From Beatrix Potter to Arthur Ransome, John Ruskin, Wordsworth, Coleridge and the Romantics, the Lake District has long been the source of inspiration for authors, writers and poets.
There is something quite wonderful about visiting a bookshop in an unfamiliar area – browsing the local authors, picking up a map, a specific guide to an area or getting stuck into a book that is set in the location you are visiting, it can add a wonderful dimension to your trip.
When I moved to the Lakes 3 years ago, exploring the bookshops were high on my priority list and have become a welcome part of my memories since settling here.
So here is my guide to my four favourite independent bookshops in the Lake District, I hope they help inspire you on your next visit 😊
1. Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop
Opened by Fred Holdsworth in 1956, the shop originally sold a mix of books with a record collection upstairs that later turned into an education section to cater for the college (now University of Cumbria) students on the nearby campus.
The upstairs is now partially a children’s section, where a surprise can be found in one of the cosy corners!
Downstairs, Fred’s stocks an eclectic selection of fiction and non-fiction, plus a large outdoors section with plenty of books on the popular Lake District pursuits of fell running, wild swimming and a great selection of walking books by local Paul Buttle.
The old written till still remains in the shop, a quirky touch that remains from Fred’s days!
Current owner Steve (who took over in 2000) and manager Sue (who will take over the running of the shop in 2023) explained how visitors have an emotional investment in the bookshop with many people popping in the shop with memories to share. Buying a book at Fred’s had become a part of their Lake District holiday tradition.
And long may the tradition live on.
Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop, Central Buildings, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9BS
Open Monday – Saturday 9am-5pm, 10am-5pm Sunday
2. Sam Read Bookseller, Grasmere
The oldest bookshop in the Lake District, Sam Read Bookseller opened in 1887 before he passed it on to his daughter who ran the shop until the 1950s.
In fact, Elaine, the shop’s current manager is only the sixth owner to have run Sam Read’s.
Situated in Grasmere, famous for the gingerbread shop and the former home of poet and author William Wordsworth, Sam Read’s sells a variety of fiction and non-fiction for adults with a cosy children’s corner at the back of the shop.
At the front of the shop, you can browse a range of local books, guides and maps to help you plan your Lake District adventures all with views over towards the local fells.
Sam Read Bookseller, Broadgate House, Grasmere LA22 9ST
Open every day 10am-1pm and 1.30pm-5.30pm
3. Bookends, Keswick
Bookends is the sister bookshop to the well-established shop of the same name in Carlise which began life as a market stall selling second-hand books over 30 years ago.
The bookshop proudly supports local and emerging authors, including a really sweet stand with a selection for children to browse.
During my first year of living in the Lake District, I lived in Keswick and I used to love coming here for a weekly browse. I remember picking up Feet in the Clouds to learn about the crazy Lake District tradition of fell running!
Bookends is also is the official bookshop for Words by the Water, a 10-day literacy festival held annually in Keswick during March.
Outside is a selection of cards, postcards and discounted books to browse and the A board I used to love walking past with ever-changing quotes and drawings.
A true Keswick gem.
Bookends, 66 Main Street, Keswick CA12 5DX
Open Monday – Saturday 9.30am-5pm, Sunday 10am-5pm
4. Verey Books, Pooley Bridge
Opened in 2022 by Al Verey a former English teacher and guide at the Wordsworth Trust, Verey Books is a welcomed new addition to the independent bookshops of the Lake District.
Situated in Pooley Bridge, close to the shores of Ullswater, Verey Books has a bright, modern and airy feel with a cafe in one corner – the perfect place to pour over a new book with coffee and cake.
The bookshop has a thoughtfully curated selection of books ranging from current bestsellers to nature, lifestyle and a range of maps and guides of the Lake District
The children’s area has a beautiful, magical willow tree set in one corner which is the scene for their Saturday Storytime held every Saturday morning for children over 6.
Adults can enjoy monthly talks from local authors and writers at ‘Words on Wednesdays’.
I’m thoroughly looking forward to visiting regularly here on my trips over to Ullswater!
Verey Books, Treetops, Pooley Bridge CA10 2NN
Open Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm, Closed Monday
I hope you enjoyed this guide and it inspires you to explore new bookshops on your trip- happy reading!
Planning a trip to the Lake District? Check out this blog post
On the first Friday of the month, I share my monthly newsletter that has…
✨A mini letter from me on more personal thoughts or experiences from living in the Lakes
✨Q&A with a person who has been inspired by the Lake District – think artists, photographers, runners, chefs who will share their top tips and hidden gems to help you plan for your Lake District adventure
✨ Books, podcasts, essays and articles from the Lake District and outdoor community to inspire you
✨Trail Notes with the practical details on how to re-create my most recent walks in the Lake District