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Seven of the UK's best bookshop cafes

For coffee-loving bibliophiles, bookshop cafes are a dream combination — somewhere to curl up with an engrossing novel, a latte and a piece of cake. Here are five of the UK’s best.

Published 4 Mar 2022, 06:01 GMT, Updated 4 Mar 2022, 13:20 GMT
The London Review Bookshop, where all bakes are lovingly handmade by owner Terry Glover.

The London Review Bookshop, where all bakes are lovingly handmade by owner Terry Glover.

Photograph by London Review Bookshop

1. The London Review Bookshop, London

Once the stomping ground of the Bloomsbury Set, the Bloomsbury neighbourhood is today home to one of the capital’s most beloved bookstores. At the London Review Bookshop, you can browse more than 20,000 titles, ranging from contemporary fiction to current affairs. Then, get stuck into your purchase — and maybe a slice of blackcurrant hibiscus cake — at the adjoining tearoom, where all bakes are lovingly handmade by owner Terry Glover. 

2. The Aberfeldy Watermill, Aberfeldy

Housed in a Grade A-listed former oatmeal mill deep in the Scottish Highlands, the three-storey Aberfeldy Watermill is a bookstore, design shop, art gallery and cafe rolled into one. You’ll find a wide range of titles, best savoured at the charming cafe, which serves up light bites, including comforting soups, rustic sandwiches and homemade cakes. 

3. The Hours Cafe & Bookshop, Brecon

It’s impossible to miss this three-storey Tudor building on one of the oldest streets in Brecon, thanks to its wonderfully off-kilter exterior. Step inside The Hours Cafe & Bookshop to find a tightly curated selection of books — fiction, poetry, art, crime and more — as well as an award-winning cafe that celebrates local produce. Munch on a Welsh ham and chutney sandwich or opt for a thirst-quenching G&T made using Dà Mhìle gin.

Soup and sandwiches at The Aberfeldy Watermill.

Photograph by The Aberfeldy Watermill

4. White Rose Book Cafe, Thirsk

This family-run bookstore in the North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk is a great spot for a light lunch, with its large cafe and garden terrace. On offer at White Rose Book Cafe are soups, sandwiches and pastries made with local and seasonal produce; the White Rose Savoury Tea — a toasted cheese scone accompanied by Wensleydale cheese, chutney and a pot of Yorkshire tea — is a must-try. 

5. Scarthin Books, Cromford

Tucked away in the village of Cromford, in Derbyshire, Scarthin Books, a decades-old institution has all manner of books — from fresh-off-the-press novels to dusty antiquarian tomes — crammed onto its many shelves. While away a couple of hours in its cosy reading room or grab a bite at its old-school cafe, which offers several vegan and gluten-free options. Try the savoury homity pie, a firm favourite among loyal customers. 
 

Book display at Scarthin Books.

Photograph by Scarthin Books

6. Bookbugs & Dragon Tales, Norwich

The brainchild of husband-and-wife team Leanne and Dan Fridd, Bookbugs & Dragon Tales chiefly specialises in children’s books — though there’s a decent range of titles for grown-ups, too. The duo also conduct various activities for kids throughout the week, from creative writing classes to drama workshops. Families can refuel at the on-site cafe, where cakes, cookies and coffee are in plentiful supply. 

7. The Common Press, London

Opened in August 2021 as part of Glass House, a new LGBTQ+ multidisciplinary venue in Shoreditch, The Common Press champions books that represent queer and marginalised communities. More than a bookshop, it’s also intended as an inclusive space where people from all walks of life can hang out. Grab a seat at the plant-festooned cafe and enjoy your latest read with a buttery croissant and an iced lavender earl grey latte. 

Published in Issue 15 (spring 2022) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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