Inverness is the most northerly city in Britain and the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Here in this pretty city nestled on the banks of the Ness, you’ll find the iconic Leakey’s Bookshop, an old Gaelic church filled floor to ceiling with books. Hallelujah, I have finally found a religion worth waking up early for on Sundays! Leakey’s is considered to be Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore with a collection of approximately 100,000 books, prints, and maps curated over the course of thirty years.
Charles Leakey established his first bookshop in 1979, long before kindles and audiobook 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!
The enduring popularity of Leakey’s owes to the warm and welcoming ambience 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 looks like the perfect space for a bookshop now, but would 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.
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
Inverness is less than ten minutes drive from 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.