Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Day in Heaven: Leakey's Bookshop and Café, Inverness



Don't you love serendipity? More than once, it's played an important role in my life-- most recently in the days leading to the month-long trip Denis and I took to the UK. Some of you know that on Fridays I post a batch of (usually) book-related links that I've found on the internet. A couple of weeks before we were due to leave for England, I happened across someone's post of (however many) "most beautiful bookstores in the world." I began scrolling through and after recognizing the first six or seven as ones I'd seen many times before, I almost closed the browser window and moved on. For some reason, I scrolled on... and I came upon a photo of a bookstore that made my jaw drop and my tongue hang out of my mouth. The caption read "Leakey's Bookshop, Scotland." I Googled it, although I was certain I'd find that the bookshop was in Edinburgh, and we were not going to Edinburgh this trip.

Leakey's Bookshop (Photo Credit)
When I clicked on a link and "Inverness, Scotland" was staring me right in the face, I think I shrieked with surprise and sheer glee. Denis and I were going to be staying in a cottage on the shore of the Cromarty Firth... just a few miles out of Inverness!

I told Denis about my find when he came home from work. He found it easily on Google Earth and found out that Leakey's has a Facebook page. He sent them a message about parking and received a quick reply.  Leakey's was officially on our itinerary!


The entire month we were in the UK, it was bitterly cold, and the sun seldom shone. In fact, we saw more sun in the extreme northwest of Scotland than anywhere else on the entire island. But the day we drove to Inverness, the sky was almost uniformly grey with only brief flashes of brilliant sunlight.

As far as I'm concerned, Inverness is the best shopping city in the UK. We parked in a multi-story car park (er... parking garage to us Americans) that was right next to the bus station. Leakey's was a two-block walk from the car park. A couple of blocks in a slightly different direction will take visitors to two different shopping malls-- and this was all in "downtown"-- the old city center of Inverness, on the banks of the River Ness and within walking distance of the castle! Trust me, you just don't get this kind of convenience in the UK (and for a good reason)-- my mind still boggles!

Pedestrian Bridge over the Ness
Leakey's is a block away from the pedestrian bridge across the River Ness, and there are all sorts of marvelous shops along its banks to be explored. But there was a bitter wind blowing, and I had a bookstore in my sights, so I didn't want to tarry long.

In fact, I was in such a hurry to get inside Leakey's that I forgot to take a picture, hence the one I used above from Wikimedia Commons! (Don't worry, the rest of the photos are mine, and you can click on any one of them to see them in their original sizes in a new window.)

Back in 1982, Leakey's stock was spread out in two small shops in Inverness. In 1993, they began the process of converting an old church into their present business. (So if you thought those windows in the first photo looked a bit ecclesiastical, you were correct!)

My first glimpse of Wonderland
After climbing a few steps, Denis and I entered a small vestibule. Up another step or two, open a door, and... look upon a Book Lover's Wonderland! I think Denis took one look at my face and didn't say a word; he just moved on and did his own exploring and browsing and left me to my own literary communion.

Immediately to my left were modern fiction and paperbacks, but I didn't even stop.


My kind of job!
I took a few steps inside and peeked at the woman sitting at the front desk. She was surrounded by stacks and piles of lovely books. Then I think my attention was drawn to the architecture of the building itself... to the row upon row of books... and to the big wood-burning stove in the center of the room, throwing out waves of blessed warmth. I then heard the clink of cutlery upon plates and the murmur of quiet conversation. I looked up and there was the café. It was lunchtime, and it was packed up in that tiny space. The daily menus on Leakey's Facebook page sounded delicious, but the best judges of the food are always the locals, and it was obvious that this was a popular spot to eat. No doubt about it, Denis and I would be sampling the cuisine before we left!

Now I'm going to shut up and let my photos do the talking for me. I hope you enjoy your tour of Leakey's because it's definitely a place that I plan to return to as often as I can.

The heat was welcome on a bitterly cold day.


Spiral staircase leading to the upper floor and café.

Heaven...

I'm in heaven...


Looking over to the café.

From the top of the spiral staircase.

Where we waited for the café to clear out a bit.

Our delicious meals!

Inverness City Center
If you're wondering about those meals in the café, I had the tuna mayonnaise, and Denis had the curried tomato soup. Both were absolutely delicious!

I took many more photos than this, and if you're either a Facebook friend or if you've liked the Kittling: Books Facebook page, you are more than welcome to take a look at all the others. It was a truly wonderful day-- and all because I didn't give up on an article I thought I'd read before!

26 comments:

  1. What a wonderful surprise! I try to find special book shops when I travel, but I've never found anything like this. How exciting!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, bliss! There is nothing like a good bookstore on a blah day ... what a lucky strike you had! And I agree ... working in a bookstore is a dream job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except for cleaning the toilets after closing. :-/

      Delete
  3. Heaven, indeed. My kind of job, my kind of place.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cathy - What a wonderful place that bookshop must be! Wow! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Margot. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Delete
  5. I'm surprised you didn't move right in -- a new bookstore, tons of books -- and a cafe! What more could an avid reader want? And I note there are couches so you would have a place to sleep! I bet
    it was tempting.

    How great. I wish its clone were within walking distance of my abode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're have the uncanny ability to read my mind at times, Kathy! LOL

      Delete
  6. A bookstore with so many books they can't shelve them all? That really is heaven. I love this place. Unfortunately I missed it when we were in Inverness briefly several years ago. Guess what's on my must see list when I return to Scotland?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me guesssssssss..... um... Leakey's? ;-)

      Delete
  7. I am in heaven just looking at the pictures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it's even better when you're there in person!

      Delete
  8. Scotland is on the short list of places my husband and I want to visit--he for the distilleries!! I now have a place to put on my list. Scotland is also home of my ancestors who moved from there to Va mountains in 1700's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Denis visited a couple of distilleries while we were there, Teresa-- and my ancestors also came from Scotland. Mostly the Highlands, and they arrived in Virginia and North Carolina in the early 1700s. Who knows? We might be distantly related!

      Delete
  9. The bookstore does look really beautiful, and absolutely enormous. I love all the comfy looking chairs, which is really what you need in a bookshop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can attest to the fact that they were extremely comfortable! :-)

      Delete
  10. Wow! You could get lost in there!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wonderful. I'm hoping to be up in that area in the autumn and Leakey's will be on the itinery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look forward to reading about your experience, Cath!

      Delete
  12. What a delightful bookish day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly was! And being in Inverness just made another of my favorite series written by A.D. Scott even better!

      Delete
  13. Oh no! I missed going in to Leakey's the week before last when we paid a very short visit to Inverness! I can't believe did that - you see I was looking for art materials and actually walked past Leakey's on the other side of the road, meant to look in and didn't!!! But looking on the bright side we hope to go back for another visit - and I definitely will be going into Leakey's.

    I agree about Inverness being a great shopping centre by the way. I was impressed. On our way back to Coylumbridge where we were staying we drove along the shore of Loch Ness, so beautiful even on a cloudy day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't forget to have lunch in the cafe when you visit Leakey's!

      Denis and I took a cruise down Loch Ness down to Urquhart Castle. Even on a bitterly cold and windy day, Loch Ness is beautiful.

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!