Whether you're an avid reader or just partial to a summer read pool-side, no one can deny the joy of entering a bookshop and searching the shelves for the perfect story.

The UK is lucky to have so many beautiful listed buildings, full of character and charming details, some of which have been inhabited by wonderful bookshops.

Whether you're searching for a thrilling fiction or after an informative book about antiques, these bookshops around the UK are certainly worth a visit...

Best bookshops in England

Barter Books, Northumberland

Best bookshops in England
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There’s a Harry Potter-ish vibe about this much-loved bookshop in Northumberland – not just because it’s set in Alnwick’s former railway station.

Open fires, model trains ticketing around a track overhead and vintage armchairs to settle into while you browse all help to set a magical tone.

One of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe, in business since 1991, Barter Books’ other claim to fame is the key role it played in popularising the now-ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster.

It also has a cafe, the Station Buffet, and a year-round ice-cream and cake parlour, Paradise.

Nantwich Bookshop, Cheshire

Best bookshops in England
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Nantwich, in Cheshire, is home to one of the highest concentrations of listed buildings in England. Among its Tudor and Georgian gems is Nantwich Bookshop, housed in a spectacular half-timbered Elizabethan merchant’s house. Built soon after the Great Fire of Nantwich in 1583, the building is now Grade II*-listed.

The shop’s rich decorative carvings and oak panelling are enough to keep many visitors occupied for some time but so, too, are its well-curated bookshelves and a coffee shop serving bowls of red pepper, bean and aubergine chilli, warming pumpkin soup and homemade lemon drizzle cake.

Jews’ Court Bookshop, Lincoln

Run by enthusiastic volunteers, this tiny bookshop is reputedly on the site of the city’s medieval synagogue – in the Middle Ages, Lincoln was home to England’s second largest Jewish community, who played a key role in the city’s rich history.

Jews' Court Bookshop champions specialist and hard-to-find local history titles, so put away your phone and pick up a guide, or if you’re looking for a present for the person who has everything, how about a history of potato-growing in Lincolnshire?

London Review Bookshop, London

Best bookshops in England
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This Bloomsbury haven was opened by the London Review of Books literary magazine in 2003. Stocking everything from contemporary fiction to poetry, cookery and nature books, it’s designed to be a kind of three-dimensional rendering of the magazine with its fun but not frivolous ethos.

The London Review Bookshop’s small cafe, the Cake Shop, is as much a draw as the bookshop. While regulars come for tea and homemade cake (think lemon, coconut and cardamom or peanut butter sponge sandwiched with pickled cherry jam) it also serves soups, salads, wraps and quiches.

Waterstones, Bradford

Best bookshops in England
Rob Ford / Alamy Stock Photo

It may be a chain, but Waterstones has a knack for spotting the potential in historic buildings, as well as selling books. The Bradford branch is a case in point, putting the city’s Grade I-listed Wool Exchange Building to use as a bookshop and cafe.

The soaring Venetian gothic space feels more like the gilded library of an Oxbridge college than anything so unrarefied as a centre of commerce.

Built in 1867, at a time when the West Yorkshire city lay claim to being one of the wealthiest metropolises in Europe, the best views of the interior today are from the cafe on the mezzanine floor.

Best bookshops in England

Visitors can enjoy wall-to-wall books and a relaxed ambience at this characterful bookshop in Shanklin, which also offers typewriter sales and repair.

Among the legions of collectable books and first editions, houseplants add to the homely feel, and a spot of leisurely browsing among Babushka’s packed shelves is the perfect antidote to the stresses of day-to-day life.

Best bookshops in Wales

Book-ish, Powys

Best bookshops in Wales

With its historic architecture, dramatic Black Mountains backdrop and raft of independent shops, there are lots of reasons to visit pretty Crickhowell in Powys.

One of those independent shops is Book-ish, a bookstore and cafe so popular within the local community – and beyond – that it recently managed to buy its own premises with the help of a crowdfunding campaign.

The bookshelves are impressively stocked and we’re tempted by the shop’s subscription boxes (who wouldn’t want a hand-picked book and a bag of Book-ish coffee delivered each month?), but the cafe’s oven-warm Welsh cakes are worth the trip alone.

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Best bookshops in Scotland

The Mainstreet Trading Co, Scottish Borders

Best bookshops in Scotland

Set in a former general store in St Boswells, Mainstreet Books and cafe opened in 2008, adding a deli and homewares section in 2012. It has been a haven for literary foodies in the Scottish Borders ever since, known for its beautiful gift-wrapping service, as well as its imaginatively curated stock.

The cafe, as you’d expect, is equally well-considered. Go for homemade granola at breakfast, red pepper, chilli and lime soup or roast butternut squash salad with sweetcorn and feta for lunch, or perhaps a slice of freshly baked chocolate Guinness cake and Ouseburn’s house blend coffee at any time of day.

Deeside Books, Aberdeen

Best bookshops in Scotland

While away a quiet afternoon by browsing the shelves of this old-fashioned bookshop, Deeside Books, in the heart of Ballater. Alongside an impressive array of Scottish bestsellers and local history books, visitors can also peruse antique tomes, first editions and out-of-print reads.

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