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A Novel Experience – A Visit to Barter Books Alnwick

A Novel Experience – A Visit to Barter Books Alnwick


I think this is the sort of place I dreamt of as a child

Barter Books in Alnwick is the most magical place for book lovers and is somewhere I could happily pass a day (week/month) or two curled up in a chair devouring a book.

As a child I experienced worlds beyond my imagination through the books I read. And I am fairly sure that my obsession and love of travel comes from the inspiration those authors gave me. From the make-believe lands of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree to the Argentinian Pampas and African jungle described by Gerald Durrell these books were an escape to me – a 10 year old girl living on the Northumberland coast.

My husband had heard about Barter Books while watching  an episode of Portillo’s travels around the UK and it is a must visit if you are in Northumberland. Apparently over 350,000 people a year visit Barter books with 40% from outside the area. This gives you an indication of just how special this book shop is!

quotes at Barter Books Alnwick

Just wonderful who can resist Barter Books?


Barter Books Alnwick was opened by Mary Manley in 1991 and is now one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. It is situated inside a Victorian railway station which is a beautiful building with so much character. Those with a particular interest in the station’s history and architecture can follow the Alnwick Station Walkabout ‘A self-guided historical tour.’ This gives a step-by step room by room description of the building.

There are books everywhere and comfortable chairs and sofas and fires and even a train running on tracks above your head. There are amazing quotes joining bookcase to bookcase and beautiful murals to enjoy.

The 3 murals were commissioned by the owners. They are – the “Famous Writers mural” (see who you can spot) – the “Railway mural” which consists of the names of railway workers who worked at the station between 1850 and 1968 and finally the “Tennyson Installation.” This was inspired by the work of artist Mark Handforth and contains the first lines of Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the bar.’ (source from the Barter Books leaflet)

A great interview with Mary Manley and her husband Stuart will give you more insight into the motivations of the owners behind the creation of this amazing book shop.

Visit England // Barter Books, Northumberland from Two Yanks and a Brit UK on Vimeo.

Around the World in 80 Best Travel Books



Barter Books is the home of the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster which has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Find out how the poster came to the attention of the nation and the world after their discovery in a box in Barter Books!


There is a station buffet shop at Barter Books and we enjoyed a very tasty meal followed by a nice cuppa with some cake!

We absolutely loved spending time at Barter Books….what more could you ask for? Over 350,000 second hand books including some very rare (and expensive ones), WiFi, free parking and a station buffet? This is a very special place and if you are in Northumberland a must visit!

We plan to visit again in winter, choose a good book and curl up on one of their sofas, enjoy a warm fire and a hot chocolate from the station buffet. What better way to spend a winter’s day?



Barter Books is in Alnwick in beautiful Northumberland about 35 miles north of Newcastle.

There are lots of things to see and do in Alnwick . As well as visiting the bookshop I would recommend a visit Alnwick Gardens and Alnwick Castle.

Parking at Barter Books is free though can get busy!

Free Wi-fi is available.

Barter Books is open every day 9:00 – 7:00 incl. Sundays and all Bank Holidays (apart from Christmas Day)

The Buffet hours are : 9:00 – 6:30

There is a gift shop and you can purchase Keep Calm memorabilia too!

If there is a particular book you are looking for you can check in the shop’s catalogue.

We had a fantastic day driving up the coast visiting Seahouses, Bamburgh and Holy Island amongst others! There is so much to see and do along the Northumberland Coast!


Planning a drive up the Northumberland Coast in the UK




A visit to Barter books





  1. July 13, 2016 / 7:17 am

    This is definitely on my list to do when I travel up that way again. Wished I knew about it when I was visiting Alnwick Castle a couple of months ago. Great find 🙂

    • July 13, 2016 / 5:54 pm

      Plan to spend a day there! It is a fantastic place!

  2. June 23, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    Holy ..! This looks like the best place ever..!

  3. March 25, 2018 / 4:31 am

    Books and trains — a winning combination! I would LOVE to visit this charming bookstore. I could spend a heavenly day here exploring all the shelves. Pinning for future travel inspiration!
    Sharon recently posted…A Walk in the Latin Quarter of ParisMy Profile

  4. March 27, 2018 / 2:51 pm

    What a fabulous bookstore and in a train station. How great to curl up with a good book in winter by the fire or look for an old book. Great place to visit. Pinned for later. #feetdotravel
    Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) recently posted…Kyoto Cherry Blossom in JapanMy Profile

  5. March 29, 2018 / 7:50 am

    Everything about this place oozes character! The fact it’s in a Victorian station, and I love that it has chairs and sofas to curl up and read. A wonderful few hours can be whiled away curled up with a delicious hot coffee and a good book, brilliant! #feetdotravel

  6. March 29, 2018 / 9:01 pm

    This looks our sort of place, could spend hours here! #feetdotravel

    • TracyJane
      March 31, 2018 / 7:48 am

      It is a lovely place – try to get up to Northumberland next time you are in the UK

  7. April 1, 2018 / 9:47 pm

    I can’t imagine a more perfect winter’s day! I love old bookstores, and this one is so charming. It reminds me a bit of Powell’s books in Portland, Or which has a similar feel with the quotes on the walls. However, this one seems even more quaint and magical. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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Hello from Australia

Traveller, teacher, train lover, and milkshake connoisseur.Now living and working in my 7th country and experiencing life in Queensland, Australia.

I write to inspire others whatever their age to explore the world - near and far!

I have travelled for over 30 years including solo in my 20's , as a single parent in my 30's and now in my 40's and beyond with my husband. House sitter and aspiring grey nomad a life of location independence is my goal.

Over 40 years ago I dreamt of a life well travelled and that is the life I live!

Dream it, plan it, do it!!


“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”
-- Michael Palin