Your bookshops #17 Bookcase

Bookcase and Bookends Carlisle are two places I've long wanted to visit, but not yet managed to get to, so when a Twitter friend offered to write about one of them I was over the moon. And am now more keen than ever to finally make the trip to Carlisle.

17-19 Castle Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8SY
Tel: 01228 544560
Published: 9th June, 2016

Bookcase sits nestled on Castle Street in Carlisle in the city's cultural quarter it's sort of equidistant opposite the cathedral and Tullie House museum (my second favourite place in Carlisle that's not a pub). I should be clear that is not just a book shop, it has an amazing classical record/CD section which is I understand is second to none.

I've been visiting Bookcase for around 30 years. In that time my tastes have changed quite considerably. Back in my late teens I would pop in almost on a weekly basis to add to my collection of secondhand classics – many of which I still own today – and never paying more than £1.50 for a book.

Nowadays I don't get there quite as much as I used to, but each time I do it's like being greeted by an old friend.

I defy anyone not to look up at the wonderful plasterwork in the ceiling and not think it's the height of bookshop grandeur. Below in the basement lies a rabbit warren lined with many thousands more books.

Since I was last in town Bookcase's sister shop, Bookends has also moved into the same building so you now have on one side of the door a bright new bookshop for bright new books. I had a look and it has all the you might expect and more.

But Bookcase is where my heart lies. It has incredibly precise sections and it really wouldn’t surprise me if Steve Matthews and his staff don’t know where each and every book can be located.

My purchases today illustrate exactly what I love about the shop. It satisfies my love of Ladybirds (How To Make Flying Models). I often manage to pick up a copy of a book I haven’t got, or that is in better condition than my existing book. But the main thing I love is its huge range of books on Cumbria, many of which are written by Steve and published by Bookcase/Bookends. For my second purchase, I have long had an bit of an obsession with Haweswater and Mardale village since the summer of 1989 (I think) when it was so dry you could walk through the street of the village that was submerged by the creation of the dam. Sarah Hall’s wonderful Haweswater brought that story vividly to life and The Dambuilders looks like a perfect accompaniment.

As bookshops go, it can’t get any better can it? Well it can. They now have a cafĂ© inside called ‘cakes and ale’. What more could you want?

I'm so grateful for this introduction to such a lovely bookshop, thank you for taking part. For those of you who – like me – aren't so lucky as to live within easy access of the north, this reviewer's also visited a bookshop in south Wales.


  1. Thank you for this lovely piece about Bookcase and the whole picture now that we have Bookends and Cakes and Ale there. We really appreciate you spreading the word

    1. It's a pleasure, I was really pleased to be able to feature you in this guest section and hope to visit you myself very soon.


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