The most magical, best bookshops in Scotland to get lost in.
Ahh, bookshops. The magical place where you gain access to the world’s most creative and inventive minds. A place that guarantees a swift escape from humdrum reality and into a world of endless possibilities.
There is something magical about bookshops to me; perhaps it’s being in a space where creativity comes to life or that soothing new book smell.
I once went on a date that was so awful, the only thing that calmed me down was roaming the bookshelves at my favourite local bookshop [and taking several books home with me!].
I’m glad to say that Scotland has some fantastic bookshops; if you’re visiting Scotland for the first time, you should aim to tick at least one of these off your Scotland bucket list. If you’re a local, then you need to make the effort to visit ALL of these bookshops!
Here’s my list of the 13 best bookshops in Scotland. I’ve also included two of my favourite annual Scotland book festivals to celebrate your inner book nerd.
>> Read more: 23 books about Scotland you’ll love
Best Bookshops in Scotland
1. Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness
Inverness is home to one of Scotland’s most magical bookshops, Leakey’s Bookshop. This second-hand bookshop is the second largest in Scotland and is located inside an eighteenth century Gaelic church. You’ll find Leakey’s on every list of the best bookshops in Scotland, because not only does it have a fabulous selection of books, it’s also incredibly photogenic!
Church St, Inverness IV1 1EY
>> Read more: How to spend 2 days in Inverness
2. Hillbillies Bookstore, Gairloch
Hillbillies Bookstore made my list of the best bookshops in Scotland because it is one of the most unique bookshops I’ve come across here! It’s colourful and quirky, and filled with plenty of interesting books you don’t find in many mainstream bookstores. Visiting this bookshop was one of the highlights of the North Coast 500 for me, and I left with several new books in tow.
Also, the Mountain Coffee Company located next door has great coffee and cakes.
Gairloch, Wester Ross,, Strath, Gairloch IV21 2BX
3. The Ullapool Bookshop, Ullapool
Ullapool Bookshop is small and doesn’t pretend to be fancy, but I love it because it’s status as a local gem. It has a great selection of Scotland travel books and hiking and outdoor guides. It’s the perfect place to find inspiration for things to do in the north-west highlands.
Quay St, Ullapool IV26 2UE
4. Watermill Bookshop, Aberfeldy
Watermill Bookshop is 0ne of my favourite hidden gems of the bookstore world. I discovered it while hiking the Scottish National Trail, when I spent the night in Aberfeldy.
It’s fitting there is a fantastic bookshop in the town home to the Birks of Aberfeldy, the woodland which inspired the Robert Burns poem of the same name.
Is it just me that has fantasies about curling up in the corner of a Scottish pub with a dram in one hand, a book in another? While they don’t have a pub, they do have a wonderful downstairs cafe kitted out with cosy reading areas. It’s the perfect bookshop to visit on a dreich day in Scotland!
Mill St, Aberfeldy PH15 2BG
5. The Book Shop, Wigtown
Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town and a paradise for book lovers. The Book Shop is Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop and home to over 100,000 books!
The Book Shop is owned by Shaun Bythell, who actually wrote two books about this bookshop! The books are called Confessions of a Bookseller and The Diary of a Bookseller and they are both fabulous reads. Give them a read before you visit!
17 N Main St, Wigtown, Newton Stewart DG8 9HL
Best Bookshops in Edinburgh
There are so many fantastic bookshops in Edinburgh, that it deserves its own section. I’ve chosen five of the best bookshops in Edinburgh I adore and visit whenever I’m in the city.
Known as ‘the radical bookshop’ Lighthouse is an independent bookshop that specialises in non-mainstream titles. This bookshop is queer-owned and the owners and staff are unapologetically activist, intersectional, feminist, antiracist, and pro-LGBTQ.
Lighthouse was also nominated for Scotland’s Best Independent Bookshop in 2020.
43-45 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH8 9DB
7. Golden Hare Books
Arguably the most famous bookshop in Edinburgh, Golden Hare Books is something straight from an Alice in Wonderland fairy tale. So much love and care has gone into the look and feel of this bookshop, it’s no surprise it was voted Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2019!
68 St Stephen St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AQ
8. Waterstones on Princes Street
I know, I know- Waterstones is a chain of bookshops, however I have a sweet spot for the one in Edinburgh. Whenever I’m in the city, I’ll pop in for a hot chocolate and a scone and admire the lovely views of Edinburgh Castle if I’m lucky enough to grab a window seat.
Waterstones has a fantastic collection of books over three floors. I love the Scottish book collection on the first level, tucked away in the corner in the back, and the self-help and travel sections on the third floor.
The cafe located on the third floor has delicious slices, muffins and sandwiches. I’ve heard the coffee is good too. Visiting Waterstones is one of my favourite places to visit in Edinburgh in winter; there’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying a cuppa with snowy castle views from the warm confines of this bookshop!
128 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 4AD
9. Armchair Books
Exploring second-hand bookshops is one of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh, and you can pick up some real gems at Armchair Books. Rickety, old and beautiful, this bookshop is like something straight out of Harry Potter. Who knows, it may have been the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling’s bookshop in Diagon Alley.
72-74 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE
10. The Edinburgh Bookshop
I haven’t had the chance to visit The Edinburgh Bookshop yet, however it comes highly recommended by my friends. This bookshop has a fantastic selection of books to satisfy all book lovers and they also host regular community events for readers and writers. It was the Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2018.
219 Bruntsfield Pl, Edinburgh EH10 4DH
Book Festivals in Scotland
The Edinburgh International Book Festival
The Edinburgh International Book Festival has lots of pop up bookshops and events that all book lovers will enjoy. The festival is one of the five Edinburgh festivals that runs during August, so if you’re kicking about Edinburgh that time, be sure to check it out!
Wigtown Book Festival
I mentioned earlier that Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town, so it makes sense this is the location of one of Scotland’s most exciting book festivals: the Wigtown Book Festival.
The Wigtown Book Festival is a 10 day event that has been running since 1999. Each year the festival attracts big names and big crowds, running over 200 literary events and activities for adults and children. Not bad for a town with a population of less than 1000!
The Wigtown Book Festival has moved online for 2020.
Do you have a favourite bookshop in Scotland that should be on this list? Drop it in the comments below!
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MY BEST TRAVEL TIPS FOR SCOTLAND
Here is a list of travel resources that I always use that save me time and money. For more tips check out my ultimate guide on planning a trip to Scotland.
+ Booking flights: I use Skyscanner when researching and booking my flights as I find them to have the best deals. I also use Google Flights to compare flights I’ve found on Skyscanner.
+ Accommodation: I use Booking.com when booking my accommodation in Scotland. Sometimes I’ll use Expedia, and I also use Hostelworld to book hostels [pay a small deposit to book, free cancellation].
+ Travel insurance: I always recommend booking travel insurance for any trip you take. Personally I use CoverMore– I used to sell this insurance when I was a travel agent and dealt with claims on behalf of my customers frequently and they were really easy to deal with. World Nomads is also another high-quality insurance provider I recommend.
+ Tours and Activities: I use GetYourGuide whenever I can to book tours and activities. I also recommend purchasing the Explorer Pass if you plan on visiting a few attractions.
+ Transport: When hiring a car in the UK I always use Auto Europe, a car rental comparison website that has great deals. For train times and bookings I use Scotrail [Scotland’s main network] and I also compare prices with Trainline. For bus travel, I always use Megabus.
+ What to pack: The weather is changeable in Scotland and you can sometimes have four seasons in one day! I’ve written this comprehensive packing list for Scotland that will tell you everything you need to pack, whether you’re travelling from abroad or live locally and you’re planning a day trip to Scotland.