10 of the best indie bookshops in the UK and Ireland

Who doesn't love their local bookshop? From Aladdin's caves to secondhand emporiums, we share the independent book stores that have special places in our hearts. 


Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness

Leakey's Bookshop is a haven for those that appreciate books with a little bit of history. Nestled on an unassuming street in Inverness, the shelves in this beautiful original Scottish Gaelic church are stacked with well-thumbed vintage books. There's a wood-burning stove in the center of the shop, which is full of nooks, crannies, and lovely hidey holes to read any newly found bounty. I love the element of surprise when shopping here – aim to go with time to browse, and you'll always end up leaving laden with second-hand tales.

Donna Mackay, website team

Whitby Bookshop

The Whitby Book Shop, Whitby

A good bookshop for me is a place packed to the brim with must-reads, full of atmosphere with a decent creak in the floorboards. And The Whitby Book Shop is just the place. The entrance room displays a variety of new and bestselling books as well plenty of curated titles exploring local interest. Kids can escape through an arched doorway into a treasure trove of children’s books while a beautiful curved (and more importantly creaky) staircase takes you to another room bursting with books. And if you are visiting, make sure to buy a copy of Dracula – Whitby’s most notorious resident.

Sarah McKenna, website team


Skoob Books, London

I love bookshops that are a labyrinth of stories, sprinkled with a helping of dust. For me it should be a place where I can wander and browse an enormous collection before snapping one up for a bargain. Luckily, such a place exists tucked away on Marchmont Street in London. Skoob Books is a wonderful place, with fantastic staff and a soothing atmosphere.

Nicky Borasinski, digital team


News From Nowhere, Liverpool

News From Nowhere on Bold Street in Liverpool is my favourite indie bookshop because browsing its shelves when I first moved to Liverpool in my late teens felt like I’d discovered a bookshop that was designed just for me. Run as a not-for-profit workers’ co-op, it stands for causes I believe in and does great work as a community hub for like-minded people. I really admire how it only stocks titles that its staff believe “empower and inspire people to make positive changes to the world”, and how it gets involved in local political causes.

Jonathan Deamer, audience team


The Bookseller Crow, London

Named after one of its owners, The Bookseller Crow is a bookish Aladdin's Cave found in the heart of Crystal Palace. Their claim on stocking 'the widest range of titles south of the river' is pretty accurate, and I particularly love the fact that they stock some lesser-known books and magazines from the US, as well as a decent range of graphic novels and comics. If that wasn't enough, they also host regular author events and a monthly book club.

Indira Birnie, audience team


Octavia's Bookshop, Cirencester

In Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester the windows are always glinting, the cushions are plumped and the selection of picture books are more technicolour than a trip to Oz on Boxing Day.

Andrea Bowie, children's team


Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Galway

If you ever find yourself in Galway City, then I urge you to check out Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. It offers a massive range of new and secondhand books, and the selection is really something I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. A favourite among the university students in the area, Charlie’s is a browsers paradise – teetering towers of books arranged in the most delightful categories, meaning that you never leave without at least one book you never would have considered before. As a student in Galway I spent hours of my time there, and I always make sure to pay it a visit when I find myself back there.

Savannah McGowan, audience team


Bookmarks, London

London’s literary quarter is bursting with wonderful little specialist bookshops. You can expand your reading in any direction, from the occult at Treadwell’s, to LGBT literature at Gay’s The Word. But my favourite without a doubt is the delightfully pun-fully named socialist bookshop, Bookmarks. It’s muddled and dusty, a place to be explored at leisure. Here you’ll find reportage and commentary on coups in South America, the NHS, the Arab Spring, women’s rights, the trade union movement, gender politics, anthropology, the arrival of the Windrush, and so much more, plus a large stock of essays and pamphlets. The staff are keen and helpful and always ready for a chat or debate. It’s just the perfect place to engage your political self.

Zainab Juma, Audience team


Goldsboro Books, London

I won’t lie, I like a first edition. I haven’t got many, it can get expensive once you start getting into it, but for some books in your life there can sometimes be no better way to feel how special they are than by searching out the very first copy of them to have existed. The secondhand and collectible bookshops on and around Charing Cross Road have been a happy haunt of mine for years and the rather lovely Cecil Court has a fine selection all of its own. But some of them can be rather imposing, the kind of place where you feel as though you’re not meant to touch the dusty shelves and can often get a shock when you ask how much books cost. Nestled amongst them, and in fact bursting to prominence with its recent extension into shops either side is Goldsboro Books which specialises in modern signed first editions. Owner David Headley is knowledgeable, passionate and, once you get to know him, hilarious and full of great stories. The shop is a pleasure to browse in and I’ve picked up not just lovely books but brilliant recommendations from him and the other staff over the years. On those rare occasions when I find myself with a few minutes to kill in town I almost always head over to Goldsboro.

Will Rycroft,  brand team


Artwords, London

Artwords is a visual and tactile delight wrapped in four small walls on Broadway Market. The contemporary visual arts bookseller blankets its two petite shop tables (and its walls) with books to fawn over; alluring finishes, palettes of colour, pages to pull you deep into design, photography, architecture and music. It stocks magazines you’ve never heard of, from cultures you can only dream of. You can never just pop in, best to grab a coffee from Pavilion next door before you  head on in… you could be some time.  

Caroline Maddison, children's team

Where’s your favourite independent bookshop? Let us know on Twitter @PenguinUKBooks

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