In the pretty riverside town of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, the most northerly city in the United Kingdom, you will find the iconic Leakey’s Bookshop. This one of a kind shop is literally an old Gaelic church filled floor to ceiling with beautiful books. Hallelujah, I have finally found a religion worth waking up early on Sundays!
Leakey’s is considered to be Scotland’s largest second hand bookstore with a collection of approximately 100,000 carefully selected books, prints, and maps curated over the course of thirty years.
Charles Leakey first established his little bookshop in 1979, back in the day before kindles and audio book subscriptions posed a threat to booksellers. The bookshop moved premises a few times, before taking up permanent residence inside its current abode nearly four decades ago, inside a renovated 17th Century church of all places!
The enduring popularity of Leakey’s owes to the warm and welcoming ambiance that embraces you as you enter, combined with the exceptional calibre of the books they acquire. Standing the test of time after forty years of trading, Leakey’s seems to be doing something right. You really can’t put a price tag on quality.
The old Greyfriars Hall may look like the perfect space for a bookshop now, but must have taken some imagining at the time. With lofty high ceilings, a spiral staircase, elegant stained glass windows, quiet reading nooks, and a crackling wood fire planted right in the middle of the shop, this bookshop is certainly not lacking in charm. Featuring floor to ceiling bookshelves that wrap around the walls, towering stacks of books, and shoppers fossicking through the boxes of books scattered around the store. It’s quite overwhelming at first glance, with books piled up as far as the eye can see, but despite the apparent chaos, the books are categorised in an orderly fashion and quite easy to navigate.
There is a lounge area on the second story where you can read or simply soak up the panoramic views of the bookshop. The second story is also home to vintage maps, prints, beautiful folios and collector sets. Leakey’s is easily the most visually spectacular bookshop I have stepped foot inside. It has a special charisma, impeccable customer service, and offers a peaceful retreat for those who want to sink into a chair and relax.
One of the greatest tragedies of travelling from Australia is the limited economy class luggage allowance. I knew that stuffing my suitcase with heavy books at the beginning of my six week UK trip was not really a wise decision. In the end, I left with a couple of light books to save my limited pennies for holiday essentials, such as food and shelter.
Inverness, United Kingdom
Phone +44 1463 239947
Opening Hours Daily from 10am to 5:30pm
Inverness is a lovely small city nestled on the banks of the River Ness. Less than ten minutes drive away is the Culloden Battlefield where the Jacobite uprising between the Highlanders and the English Redcoats came to a bloody end in 1746, great to visit if you are a history buff or an Outlander fan. Alternately, the nearby Cairngorm National Park is teeming with wildlife and is home to Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer, or you may wish to see wild bottlenose dolphins swimming in the crystal clear waters of Moray Firth, north of Inverness. There is so much to see and explore in the Northern Highlands and Inverness is the perfect place to base yourself for a couple of nights.