British bookshops straight from the pages of Harry Potter

Thursday 01 January 1970

"They bought Harry’s school books in a shop called Flourish and Blotts where the shelves were stacked to the ceiling with books as large as paving stones bound in leather; books the size of postage stamps in covers of silk; books full of peculiar symbols and a few books with nothing in them at all." - Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone

Step into a bookshop and you are instantly surrounded by mysterious realms of the unknown. Stacks and shelves of books full of secrets conjure an air of magic that you just won’t find in a shoe shop. Unless that shoe shop is located on Diagon Alley. So fans of Harry Potter will be happy to learn that Britain has a number of bookshops that wouldn’t seem out of place next to the likes of Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions or The Leaky Cauldron.

Where Harry Potter might not look out of place browsing the titles

Cecil Court bookshops, London
©Vasenka Photography

Treadwell’s, of Bloomsbury, London, is a cosy shop decorated with comfy seats and all manner of curios. They focus on esotericism, culture, religion and spirituality. Describing themselves as “a boutique-sized browser’s paradise”, the shop even offers Tarot readings.

Specialising in a similar range of spiritual titles, Watkins Books has been a proud purveyor of new, second-hand and antiquarian books for more than 100 years. Its location, on Cecil Court, “just off Charing Cross Road”, as in Rowling’s books, is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley itself.

Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, has open fires, comfy old furniture, stacks of antiquarian books, 40 foot murals, a model train that acts as a link between book columns and it’s all housed in a Victorian train station dating back to 1887. It’s absolutely  magical, and to conjure a further link to Harry Potter, nearby Alnwick Castle features as the one and only Hogwarts in the films.

Where Harry Potter might rock up for a spell

Hay-on-Wye book festival

In Wales, the picturesque market town of Hay-on-Wye, often described as the town of books, hosts an internationally famous festival every spring celebrating writers, philosophers, comedians and film-makers. Not surprisingly, it’s home to a few bookshops; almost 40 in fact. And while Honesty Bookshop may not seem like a shop in the traditional sense of the word (it operates on the basis of an honesty box and has no roof!), it does, however, feature an actual castle and that’s pretty Harry Potter-esque.

Where you could expect to find a wee Harry Potter with his nose in a book

Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness, Scotland

In the Highlands, Inverness is the location for Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. The name might sound pretty familiar to JK Rowling fans too – Leakey’s Bookshop (maybe The Leaky Cauldron is diversifying?) is housed in an old gaelic church dating back to 1793. Curl up by the wood-burner, have a nice cup of tea and start exploring a world beyond the covers.

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