Thursday 23 June 2016

Lost and found

Hunting for an as yet unvisited bookshop is a bit like the search for a specific book. You know what it is you're looking for, you may even have a clear image of it in your head and an expectation of the pleasure when you find it. There's even a good chance you'll know where to look for it according to the letter of the alphabet or address of the shop. But none of these things mean you will actually find it. In the case of the book, someone bought it first. In the case of the bookshop, your Sat Nav took you in the wrong direction or, as is usually my experience, you missed the turn.

For this week's bookshop I so spectacularly missed my turn I ended up in the next village of Matlock Bath. Home to an odd combination of tacky amusement arcades and atmospheric countryside, there was something about the incongruity of those bright lights in Derbyshire that made me determined to return for a longer visit when I finally get my Elizabeth Bennet-style holiday.

But for now we return to my reason for visiting the area, the famous and hugely popular Scarthin Books. It's already featured in the guest post section of this blog, so I had some idea of what I was looking for, but it's only by personally visiting that you can appreciate the true appeal of this bookshop.

Firstly, it's massive and there are books everywhere. Okay, so the latter comment is a bit obvious for the contents of a bookshop, but it really is crammed. So much so that a few years ago the building needed to be reinforced to prevent it from collapsing under the weight of all the books.

These books are new and secondhand, covering all the usual suspects and then some, including military uniforms as one of the more random subjects I've found in a bookshop. I ended up in my usual favourite spot of the new fiction area, spending some time appreciating the variety (including science fiction) before selecting a title from their new releases shelves: The reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent. Having since read the book I can't recommend it enough.

The second thing of note is that the bookshop has taken over a house. Not an overly unusual occurrence, but the still intact bathroom is a reminder of its former life – and made me wonder how Scarthin Books compares to Shakespeare and Company in the glory days of George Whitman, all it needs is a few beds, a little grime and some tumbleweeds.

This oddness is what makes Scarthin Books so special. There are so many rooms and nooks and crannies I wouldn't have been surprised to have turned a corner and stumbled across someone asleep on a bed. Instead I found an array of brilliantly decorated rooms, their art vying for attention among the books and never more so than in the art room with its carefully selected furniture and stunningly decorated ceiling. Further details include the ceiling of the children's room, staircases crammed with books and a hinged bookcase that opens a door to the vegetarian cafe.

The one disappointment of my visit was the cafe, but through my fault rather than theirs: I arrived just too late in the day to try their offerings. That'll have to wait for my next visit, when I return for my holiday.

Scarthin Books
The Promenade, Scarthin, Cromford,
Derbyshire, DE4 3QF
Tel: (01629) 823272


  1. Go back for the cafe! Best homity pies and ploughman's lunches ever! And yeah, an AWESOME bookshop

    1. I shall! I was so frustrated with myself about my time of arrival because I've heard so many good things about the cafe.

  2. Thank you so much Erica (and Lisa!), your kind words are really appreciated. As Lisa said, you must visit our cafe next time (and have a cuppa and a cake on us). David Booker (Manager).

    1. It's my pleasure David. I really enjoyed my visit and must visit again soon. Next time I'll be sure to arrive earlier so I can stay longer and say hello.

  3. So pleased that you share my love of Scarthin Books. And the cafe is fabulous, well worth a second visit. Beautiful outdoor area as well the cosy indoor rooms. Amazing food.

    1. The cafe did look good, so it's guaranteed I'll be returning. And yes, it was lovely outdoors. After closing I spent a long time enjoying my surroundings. Thanks for prompting these memories!


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