On Holiday In A Bookshop Part 4: The Cinema Bookshop

I think I’ve already mentioned ConstructoBoy’s obsession with¬†Zeppelins. All through the holidays, and our many outings and pop-ins to bookshops (believe me, I’ve not mentioned them all in my posts), he had been searching in vain for a book about Zeppelins. Just Zeppelins. Not a book that had a random picture of the Hindenburg, or a book about balloons that mentioned Zeppelins in passing. No. He wanted a book just about Zepplelins, with all there was to know about Zeppelins, including lots of pictures of different Zeppelins. Blimps. Airships. Whatever ūüôā

The Hindenburg

You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find. Several bookshops we went to had decent selections of books about fighter planes, bombers, seaplanes… you know, all the glamorous, heroic aircraft that it’s trendy to be interested in. But no books about Zeppelins. He was close to¬†despair by the day we went to Hay-On-Wye.

Now I could spend all day in Hay-on-Wye. Possibly all week. And if you don’t know why – where have you been??! Hay-on-Wye is the bookshop capital of the UK.¬†But I didn’t have all day or even an hour – because Hay-on-Wye, like many other tourist areas in the UK, does itself no favours.

We had gone to Tintern Abbey that day and the trip there -and back – had taken a lot longer than we expected. Every tractor in Shropshire and Herefordshire seemed determined to get in our way. Caught in a traffic jam, it was 4.35 pm by the time we hit the streets of Hay-on-Wye, on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

And most of it was already shut.

Every cafe we saw was either closed or on the point of closing. We walked past so many closed bookshops, to begin with, that I nearly suggested we turned¬†round¬†and headed back to the car park. People were drifting home in their droves – because there was nothing left to do. Come on, Hay! People still want to buy books at 4.45pm, it’s not that radical! And after an afternoon of book-hunting, what about some tea or a meal? Where are your tearooms, cafes, restaurants for the person who wants to eat at that outlandish time of 5pm? Or even, perish the thought, 5.30?

However! We did find a few shops that deigned to open for something-approaching-standard trading hours. The queen of them all, though, has to be the Hay Cinema bookshop. I admit that as I came up the road and saw the sign, I thought – ‘ah – a bookshop that stocks books about the cinema’ followed by ‘and that’s a shame, because it’s open until 7pm. 7!!!!’

But as I got a good look at it, I saw it was a perfectly normal bookshop, except for 1)it’s huge 2) it lives in a building that used to be a cinema. (I know. Who’d have guessed?). And once inside, the internal architecture that’s been preserved makes the¬†building’s history very obvious, enhancing your book¬†browsing¬†experience no end. Plus this marvellous place is open, to quote their website : ‘every day of the year, except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Monday – Saturday 9.00am – 7.00pm, Sundays 11.30am – 5.30pm’.

Not only that – the lady at the counter was very helpful and superbly knowledgeable about the books they had, even though there must have been thousands and thousands and… you get the idea. She assured ConstructoBoy that they definitely had books about just Zeppelins, please,¬†and his expression swung continually from dubious pessimism to fragile hope and back again as he trotted upstairs and ‘nearly to the back’. She signposted ArtyDaughter to two places that would house graphic novels and manga.

And bless the woman, she was on the nail. They had around eight books just on Zeppelins. They had more than one copy of three of them!! A few were quite expensive, but luckily the one that could have been written for ConstructoBoy Рit fitted his requirements so perfectly- was £3. It was a moment of pure happiness. Which we shared in Рuntil he tried to download all the information he learnt from it directly into our brains by Continuous Verbal Input at every available moment thereafter.

ArtyDaughter was happy too as she found graphic novels to satisfy her exacting it-has-to-be-the-right-style-of-manga-and-not-just-a-sloppy-love-story specifications. Both offspring failry Bounced back to the counter, and there was Much Thanking of the Lady and Much Gushing about the Wonderfulness of Ye Bookshoppe.

So well done, Hay Cinema Bookshop. We award you the Runham Award for Really Ripping Bookshops. 10 out of 10.

If you go to Hay-on-Wye, go there! You’ll find it in castle Street.

“Welcome to the world famous Hay Cinema Bookshop for the best in secondhand, remainder and bargain books.¬†If you like a lot of books for your money, then come and see us and browse in what must be the world’s largest open-air bookshop situated in the garden in front of Hay Cinema”

On Holiday in a Bookshop – Part 3: We Go West!

Before I wind my way west to Shropshire (where we stayed in week 2), just a quick mention for the Titles Bookshops. There’s a few dotted around the Peak District, but the one we visited was in North Parade in Matlock Bath. I picked up Christopher Somerville’s¬†intriguing Never Eat Shredded Wheat in paperback for a bargain price (highly recommended if you want a light-hearted informative romp around the UK. I guarantee there will be stuff in there you didn’t know).Never Eat Shredded Wheat

ConstructoBoy, who likes to follow up his fiction interests with non-fiction, bought a book on handguns (because certain types are mentioned in Indiana Jones stories and he wanted to know about them. That’s what got him into tanks, too).

The Titles Bookshop there wasn’t huge but there was a good smattering of bargain and local interest books, together with helpful cheery staff. What more could you ask for?

For the second week of our holiday we abandoned the Peaks, collected my Mum then headed for Shropshire – swapping one set of hills for another (we obviously had a desire for hills – that’s what happens when you’ve moved to somewhere flat, y’know!) One of the bookshops we found there was Aardvark Books in the tiny village of Brampton Bryan, just¬†off the A4113 Leintwardine-Lingen road.


Once again, a huuuge selection of books in a converted barn¬†– and a place to enjoy some refreshments – and Arty Daughter was delighted because they had a graphic novels section. And yes, she had bought some the week before¬†(in Scarthin Books – see On Holiday in a Bookshop Part One) but she reads them very, very quickly….sigh. And once again, helpful staff. Is it just running a bookshop that does that, d’you think, or is it the fact that they’re not preoccupied with trying to sell you lottery scratchcards and giant bars of chocolate at bargain prices…?
Next time we venture to Hay-on-Wye ūüėČ

On Holiday in a Bookshop – Part 2

In shock news, I must report that Scarthin Books isn’t the only bookshop in the Peak District.
Honestly, it’s true. There’s another one.

This is Bookstore Brierlow Bar, 3 miles from Buxton. It claims that it is the largest bargain bookshop in the country, along with its sister store, Oakmere. I’m not entirely sure what criteria it bases this on; the website claims it has¬†“over 20,000 different titles in stock at any given time”, but I’ve heard plenty of bookshops claim they have more. But it’s pretty darn big, and I defy you not to find something you want to buy. (2017 edit – this is now High Peak Bookstore and Cafe).

The staff – as claimed! – were very knowledgeable and helpful, but Arty Daughter and I were rather¬†disappointed at the answer we received when we expressed surprise¬†over the lack of graphic novels (in fact there were barely any ‘real’ graphic novels¬†there, just a few glossy comic collections). We were told that they had given up stocking them because they “never seemed to stock the ones people were asking for.” Which kind of made me wonder why they didn’t note down which ones people were asking for, and stock them…

But it is a great bookshop, with genuinely bargain prices and a fantastic range of non-fiction and children’s books. Not to mention bird feeding supplies! And there’s also a place to sit down for a cuppa if the choice gets too overwhelming.

So if you should be wandering along the A515 towards Ashbourne, pop in!



“On Holiday In A Bookshop!” Part One

At least, that’s what ConstructoBoy said he felt like one day.

He did have a point. We did visit a LOT of bookshops on holiday. But he stopped complaining in week 2 when he found a book on his beloved zeppelins in Hay-On-Wye.
But hey, that’s week 2.¬† We should start at the beginning (unless we’re writing a novel, where sometimes the beginning is too boring, forcing us to leap instead into writing the Action).

Week 1 was a fantastic week in the Peak District; just¬†Techie Husband, Arty Daughter, ConstructoBoy and me. We stayed in this cottage that you would love to stay in too (unless you have joint problems or you’re pregnant. Long, narrow, steep, uneven, twisty¬†staircase. take note).

This is Brook Cottage in Cromford, just a few minutes from Matlock Bath – and you can see how lovely it is inside and learn more about it here on the owners’ website.¬†(2017 edit – sadly, you can’t anymore. It no longer appears to be for rent). The cottages part of Staffordshire Row, a row of cottages built in the 1720s for the Staffordshire workers brought in to work in the old smelting mill.

Not only was the cottage lovely – handy for a myriad of tourist attractions and lovely walks, located¬†in a scenic village with a¬†fascinating history –¬†but¬†it also had the marvellous advantage of being a 90-second walk from HERE.

Scarthin Books is, if you’ll excuse the cliche, a rabbit’s warren full of books on just about anything you can think of. There are new books, old books, calendars, postcards, a million staircases and tiny rooms off of other tiny rooms… sometimes there are even bookcases on the (million) staircases. And in the midst of this bibliophile’s cloud nine is a little cafe – complete with more bookcases and a magazine rack, so that you can read something intelligent over lunch. It serves the most amazing gorgeous vegetarian food and leads out onto a garden room (more books!).

If you’ve never eaten Homity Pie, make sure you have your first one there. It’s making my mouth water right now just thinking about it. They have a novel (haha) approach to the whole business of running a bookshop – and running a cafe – and the shop is a borderline community centre and tourist attraction in its own right. It’s been on TV, and in a recent edition of Booktime magazine. To see what I mean, pop over to their website, and for goodness sake – if you’re anywhere near the Peak District, pop in! If you spend all day there and they finally throw you out, weeping, as darkness falls, fear not. Wander down the road to the centre of the village and you’ll find The Marketplace restaurant. Not Brewers’ Fayre prices, but not exorbitant either, particularly if you go for one of their special offer menus and, most importantly, we all agreed it was one of the best meals we had ever had. We plan to visit both places again Very, Very Soon.

Tomorrow I’ll rave about the other bookshops we visited. But that’s quite enough excitement for now. And daydreaming about Homity Pie has made me hungry…