There’s a small, spooky little town in the south-west of Scotland, with rather an unfortunate history, that has become known as Scotland’s Book Town.
It’s called Wigtown and it’s home to more than 20 book-related businesses (quite impressive for a place with a population of only about 1000), many of which are second-hand bookshops. One of them claims to be the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland:
Those twisting pillars on either side of the door are made of piled up books covered in wax:
I remember the first time I went to Wigtown I had an unnerving sense of unease. I had no idea why I felt the way I did, but I had a strong impression that something wasn’t quite right. I’ve since visited it with three different friends, on separate occasions, and to my astonishment each one of them, with no prompting from me, reported the same strange feeling. My parents went there before I did and they felt it too.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this, in case you want to visit the place yourself and will now be predisposed to sensing something, but I feel I can’t write a post about Wigtown without mentioning it. If you’re curious, the explanation my parents gave me for it, and which seems quite convincing to me, relates to the story of the Wigtown Martyrs.
On to more cheerful matters – books galore! Despite the unsettling atmosphere of Wigtown, I do enjoy visiting it because of the marvellous range of bookshops on offer, and The Book Shop is definitely one of the highlights:
When I was there in April I noticed that a couple of the bookshops had closed down, perhaps due to lack of business (Galloway is a pretty quiet corner of the country and Wigtown is a very sleepy little backwater), but a fair number seem to be thriving and are still packed to the gunwhales with interesting tomes. The Book Shop has many different nooks and crannies, and books covering virtually every topic imaginable. If you like books, it is an absolute joy to wander round:
Amongst all the books, there are some curious ornaments, including a violin-playing skeleton suspended from the ceiling. I assume the poor fellow was hoisted up there after he’d passed on, and didn’t actually expire in situ, violin in hand:
Beneath the skeleton, in the bottom left hand corner of the above photo, you might make out a table with paper cups and things on it. This is a tea and coffee station, from where one is free to help oneself to hot beverages. There are a couple of comfy chairs next to it, upon which you may perch while you imbibe, and peruse a book or two. When I visited, the fire in the fireplace was blazing away and it was very cosy:
Knowing that I was bound for another bookshop that contained a more elaborate tearoom, I didn’t indulge here, but instead continued to wander round looking at books and reading messages in unlikely places:
As I say, I was saving my appetite for another bookshop that contained a tearoom. I’ll keep the details for another post because there’s quite a bit to say about it, but just to whet your appetite here’s a picture of the tasty fruit scone I had there. The jam in the background was astonishingly good. I wasn’t sure what the flavour was, but according to the waitress it was a locally made plum preserve. They had some jars of other jams on sale, but unfortunately none of the plum; if there had been any, I would have purchased one to take home: