In August 2015 I did some travelling around Ireland, Scotland and England, and naturally, I visited all of the bookish places I possibly could in that time. Compared to Australia, Ireland and the UK have many, many, MANY more physical bookstores and it is a much bigger industry over there than it is here in Oz. Out of all the bookstores I visited (and that’s quite a lot!) my absolute favourite was Topping and Company Booksellers of St. Andrews in Scotland.
My favourite thing about it is the fact that it looks EXACTLY like my ideal movie-style bookstore – wall to wall, floor to ceiling timber bookshelves, sliding bookshelf ladders (a book lovers dream!), comfy couches and chairs, little cosy nooks and just every surface covered in bookish goodness! I could have spent HOURS just basking in the glory of this gorgeous store!
Another thing that really stood out was the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of the staff there. When I mentioned to one of the staff members that I work in a bookstore in Sydney, Australia, she told me how she got her start in bookstores in Sydney! She then proceeded to invite me to make myself comfortable on one of their couches and she went and got me a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits so I could sit back and enjoy the store (it all came out on a tray complete with matching teacup, saucer and teapot).
One of my favourite things about bookstores in the UK generally, but especially at Topping and Company is the sheer number of signed editions of books! Compared to how many we get in bookstores in Australia, it was a little overwhelming trying to only pick a few to buy. As most authors – especially UK and US authors – tend to tour the UK when promoting their books, it stands to reason they would have more signed editions than us poor little forgotten bookstores in Australia.
Topping and Company in St. Andrews still remains my favourite bookstore that I have ever visited.
As a lover of books and an aspiring librarian, I LOVE visiting libraries in other countries and the British Library is one of my favourites.
The British Library is the second largest library in the world based on the number of items catalogued. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives a copy of every book produced in the UK and Ireland, which is approximately 8,000 per day. The Library’s collections include 14 million books as well as a substantial number of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC.
One of the best things about the British Library is that it is free to visit! They have some of the most significant treasures in the world on display for visitors to peruse including: Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Magna Carta, handwritten Beatles lyrics and drawings on pages from Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebook.
My favourite part of the British Library is the King’s Library Tower. This is a six-storey glass and bronze structure that dominates the British Library’s entrance hall, and it is just an amazing sight! It is worth visiting just to see it.
Hobbiton had to be one of the most unique and unusual bookish locations in world. It was custom built for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and was then re-used (with some modifications and additions) in the Hobbit movie trilogy. This essentially makes it a permanent, 12-acre, open-air movie set.
There are many cute little Hobbit holes throughout the site, each decorated with its own exterior décor and detailed furnishings, however the main attraction for fans of the movies is undoubtedly Bag End, home to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Complete with its “no admittance except on party business” sign, this was definitely one of the highlights for me when I visited the site. While you don’t get to walk into any of the Hobbit holes (mainly because there is nothing behind the doors!), walking around and looking at them is enough to satisfy even the most hardcore of Tolkien fans.
If you do a guided tour, you end the tour at The Green Dragon Inn where you can treat yourself to a mug of ale. There is an open fireplace and some fantastic armchairs inside, and a lovely, festive beer garden area outside where you can relax and take in the sights of Hobbiton over the lake.
I absolutely loved my visit to Hobbiton, and would definitely do it again next time I’m in New Zealand! It felt just like being in the fictional world of The Shire that you read about in Tolkien’s books, and the attention to details throughout the site is impeccable. Although the guided tours are expensive, I would highly recommend doing one so that you get all the information about the site, and all of the interesting stories and trivia that go along with that.
This is probably my favourite bookish location on the planet and is an absolute “must-see” for anyone visiting Dublin, Ireland. The library was constructed in the 18th century and inside visitors are able to the not only the stunning Long Room, but also the historic Book of Kells – a 9th century manuscript famous throughout the world. The library itself houses 200,000 of the college’s oldest books and all the bookcases are made from oak. Interestingly, due to the library being built on marshy, soft land, the books in the Long Room are shelved by height and size so that the weight of the books are able to be more evenly distributed!
Exhibitions are held in the display cases running down the centre of the room, and the help to show visitors a selection of some of the amazing texts and documents that the library holds. Now, we all know that the harp is an instrument synonymous with Ireland (the Guinness beer logo anyone?), and one of the amazing artefacts to be found in the Long Room itself is the Brian Boru harp. It is the oldest harp of its kind in Ireland and dates back to the 15th century.
I have been lucky enough to visit this AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS library in person, and it was everything I hoped for and more. All the woodwork, ladders, alcoves and spiralled metal staircases set the scene in this hallowed space. Are you one of those people who love the smell of old books? Well, multiply that by about a thousand and that starts to paint the picture of what it is like to be in this magnificent room. I was only in Dublin for 3 days, and I managed to visit this place twice in that time. This is what I imagine heaven would look like!