It’s August, it’s Edinburgh, so it’s festival time! If you need a bit of time off from the mad dashing around, here are my top ten bookshops to visit while you’re here.
1. Portobello Bookshop – 6 Portobello High St, Portobello, Edinburgh EH15 1DA One of my favourite bookshops, it is so well stocked, lovely and spacious, with welcoming staff. The bookshop might be a bit out of the city centre, but it really is worth a visit, and afterwards you can go for a swim in the sea or if you’re not feeling hardy enough for that, there’s a wonderful promenade with a plethora of cafes and icecream vendors as well as a proper, clean sandy beach.
2. The Edinburgh Bookshop – 219 Bruntsfield Pl, Edinburgh EH10 4DH. Walking distance from the book festival, this award winning shop is tiny but there is so much to tempt you, and the staff pride themselves in knowing every book. They also have a loyalty card scheme for regulars, and now I’ve moved to the South Side, that includes me! Yippee. Once you’ve stocked up, there are some lovely cafes to go and sit in for a read (Salt or Honeycomb get my vote), or if the weather is good, The Meadows is close at hand.
3. Golden Hare Bookshop – 68 St Stephen St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AQ. Located in the New Town this used to be my local and I don’t think I ever went in there and came out empty handed. Directly across the road is another, newer bookshop, just for children, called Ginger and Pickles. Take your purchases to Inverleith Park for a bit of sunshine.
4. Toppings – 2 Blenheim Pl, Edinburgh EH7 5JH Those first three bookshops were tiny and independent; my fourth choice here is part of a chain and is one of the biggest bookshops in the city. However, unlike the other large chains, you get the feeling that Toppings is all about the books. There are no cards or games or other paraphernalia filling out the space; just books, and honestly it’s an amazingly complete stock. In addition they offer beautiful editions, first editions, often signed. I was momentarily tempted by a signed copy of Elton John’s autobiography till I realised it was £60. There is no coffee shop either, but staff will make you a cuppa if you need one. Oh and every time I go in, I get serious bookshelf envy. I WANT one of those sliding ladders. I really do.
8. Curiouser and curiouser – 93 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3RZ and 106 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh EH10 4ES These two shops are really gift, cards and framing shops, but over the years I have known them, their bookshelves have expanded to the point where they have quite a niche selection. Their stationery is brilliant too.
So there you have it! It’s not an exhaustive list either. There is a new bookshop which has just opened in Leith Walk. I haven’t visited it yet but I’m assured it is really good. Argonaut Books, 15-17 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 8LN. Going to visit as soon as I can! There are also several bookshops in the secondhand quarter – Armchair Books and Edinburgh Books are both in West Port, between the Grassmarket and the venue for the Book Festival. I haven’t mentioned them because I find Armchair books a bit pricey, and Edinburgh Books a tad unfriendly, but they are there and they have a good selection. There is even a tiny book shop section in John Knox’s house (which is also home to the Storytelling Centre). And when in Edinburgh, don’t miss the Writers Museum (Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Cl, Edinburgh EH1 2PA) and of course there’s the Scott Monument! And Edinburgh is definitely the place to visit if you want to be duped of hard earned cash in exchange for Harry Potter paraphernalia – truly it’s worse than Kings Cross for that. There are Harry Potter tours and a whole street of shops (Victoria Street). Avoid these like the plague.