Falmouth Bookseller
Credit: falmouthbookseller.co.uk

(Falmouth, Cornwall)

Last, but certainly not least, is Falmouth Bookseller.

Based on the cobbled streets of a Cornish town, is a wonderful bookshop.

It’s also where I bought my first copy of The Lord of the Rings – which I promptly devoured from cover-to-cover over the course of a Cornwall holiday.

It’s laid out in a really welcoming way, with genres clear and easy to navigate.

Falmouth Bookseller is one of those classic archetypical bookshops. Cozy and welcoming, I could scour the shelves for hours.

Nearby, Falmouth has some great cafés, pubs, and other independent restaurants. It’s also a short ferry ride away from St. Mawes – a quiet Cornish seaside village.

For an even greater (but not exhaustive) list, check out the incredible A-Z Directory on indiebookshops.com, showcasing almost 900 UK independent bookshops!

Which independent bookshops do you love?
Let me know in the comments below!

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