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8 of the Best Bookshop Cafes in Britain by Rail

If you’re looking to treat yourself to some new paperbacks, get a much-needed caffeine hit, or satisfy your sweet tooth – perhaps all in one go – you’ll want to head to a bookshop cafe

Books? Check. Charming décor? Check. Tea or coffee? Check. Cakes and sandwiches? Check.

We’ve found 8 of the best bookshop cafes for you to check out, spanning as far and wide as Derbyshire, North Yorkshire, South Gloucestershire and Northumberland to name but a few. So, what are you waiting for?

And remember to grab your Railcard – that’s up to 1/3 off your rail fare – and hop on a train. A bibliophile’s-inspired adventure awaits.

1. Scarthin Books

Cromford, Derbyshire

Catch a train to the Peak District village of Cromford and browse an antiquarian labyrinth of books, wobbly floors and cosy armchairs at Scarthin Books(external link, opens in a new tab). You might be wondering where the cafe is? Well, you’ll have to find it – it’s hidden behind a “secret” bookshelf door.

The menu of homemade dishes are all veggie or vegan, with food served from breakfast until closing time. Hungry? Try the “Full Scarthin” Breakfast. Fancy a warm drink and something sweet? Cosy up with tea, cake and, needless to say, a good book. There’s also a lovely little garden beyond the cafe, perfect for spring, summer and early autumn snacks and drinks.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 18:00; Sunday 10:00 to 18:00

Nearest station: Cromford

2. Book-ish

Crickhowell, Powys

The ever-changing but always immaculately styled window display at Book-ish sets you up for a wonderful bookshop cafe experience in Crickhowell. Inside you’ll find a well-stocked and well-organised space with vintage typewriters on the top shelves and lots of signed books, too (a result of their regular author events).

The cafe goes beyond just tea and cake. For instance, there’s salmon from the local smokery, coffee from Hay-on-Wye’s Black Mountain Roast and even hearty bowls of dhal and chilli – the ideal antidote for cold Welsh days. Book-ish also has a packed evening calendar, so there are many reasons to return.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 17:00; closed Sunday

Nearest station: Abergavenny

3. White Rose Book Cafe

Thirsk, North Yorkshire

Look for White Rose Book Cafe, a family-friendly hidden gem on Thirsk’s market square, and prepare to be wowed. Inside, your kids will love the story room, which is filled with children’s books and comfy cushions. The cafe garden has a play area, too, so you can monitor your little ones over a cream tea.

Interesting fact – you’ll always find a James Herriot book. He was a much-loved local author and thought of fondly in Thirsk. You can read about his tales in the cafe over a breakfast bap or between nibbles of locally-made scones. It’s dog-friendly too, so you can hop on the train with your pooch for walkies and a bookshop pit-stop.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 16:30; closed Sunday

Nearest station: Thirsk

4. Jaffe & Neale

Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire

Find a table nestled among the books of Jaffe & Neale in Chipping Sodbury and discover authors you’ve never heard of – the bookshop curates its own collection to offer something different from the usual big name bookshops.

Fancy a slice of cake to go with your new book? No problem. The bookshop cafe has a big selection of baked treats, from classics like a Victoria sponge to more novel creations like its “fifty mile fruit cake”.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 17:00; Sunday 10:30 to 16:00

Nearest station: Kingham

5. Phlox Books

Leyton, East London

Like talking about books? Head to Leyton in East London and make your way to Phlox Books where you can strike up a conversation with staff members who enjoy nothing more than having a conversation with fellow bookworms.

This is no ordinary bookshop cafe, either. Phlox Books also has an alcohol licence, meaning you can enjoy a glass of wine or a local craft ale before catching the train home with your new books in tow.

Opening times: Closed Monday; Tuesday and Wednesday 10:00 to 18:00; Thursday to Saturday 10:00 to 20:00; Sunday 10:00 to 17:00

Nearest station: Leyton Midland Road

6. The Mainstreet Trading Company

St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Described by the author Victoria Hislop as “a book-lover’s dream”, The Mainstreet Trading Company is jam-packed with books, with more than 7,000 titles to choose from and a large children’s section to boot.

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, head to the cafe where you can choose from a nice selection of cakes, sandwiches and seasonal lunch options. The bookshop cafe also regularly welcomes literary stars and invites chefs to put on cookery demonstrations, so it’s a great choice for a day trip.

Opening times: Closed Monday; Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 to 17:30; Sunday 11:00 to 16:30

Nearest Station: Tweedbank

7. Barter Books

Alnwick, Northumberland

A second-hand bookshop and cafe in a former Victorian railway station? Cue the inimitable Barter Books(external link, opens in a new tab), where, above the shelves packed with all sorts of tomes, you’ll see a model train snaking along rails. And, true to its name, if you have any old paperbacks you want to get rid of, you can bring them in and exchange them at the till.

The cafe, which is called the Station Buffet, is in the station’s old waiting rooms. Here you can tuck into big chip butties, fish finger sarnies and bacon sarnies.

Opening times: Every day 9:00 to 19:00, including Bank Holidays, but closed on Christmas Day

Nearest station: Alnmouth

8. The Book Nook

Stirling, Stirlingshire

Catch the train to Stirling and visit The Book Nook, where the smell of new and second-hand books and freshly baked treats greets you. There’s a casual vibe here with plenty of tables and armchairs for reading, playing board games and, of course, eating.

The bookshop’s resident baker will tempt you with fresh bagel sandwiches and cakes, with options for vegetarians and vegans. The coffee comes from Girls Who Grind, a specialist roastery with a mission to change the coffee industry.

Opening times: Every day 8:30 to 17:30

Nearest station: Stirling

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