I confess. I have a thing for used bookstores housed in old stone churches. I love watching the play of light filtering through the stained glass windows. I can savor (for hours) the smell of the used books mixing with a hint of incense and oil from rituals past. And the sound of the aged wooden floors creaking under foot reminds me of a simpler time when our buildings and cultural trappings were fashioned by artisans, and not so far removed from the land.
Imagine my excitement, then, when I stumbled upon Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness, Scotland. Leakey’s sells thousands of used and rare books, on “most subjects,” and best of all, they’re housed in an old church.
A small placard on the outside of the building reads: Old Gaelic Church. Built 1649 for Gaelic Speakers. Rebuilt in 1792 and reconstructed in 1822 (Architect James Smith). Served as Greyfriars Free Church.
This place is heaven for people that love old stuff.
They also have piles of antique prints (old engravings) from 18th and 19th century Scotland. The prints offer an intriguing window into the past, showing how people dressed, worked and carried out their lives. I especially enjoyed the old books on Scottish mountaineering. They were filled with illustrations and maps that could have kept me occupied for hours.
Here’s another shot of the interior. They have a huge wood stove that keeps the place warm. What could be finer than a good book and the warmth of a crackling log fire on a cold day?!
Leakey’s buys and sells modern books too. Be forewarned, however. This place is stacked to the rafters with rare tomes, antique maps and arcane tales. You’ll need time, and you’ll feel a desire to take pictures once you’re inside. There’s something about the color scheme of the interior and the quirkiness of the place that begs for photo-taking. Do yourself a favor though, and buy one of their postcards. You’ll never catch the essence of the place as well as their photographer did.
Our Scottish Highlands and Islands
hiking tour begins, and finishes, in Inverness this year. (We changed up the itinerary.) If you join our hike, then make sure to visit Leakey’s when you’re in town. They’re located on the corner of Church Street and Friar’s Lane.
You can also see a 360 degree view of the upstairs by clicking here
Photos: by Carolyn Costin-Martin and Chris Pranskatis