Getting Lost in Scarthin Books

Scarthin Books ExteriorScarthin Books has been part of my life since I was a kid and in true Derbyshire fashion, the shop hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s still brilliantly quirky with a mixture of new and secondhand books, an excellent vegetarian/vegan cafe and a tiny little garden.  The titles are scattered over three floors (not including various offshoots and oddities) and numerous alcoves so it’s a real experience to spend time here.

The shop overlooks a tranquil millpond and is situated in Cromford, a village close to the town of Matlock.   Because of the historic nature of the village (it played an important part in the development of the Industrial Revolution), there isn’t a dedicated car park, but you can find spaces on the surrounding roads and also at the nearby Cromford Mills.  Although tourists often choose to visit the adjoining resort of Matlock Bath, Cromford has charms to match, if not exceed its flashier neighbour.

scarthin books millpond Once you’re inside the bookshop you might as well forget everything else though. The small ground floor section has a bewildering display of new releases, travel books, classics and modern fiction (not to mention the narrow corridor at the back with secondhand children’s books and travel titles). If you need to find out information or pay then the cashier sits here too.  Recent publications are displayed just as you walk in so we always have a look at these before seeking out more breathing space upstairs  (with a peek at the Gift Room on the way).

The first floor is my personal favourite.  There’s an incredibly well-stocked children’s room with over 9000 books ranging from board books to young adult titles.  It’s small yet welcoming and Little M likes to sit on the tiny stools in here while we take it in turns to browse through the Art Room shelves next door.  Bright with two comfy armchairs and walls that are lined with photography, art and multimedia titles, it’s a generous space with plenty of bookish character.

And then of course there’s the cafe! Hidden behind a secret bookcase, this welcoming eatery sells delicious veggie and vegan food.  On our most recent visit, we tried Broccoli and Mustard soup, red velvet cake (yum!) and Little M had a pizza. It’s hard to find dishes for Al as he’s on the Low-FODMAP diet which means no gluten, no dairy plus a range restricted ingredients, but he was able to enjoy the menu here. As a bonus you’re surrounded by cookery books and biographies as you dine – a very successful sales technique. We bought Daphne: A Portrait of Daphne Du Maurier by Judith Cook and Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee on this occasion.

Head to the back door, and you’ll discover the pocket-size garden that overlooks the rooftops of Cromford as well as the Foreign Languages & Shy Pianists’ Room (which we’ve just realised we’ve never found!)

Fuelled up for more foraging, it’s time to tackle the top floor which includes a score-plastered music room housing a guitar that you can play if you like and a truly magnificent collection of secondhand Folio Society titles (take my money!) as well as many other miscellaneous non-fiction subjects.  Oh and the toilet is up here too.  There used to be a bath in here, but I didn’t check this time…

Music Room - Scarthin Books

Writing this, I’m aware that I’ve only just scraped the surface of the Scarthin Book experience. It’s more like a world in itself – peopled by artists, booksellers, writers and enthusiasts.  For lucky local residents, the shop hosts a regular Book Club, Cafe Philosophique, author talks and a Young Fiction Review Panel. It even has it’s own publishing imprint.  This is a bookshop that serious bibliophiles dream of and it has to be on every book lover’s travel list.

With Kids:

This bookshop is child-friendly with menu options for kids.  Under 8s need to be supervised and space can be restricted inside the building if it’s busy. There are steps, stairs and no lift so avoid taking a buggy.

To make a family day of it, you could easily combine this with a visit to Cromford Mills, Gulliver’s Kingdom or The Heights of Abraham (check website for opening restrictions).

Scarthin Books Opening Times

Monday to Saturday















A Visit to the Magical House of MinaLima (Harry Potter fans step inside!)

The House of MinaLimaI wasn’t planning to blog about our recent trip to this magical destination in the heart of London but the visit was so memorable that I felt it deserved a post of its own.

It’s not easy to sum up the House of MinaLima. I was expecting an art gallery and shop but it’s much more than that. The owners, designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, are most famous for creating the wonderful props in Harry Potter so the place is full of HP memorabilia – most of which you can buy! I was also excited to see a full floor devoted to the MinaLima editions – a series of interactive books which have been produced in collaboration with Harper Design.

The shop can be found at 26 Greek Street, just behind Cambridge Circus where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child runs at the Palace Theatre.  The ground floor is packed full of affordable Harry Potter merchandise. I was so bamboozled by the choice that I didn’t take a photo but I did manage to capture the sign on the door that leads to the basement.

Basement sign House of MinaLima

If you climb the rickety stairs, you find the MinaLima editions in a room that’s pure fairytale and stacked with plenty of display copies to leaf through. You can buy these more cheaply online but we purchased in store as we wanted a signed book.

You re-enter the world of JK Rowling on the third level. I was very taken with the Marauder’s Map that covers the floor.

Standing on giant Marauder's Map

Up again and you find a stunning installation which shows the Hogwarts invitations flooding out of the fireplace as well as smaller rooms dedicated to Fantastic Beasts.  They were so cosy that I felt quite at home there.  The staff were incredibly welcoming too – all friendly and happy to chat.

I could have seriously spent hours looking at the prints but with a tired small child in tow, we decided to call it a day after buying a copy of The Jungle Book and a Sirius Black card.  The house definitely caters to little people (although there are no toilets or other facilities as well as restricted access because it’s in a conservation zone) and Little N was entranced by lots of the features but I’d say it’s better for kids aged 7+, especially if they’ve seen the Potter films.  Next time, Al & I plan to go back on our own with more money to spend! Apparently the displays change fairly frequently so there’s always something new to see. This wondrous place is now is a firm fixture for future London visits.

Opening hours:  12-7pm every day.
Weekends can be very busy so you may be allotted a timed entry (recommended to visit on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays)

26 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 5DE –

Nearest Tube Stations:
Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Tottenham Court Road and Piccadilly Circus

Bus Routes:


Bookshop Tour: Exploring Addyman Books

A visit to Hay-on-Wye wouldn’t be complete without a trip to our favourite bookshop in the town – Addyman Books.  We visit every time we’re in the area and love the cosy, creative feel of the shop with it’s many themed rooms so we made sure that we had time to pop in during our time at the Hay Festival.

The Vintage Penguin area at Addyman BooksThe most famous nook has to be the much-photographed vintage Penguin book shrine which is beautifully decorated with antique panelling from a Transylvanian church. It’s crammed full of fascinating titles and one of the highlights of this wonderful bookish town.  If you can tear yourself away, there’s also a children’s book room and a well-stocked science-fiction and fantasy s section on this floor – enough to keep everyone happy while you browse to your heart’s content.

The adventure continues upstairs with plenty of alcoves and corridors to explore (and almost get lost in!). The shop stocks every single genre so I recommend factoring in some time to work your way around the different zones. For me, the spooky Bat Cave and Celtic corner stood out because I love all things mystical whereas Al found his ideal spot in the comfy classics room.

But that’s not where it ends! Climb higher and you’ll find a true adventurer’s cabin (a model of Captain Scott’s) at the very top filled with books on exploration. I found an excellent copy of French caver Norbert Casteret’s Ten Years Under the Earth under the eaves so if you’re looking for inspirational journeys, then do venture up there.

A replica of Captain Scott's cabin at Addyman Books

After our quest, we all came away feeling as if we’d found hidden gold. The shop sells a selection of new as well as old so we bought a good cross-section and then went to the Addyman Annexe and bought some more! On this occasion, we didn’t manage to make it to the third Addyman store, Murder and Mayhem, but it’s a must-see for crime lovers.

All three shops are open 10 – 5.30 every day of the week and if you are on Instagram, then I highly recommend following Anne’s account – @addymanbooks – which has to be one of the best bookshop pages in the world.  You can also buy stock from them online (I have bought a few and the service is fab), and contact them via Facebook but nothing beats an afternoon in the shop. We’re already planning our next visit!


A Penguin Book Pilgrimage to the Ironbridge Bookshop

Vintage Penguin Books

We’ve wanted to visit The Ironbridge Bookshop for ages after hearing about the legendary Penguin book wall (see photo) and chatting with Meg the owner via her Instagram account so last weekend we finally made the trip to this picturesque Shropshire Town.

The bookshop is located opposite the famous Iron Bridge which crosses the River Severn. The bridge was covered for renovation when we visited but we didn’t mind as it gave us a good excuse to return! We were warmly welcomed by Meg, who has created the perfect space for bibliophiles. The downstairs room is packed with a staggering array of second-hand books – from classic to contemporary, plus lots of non-fiction including a stack of vintage Observer guides which I passed quickly knowing that I’d want to buy them all if I looked too closely!

secondhand classic books for sale in the ironbridge bookshop

I’ve been looking for a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! for ages and luckily found a copy in the sizeable Pratchett section,  as well as pretty paperback edition of The Go-Between by LP Hartley.

To reach the second room you climb the best bookish stairs ever. I’m afraid I couldn’t get Little M out of posing mode but you get the general gist!Processed with VSCO with l4 presetThe upper room contains the vintage Penguin bookshelves, the children’s area and a small selection of modern collectables such as the Vintage Minis, Penguin Mugs and Journals.  Meg also sits upstairs so we had a chat while poring over all the amazing titles. If you love the older Penguin editions, as well as Ladybird books then you HAVE to come here – it is a collector’s feast.  While we were having a field day, we were concerned that Little M would get bored. No fear! She made herself right at home.

little girl sits in book corner

Meg’s prices are very affordable so we ended up buying more than expected and were  very, very happy with our book haul. We didn’t have anything particular in mind when we went, but if you would like something specific then Meg will try to source it for you.

vintage book haul ironbridge bookshop

There’s plenty more to do in Ironbridge if you are staying for more than a day. We didn’t have time to see everything on this visit, but will definitely be returning to the bookshop and the town when the bridge is unveiled.  For lunch we ate in the White Hart Pub which is only a few minutes from the bookshop and found the staff friendly, and the food tasty.

The Ironbridge Bookshop is open every day of the week 10am to 5pm.  You can also follow the store via Instagram,Twitter and Facebook. We highly recommend a trip – it is now one of our very favourite bookshops and we thank Meg for making our visit a great one.

Ironbridge Bookshop Exterior




A Tour of Scrivener’s Books & Bookbinding

Processed with VSCO with l4 presetOne of the reasons we started our Instagram account was to shout out amazing independent bookshops.  When we go on our travels, we always try to visit a bookseller and buy a couple of titles so we’ll be posting about those trips on here, but before we get started, I’d like to give you a tour of one of our local bookshops, Scrivener’s Books & Bookbinding. Situated in the UK spa town of Buxton, it has five floors of full of second-hand books ranging across a huge variety of subjects from fiction through to conjuring to caving.  The shop also sells rare titles online via Abebooks.

When you first walk in, you’re greeted by shelves of first editions and a busy bookbinding workshop. I always get side-tracked by the collectible children’s books next to the counter.

There’s an immediate sense of discovery and anticipation which continues as you climb to the first floor past a small, yet well-curated stationery section to my favourite room which houses fiction, children’s books and a little tea station complete with comfy armchairs. Don’t forget to stroke the tiger!

Scrivener's Books - First Floor

If you can tear yourself away from the snug and take the stairs to the second floor, you’ll be rewarded with yet more treasures.  On the way, there’s a bookcase full of Folio Society editions, followed by a series of rooms containing sheet music, plays, poetry and sheet music, as well as a harmonium that you can play if you fancy having a go.

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All good adventures involve an attic.  This one’s no exception.  Filled with maps to everywhere, travel guides, boxes containing strange and wonderful tomes, it’s worth the ascent.  After a good browse, it’s back down to the bottom, most likely with a pile of tottering books!Processed with VSCO with l4 preset

But don’t leave before checking out the cellar. There’s a surprise waiting down there for you – a tiny Victorian museum with the original range cooker as well as more books, this time history, art and sport.

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You can easily spend a few hours in this wonderfully rambling bookshop, but Buxton has lots to do if you’re planning a full day or a weekend away.

Here are some other places of interest that we recommend: