A roaring open fire, comfy armchairs and the delicious smell of home cooking greeted us when we walked into Barter Books in Alnwick. Just the welcome we wanted on a rather cold and wet April day in North Northumberland.
Barter Books is a second hand bookshop but what a magnificent second hand book shop it is. The largest second hand book shop in England it has a whopping 350,000 books.
Even if you are not a book lover, this venue is worth visiting. It is housed in a former, large Victorian railway station. The station was designed by William Bell in 1887. The 32,000 sq ft building could seem rather large and too grand for the small town of Alnwick. However, as Alnwick is the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland it was thought necessary to build an elegant station to impress visiting Royalty.
Sadly the notorious Beeching cuts meant the end of the branch line and it wasn't until around 1991 that the building was turned into Barter Books.
The bookshop is contained in what was once seven station rooms. The entrance to the shop being the original parcels room which retains the open window with bars through which passengers would once purchase tickets.
As you enter the building it is as if you are walking into the lounge of a house. Comfy chairs stand surrounded by wooden bookcases and a tray set with tea, coffee and delicious homemade biscuits together with an honesty box sits on a trolley near the open fire.
Walk a few steps and the enormity of the building strikes you, there are rows and rows of books as far as you can see. There is also the pleasant distraction of the model railway acting as a link between book columns. There are stunning 40ft murals to see. A children's room packed with toys is there to entertain children.
For those wanting a little more than tea and biscuits then there is the Station Buffet housed on the former old railway platform where you can enjoy a variety of snacks and light meals.
The huge building has been beautifully restored and preserved making it a rather idyllic place to buy books, read books or simply enjoy the environment. The overall atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and unhurried, visitors are encouraged to spend as long as they like browsing and reading.
Barter books is on a hill but there is parking outside with dedicated blue badge parking bays..
The town of Alnwick has so much to offer the visitor, from beautiful gardens, to a magnificent castle, museums, and a thriving shopping area.
There is no entry charge to Barter Books.