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Best Independent Bookshops in the UK

Monday 17 April 2023

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When travelling by train, there is absolutely nothing better than kicking back with a good book to add a little bit of culture to your journey. Allen Lane set in motion the introduction of paperback books in Exeter St David’s train station in 1935, and our passengers have long been enjoying old classics, familiar favourites, and cutting-edge texts on CrossCountry trains.

But how do you find the best books? The answer, of course, is to browse the shelves of independent bookshops across the UK. Whether you’re searching for your local independent bookseller or finding unique shops to browse whilst travelling in the UK, here are our recommendations for the best independent bookshops in the UK.

Bookshop on the Green, Birmingham

Packed with fiction and non-fiction titles for adults and children, Bookshop on the Green is a hidden gem in the West Midlands. Located on Bournville Green, Bookshop on the Green is the perfect independent bookstore to spend hours searching for your future favourite books, as well as literary gifts for loved ones. The team at Bookshop on the Green also organise Bournville BookFest, so be sure to keep an eye out for children’s book festival events to encourage your little ones to expand their horizons by reading.

How to get to Birmingham by train:

Birmingham New Street is on the CrossCountry network, connected to major cities like Bristol and Manchester, as well as regional stations like Nuneaton. From Birmingham New Street, you can take a 12-minute connecting train to Bournville.

Woman browsing the shelves of a bookshop, with the door open behind her

Books on the Lane, Wakefield

Books on the Lane, based in Walton, is one of Wakefield’s most wonderful shopping locations. They specialise in selling books about nature, poetry, Yorkshire, and gardening, as well as stocking a great variety of titles for little ones and grown ups alike. If you’re local, why not join the Wednesday Book Club at Books on the Lane? It’s a great way to stay up to date with new releases as well as supporting your local independent bookshop.

How to get to Wakefield by train:

Wakefield Westgate station connects Wakefield to CrossCountry stations around the UK, including Edinburgh, York, and Derby. From Wakefield Westgate, a short connecting train service followed by a walk will get you to Books on the Lane.

Paramount Books, Manchester

Located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Paramount Books has become a Mancunian institution, much beloved by locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re attracted by the music that often blasts from the speakers above the door, or by the endearing chalk boards and comics displays outside, Paramount Books is sure to quickly become your favourite independent bookshop in Manchester. Check out their expertly curated stacks; comics and vintage magazines are their speciality.

How to get to Manchester by train:

Manchester is one of CrossCountry’s key cities, with Manchester Piccadilly connecting the city to a range of towns and cities across the UK. From here, you can reach Paramount Books with a 15-minute walk or a 10-minute Metro journey.

McNaughtan’s, Edinburgh

Filling customer’s lives with fantastic literature since 1957, McNaughtan’s is undoubtedly one of Edinburgh’s best independent bookshops. Specialising in antiquarian and second-hand books, you can find the rarest titles in the nostalgic wooden shelves of this literary treasure trove. Not only is McNaughtan’s a cosy shop to browse whilst visiting Edinburgh, they also regularly host special events, fairs, talks, and festivals. McNaughtan’s really is a book-lover’s dream.

How to get to Edinburgh by train:

Edinburgh Waverley station is connected to a wide range of CrossCountry stations in the UK, ranging from Glasgow to Penzance (and a lot of places in between!). From the station, McNaughtan’s is a short 10-minute walk away.

Woman reading a colourful children’s book to a toddler

Bear Island Book Exchange, Cardiff

If you’re local and like to explore the Victorian Market in Cardiff, you’ll probably already be familiar with the Bear Island Book Exchange. Tucked away with a wide range of independent retailers, Bear Island Book Exchange has shelves stacked with all kinds of second-hand books – from novels and biographies to children’s books and Welsh language titles. Reasonably priced and absolutely packed with treasures, Bear Island is worth a visit.

How to get to Cardiff by train:

Bear Island is located within the Victorian Market, which is only an 8-minute walk from Cardiff Central station. You can get to Cardiff on a variety of CrossCountry services, including trains from Birmingham, Newport, and Bristol.

Beware of the Leopard, Bristol

For Bristolian booklovers, a visit to Beware of the Leopard is a pilgrimage you must go on! Beware of the Leopard is the biggest and longest running bookshop in Bristol, with more than 25,000 books to flick through. Whether you’re hunting for an academic text, collectable antique books, or the latest paperback – you can find it all at Beware of the Leopard.

How to get to Bristol by train:

Getting to Bristol Temple Meads is simple – you can hop on board a CrossCountry train directly to Bristol from stations like Cheltenham Spa, Torquay, and Crewe. From there, a 10-minute walk or a 15-minute bus will take you directly to the bookshop.

Shelves of books with a ladder leant against them

If you’re planning a trip to one of the best independent bookshops the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best historical places in the UK, the best forests in the UK, or the best cinemas in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.

Written by Julia

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