Okay… So, I don’t know if these are objectively absolutely the best small bookstores in the country, but they’re my favourites of all the independent shops I’ve been to.
If you’re visiting Scotland on vacation, you could probably work all three of these into your stay. And you should! I’ve included site links so you can even place some orders in advance and have them waiting for you (or, of course, if you’re a local like me but perhaps looking to support an alternative to Amazon).
(All photographs come from the shop websites.)
This is a really cute little shop set over two levels.
Entry is on ground level. It has all their new releases, adult titles and a selection of cards, stationary and gifts. They often promote Scottish writers and small presses and I’ve also seen them do wrapped Blind Date Books at the till.
Downstairs there are two rooms. The Scotland Room has fiction, poetry and non-fiction set in or about Scotland, written by Scottish authors. The YA/Childrens section — Little Owl’s Room — is down here too. It’s wicked because it feels like a hidden away playroom, with full shelves and boxes all over the floor. And practically, it’s pretty good because you can let the children explore on their own. They even do Bookshop Parties!
St Andrews is a very small, university town with a very quaint, twee feel so perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s home to come very cute cafes and six bookshops.
Topping & Company is a long, narrow store with long, wooden ladders along the shelves, perfect if you want to play at being Belle in Beauty and the Beast. They offer free tea and coffee, and have some lovely chairs and sofas for you to enjoy it in. Perfect for relaxing with your latest purchase. Toppings also host various bookclubs and author events.
Category Is Books only opened in the latter half of 2018, but they’re looking great already! It’s a LGBTQIA+ store which aims to promote queer history and culture within the local community.
Alongside a great selection of queer books, they sell some really cute pins and run monthly queer craft clubs, writers workshops and readers show-and-tell.
And a couple I’d like to visit soon…
Leakeys Bookshop, Inverness
Golden Hare Books, Edinburgh
Honorary Mention (not actually a shop): Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow