Your bookshops #5 Scarthin Books

One of the most-recommended bookshops that's not yet appeared on this blog is Scarthin Books, so I'm particularly grateful to freelance editor Anne Grange for taking the time to go bookshopping and share the fun with us here.

Scarthin Books
The Promenade, Scarthin, Cromford, Derbyshire, DE4 3QF
Tel: (01629) 823272
Published: 23rd September, 2015

I’ve been a visitor to Scarthin Books in Cromford since I was a child in Derby, but when I grew up and moved to Sheffield, Scarthin became one of my favourite Derbyshire destinations. A day trip into the Peak District wouldn’t be complete without a browse around Scarthin’s unique shelves of new and second-hand books, including a whole room of titles for children and young adults.

The shop takes its name from the narrow road it’s perched on, between a large duck pond and a steep wooded hill with houses perched on its side. Cromford is a pretty village, just along the A6 from the bright lights of inland resort Matlock Bath. Cromford is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, where Sir Richard Arkwright established his first cotton mill in 1771, on the banks of the River Derwent, but it’s quiet now, a perfect place for browsing for books.

Behind a curved door on the first floor of Scarthin Books is a café with a garden, serving tasty vegetarian and vegan food. One of my favourite things about the café is that it doubles up as the recipe book section of the shop, so you can browse for new cookery ideas while waiting for lunch. The café is a very clever idea, because a true book-aholic can stay in the shop all day, rounding off their shopping trip with a large coffee and a slice of cake. A room off the garden contains foreign language books, and you can also have a discrete tinkle on the piano while you’re there.

I arrived at the café just in time to order a slice of vegan chocolate cake and a coffee, and to get dietary inspiration from the latest issue of Vegan Life magazine, which I picked from the well-stocked magazine rack, especially for people who like to read and eat at the same time.

Earlier this year, Scarthin hit the headlines. There are approximately 100,000 books on the three floors in the shop, which was formerly owner David Mitchell’s house. Every wall (apart from some in the café) is completely lined with bookshelves which have steadily crept into every former bedroom, attic and even the bathroom of the house since the shop was established in 1974. David Mitchell astutely managed to attach builders’ supports to the walls of the shop, but the weight of all the books now means that four steel columns have to be installed in the shop to bear all the weight and stop the shop from collapsing in the future. It’s a testament to Scarthin’s legendary status that they managed to crowd-fund £10,375, and they only asked for £2,000! Hopefully now, the future of Scarthin Books is safe for the next 40 years.

Apart from stocking books in every category you could think of, Scarthin’s charm comes from its quirkiness, developed over 41 years. I love the display of 1980s hardback telephone books and the dolls’ house version of the shop on the landing. Books teeter in piles, and some sections, such as second-hand children’s books, have to be squeezed into or reached by steps.

The choice of books sometimes makes a short visit to Scarthin rather overwhelming, so if you’re in a hurry, just browse one or two rooms – there are 13 in total! On this quick visit, late on a Monday afternoon, I bought a lovely hardback edition of The Un-forgotten Coat by acclaimed children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce. I also gave into temptation over Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which looks like an intriguing read.

I’m sure I’ll be back at Scarthin Books very soon. I hope to have cleared some space on my bookshelves by then, otherwise I’ll be in danger of having to open my own bookshop.

Another great guest post, thank you Anne. In her picture captions Anne mentions the bargain racks to either side of the front door. Every books is 50p and there's an honesty box should you visit when the bookshop is shut. I love such details and am pleased to know that should I visit Cromford out of hours I'll still be able to feed my reading habit.

To find out more about Anne, who's also a creative writing tutor for Derbyshire County Council and is currently editing her second novel (which is set in Derbyshire and features Scarthin Books), click here.

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