Everyone needs a ‘happy place’. Somewhere that isn’t necessarily home but is a place where you feel totally comfortable and able to relax. Somewhere that just thinking of about it lowers your stress levels and makes you smile for a minute or too. Somewhere that you have a physical longing to be.
For me, over the last 15 or so years, that place has become the Northumberland Coast. Walking the beaches there is truly the medicine I need to soothe my soul.
Our favourite family beaches are Beadnell and Bamburgh, enjoyed pretty much whatever the weather.
A few days in this spot is the ultimate battery recharge for me. Give me a week and I am ecstatic, but I will settle for the mad dash across the country just for a day.
And it was one of those ‘mad dash’ trips that found us in Beadnell last weekend. Scorching hot and filled with people seeking the same joy as ourselves, it was still an absolute pleasure to be there.
A stroll on the beach, lobster and chips from the seafood shack @baitatbeadnell and then a meal in the always welcoming Craster Arms, all set me up nicely for one of the highlights of my trip…
Barter Books is possibly the most amazing second hand book shop I have ever visited in my life. And I have been in a few! Ask my family!
Housed in the listed Victorian railway station in Alnwick the only word for it is, well huge!! It houses over 350,000 secondhand books, both fiction and non fiction. The books are all laid out by catergory, which range from subjects as diverse at Horror to Mountaineering and back again. There is truly something to meet suit all tastes.
The shop also specialises in Antiquarian and rare books. A good proportion of any visit is usually spent gazing longingly into the locked cabinets that run the length of the old station walls. On this occasion I tore myself sensibly, if somewhat reluctantly away from a signed copy of Vera Brittain’s Testament Of Friendship…
The children’s section of the bookshop is a treasure trove. So many of our family books have been purchased here over the years. It is a space that welcomes children of all ages with no hint of stuffiness. From the huge book lorry which houses a comprehensive selection of picture books, to the wheely bugs on the floor…
…and not forgetting the model train that runs around the bookshelves, all designed to help foster a love of books from an early age.
But what if your companions are not quite a Bookish as you? Because let’s be honest it is quite easy to spend literally hours in this divine place without coming up for air.
Fear not, all tastes are catered for!
For the reluctant teenager in your life the shop has WiFi access!! And a bank of computers which means they can search for any book they might want without having to leave their seat. I have to confess to have never used this service because I belong to that strange breed who would rather rummage amongst the book stacks seeking my treasure in reality rather than virtually. But it an amazing resources.
And let’s talk food! Because the shop houses the AMAZING Station Buffet, serving hot and cold food. Like the book shop it’s self it is open 9am – 7pm every day.
In the winter the favourite spot for my family to stop, flop and well, wait (!) is by the fire in the front of the shop. Cosy arm chairs, coffee, tea and even dog biscuits for the furry friends so welcome here. What is not to love?
Barter Books is a special place. Beginning as just an idea in the front room of her husband’s manufacturing plant Mary Manley has created a unique book experience, catering to all tastes and needs. I challenge anyone not to find something here that interests them. From graphic novels to War and Peace the breadth and depth of books is breathtaking.
And if the books are breathtaking the same can certainly be said for the interior of the shop. Commissioned between 1999 and 2006 are The Three Murals. The Famous Writers mural took two years to complete and contains 30 portraits of famous writers.
The Railway Mural contains the names of nearly 450 railway staff who worked at Alnwick station up it’s closure in 1968. The final mural The Tennyson Installation illustrates the opening lines of Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar.
So what was my haul last weekend?? Well, by my standards it was quite a small selection but no less pleasing for that. An unread Tracy Chevailer, my first every Jess Kidd and Margaret Drabble and a completely new author, with a book set amongst the Cumbrian fells.
This post is a whistle stop tour of a fabulous shop, where I have only skimmed the surface of what it can offer. I honestly cannot recommend Barter Books highly enough. Set in such a stunning county, this is the perfect place to lose yourself in meeting old book friends and making new ones. If you are ever in Alnwick, do yourself a favour and pop in.
You can find Barter Books @ Alnwick Station, Northumberland, NE66 2NP. +44(0)1665 604888.