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 of the UK’s best bookshops. And, even better, they’re all independent! So, next time you’re in Derbyshire, Somerset, Cornwall, and beyond, check in and visit some of these gems.
Did your favourite not make the list? Give them a shout out in the comments below.
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.
Image Credit: beardedbadgerpublishing.com
Nottingham is home to a rich history of rebel writers, including Lord Byron, Alan Sillitoe, Stanley Middleton, and D.H. Lawrence.
So it’s appropriate that it’s also home to Five Leaves Bookshop, one of the UK’s most prominent radical bookshops. 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 – just opposite the council house. It’s a pretty secretive location, but one that Five Leaves loyalists are more than familiar with by now.
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 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.
Imagined Things is the best 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.
Harrogate’s premier independent bookshop 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 also 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:
I can’t wait to visit this place. How many bookshops have this sort of character and independent spirit?! I love it.
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 indie bookshop 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, really welcoming to new readers, and a fine example for all comic book stores everywhere.
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.
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.
Last, but certainly not least, is Falmouth Bookseller.
Based on the cobbled streets of the Cornish town, Falmouth’s most popular bookshop is a wonderful place.
It’s 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 – as well as some local poetry.
Falmouth Bookseller is laid out in a really welcoming way, with genres clear and easy to navigate, and it oozes class. It’s one of those classic bookshops that’s cozy and welcoming – and I’ve spent many an hour scouring the shelves for hidden gems.
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!