Wednesday 27 April 2016

My Northern Bookshop Adventure

***You know the drill by now, this week I'll give you a run-down of the various bookshop gems encountered during my bookshop crawl, come back in future weeks to find out more about the individual places. They're worth your effort. Promise.***

A month or so ago, a bookshop contacted me on Twitter inviting me to visit them. This happens every now and then, encouraging me to move that particular place up the must-visit list, and has eventually prompted me to enjoy some great days out.

This time the invitation was different. As well as asking me to come and visit their bookshop, the bookseller was also inviting me to visit six of their neighbours. They'd suggested a route, a date – Shakespeare Day – and even offered to put me up for the night because their bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees was a bit of a way from my home.

The email arrived at the perfect time. I had been struggling to decide where to go for a bookshop crawl for the Bookseller's Association's Bard A Bag Day and was also very aware of how unbalanced my north/south coverage is. I accepted the invitation and set off on the 300-mile drive north.

First stop was the loveliest bed and breakfast I've ever stayed in, which had been recommended by its local bookshop. This blog isn't about hospitality, but if any of you are ever looking to stay in Ripon I suggest giving Box Tree Cottages a call.

The following day, arriving at 9.05am, I wasn't the first customer through the door at The Little Ripon Bookshop and it's easy to see why it would be popular. A bright, colourful and very friendly place, with the bookseller wearing a home-made Tudor ruff (he claims his daughter insisted), this is a bookshop to have fun in. The bookseller and I explored the Shakespeare insult generator, talked bookshops and the Gruffalo and I bought a book inspired by the non-Bard side of their window: Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. I also bought a book flower.

Next up was Castle Hill Bookshop in Richmond, which had a Shakespearean-themed window of bookshop-made literary quote bunting. Located – obviously – almost next door to a large castle, this stop is very proud of its Yorkshire home, with the county or country life celebrated in every section of the bookshop. It had me wanting to set off and explore the Dales or move north to become a farmer('s wife), and so tempting were the themed books I was encouraged away from the fiction section to buy Meadowland: The private life of an English field by John Lewis-Stempel.

DRAKE – The Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees, which was responsible for inviting me north in the first place, came next. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect about a bookshop based in an open corner unit of a shopping arcade, but the moment I entered that arcade I knew I'd found something special. The bookshop's crammed with personality, a good variety of books and obviously appeals to young and old shoppers alike. Throw in the Shakespeare-related fun, cake and non-alcoholic mead and I was even more happy. Here I picked up Fishbowl by Bradley Somer, partly for the story, partly for the clever illustration down the pages.

A short drive away was The Guisborough Bookshop in the town of the same name. The largest place on my trip, this is half bookshop, half card shop and could possibly have housed all three of my previous stops and still had room to spare. The children's section was particularly busy but I was drawn to the long wall of fiction, where I was pleased to find Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant.

The final stop on day one of my Northern Bookshop Adventure was Book Corner, in the coastal town of Saltburn. Also the smallest place visited, this bookshop proves good things come in little packages and does an excellent job of making every corner count without feeling overcrowded. I resisted trying on the Shakespearean costumes and instead enjoyed talking to the bookseller about her shop (which is two years old this week – Happy birthday Book Corner Shop!). I bought Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, before taking a break from bookshopping to enjoy a particularly brisk walk along the nearby pier.

Day two saw me head south to Thirsk, and a bookshop I've long wanted to visit: White Rose Book Cafe. At the time of my arrival the town was celebrating the Tour de Yorkshire with an incredible display of yarn-bombing, with even the bookshop window joining in the fun. Another large destination, White Rose covers two floors and includes a dedicated reading room and a cafe, where I sat and enjoyed the atmosphere over a very welcome coffee. My purchase was Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.

The last official stop on my adventure was an old friend. I had previously visited and loved Ilkley's Grove Bookshop and it again lived up to expectations as a friendly, warm and welcoming haven for readers. From its window display demonstrating all the world's a stage to the gentleman bookseller on hand for just the right amount of book chat, you can't go wrong if you pause for a visit here. And please don't let the scaffolding in this picture put you off. On this occasion I bought the second Neapolitan novel by Elena Ferrante: The Story of a New Name.

The thing that struck me most about this trip is how different each of the bookshops is. For the moment you'll have to take my word for it, but as I take the time to write about each place in more detail I hope you'll see what I mean.

For now, I'm simply pleased to have accepted that invitation to set out on a Northern Bookshop Adventure. It was a brilliant opportunity to enjoy a weekend away and meet a really lovely bunch of booksellers.* Best of all, it helped to confirm to me just how easy it is to hop in the car and explore a whole different world of bookshops. Look out The North, you'll be seeing a lot more of me.

The Little Ripon Bookshop
13 Westgate, Ripon,
North Yorkshire, HG4 2AT
Tel: 01765 606689 @LitRiponBookshop

Castle Hill Bookshop
1 Castle Hill, Richmond,
North Yorkshire, DL10 4QP
Tel: 01748 824243 @CastleHillBooks

DRAKE – The Bookshop
Enterprise Arcade, 35-37 High Street, Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, TS18 1SB
Tel: 07949 049917 @drakebookshop

The Guisborough Bookshop
4 Chaloner Street, Guisborough, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, TS14 6QD
Tel: 01287 610179 @guisboroughbook

Book Corner
Unit 1, The Regency Buildings, Station Square, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire, TS12 1AG
Tel: 01287 348010 @BookCornerShop

White Rose Book Cafe
79-81 Market Place, Thirsk, North Yorkshire YO7 1ET
Tel: 01845 524353 @WhiteRoseBooks

Grove Bookshop
10 The Grove, Ilkely, West Yorkshire, LS29 9EG
Tel: 01943 609335 @GroveBookshop

*Is there a collective noun for booksellers?


  1. You missed the Whitby Bookshop, my local. Lovely place.

    1. You're right. I did try to include it, but time and distance weren't on my side. However, this gives me a good excuse to return to the area and meet Whitby Bookshop, Wardle & Jones and a number of other nearby gems...


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