Saturday, September 10, 2016

Barter Books - A booklover's paradise in Northumberland

I have a confession to make and that is that I love books - I am a passionate bibliophile. All books, hard cover, paperback, and kindle versions which I know to some people is sacrilege, but if it means I can carry so many books with me at once then surely it's a good thing. Why am I telling you this? Well today we went to a place that was heaven to me, and that is Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, which is one of the biggest second hand bookshops in the UK. I've wanted to visit this place for years and finally I was able to breathe in the scent that you only get from thousands of second hand books in one place.

The store is in an old railway station and is a really beautiful space and the owners have kept loads of features from its railway days. It opened in 1991 and as the name suggests they also will take books in and give you a Barter Books value for them which you can then buy books with. There is a really strict criteria for the books they take which you can find on their website if you're interested.

I'm sure most of you will have seen versions of the Keep Calm posters in shops, my favourite being keep calm and eat a cupcake. It was a slogan used in the second world war and after the war it was thought that all the posters had been pulped, but then, in a pile of dusty old books at Barter Books they found an original poster which is now in a frame on the wall of the shop, and since then the slogan has taken over the world again.

Look at all those lovely books. There's a map available if you're looking for something specific and everything is very well organised and where it says it will be on the map.

There's lots of lovely seats dotted throughout the stacks so that you can sit and read for a while or just rest before you start hunting books again.

As it used to be a railway station it seems fitting that overhead there are trains running around.

In one of the rooms there is a huge mural of famous authors - I recognised some of them but had to look at the list to see who they all were. The man in the white suit is Mark Twain and fittingly on the table next to him is a cat as he was a great cat lover - in fact lots of famous authors were.

Interesting light fitting in the middle of the main room.

Another feature around the huge space is poems, quotes, and excerpts from literature printed on the walls or in between the stacks. Here's a couple that I liked.

This is a lovely feature that has been kept from the old station - a water fountain with brass cups on chains. As you may have guessed from the dog bowls below the fountain, our four legged friends are welcome in this bookshop, which makes it even more special to me.

Looking through more of the books to give you an idea of how many there are - I'm trying to ignore the fact that the quotes between the stacks are from Jerusalem, which isn't my favourite song in the world, purely because it is often used when England win at sport.

The bookshop has a buffet and there are various rooms that have been restored including the original waiting room. You can sit in one of the rooms that run down the side of the main book room, but you can also take your drinks and food in amongst the books to sit at one of the tables within the piles. In the rooms there are more big paintings which really help create the image of stepping back in time.

We sat in the green room to eat our lunch and I really liked these very classy lamps.

In another room there was this large painting of the Top Hat Stationmaster from the late 1800's - what you probably can't tell is that the light shades are in the shape of a top hat.

Rest assured that I didn't come away from Barter Books empty handed. As I usually do in second hand book shops, I found two books with pictures of cats in them to add to my collection of cat books, and I bought a book of Native American wisdom.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at Barter Books, and if you're ever in the Northeast of England then you should make this one place that you must visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and make some time this week to spend with a favourite book.

Pamela & Ken

P.S: Final photo is from an antique shop next door to the second hand book shop, where Ken found as old school desk. He looks very studious.


  1. This is a fantastic post! I absolutely love book stores, especially second hand. This is definitely a must visit if I can ever end up there. Thank you for sharing such a fantastic description and pictures!

    1. Thanks Sereniti, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. I would love to go there some day! What a great place, and you wrote a great review of it!