One of the largest second-hand bookshops in Britain and probably one of the quirkiest, Barter Books boasts more than 350,000 books, housed in the old Alnwick Station, built in 1887.
Antiquarian and rare books in glass cases jostle for attention alongside Manga and comics, classic children's novels, fiction and non-fiction books galore. You can browse books on the shelves or peruse them at your leisure in the old waiting room or in one of the many comfy seats dotted around the place. In the winter, there are open fires to keep you cosy. If you lose track of time and suddenly feel hungry, you can head to the station buffet for light refreshment.
Three giant murals adorn the walls inside - The Famous Writers, The Railway Mural and The Tennyson Installation illustrating the first lines of the famous poet's 'Crossing the Bar'. There is a children's room for the little folk, who will be delighted by the train wending its way above the columns of books in the central room.
Established in 1991 by Mary and Stuart Manley, Barter Books was originally set up as a second-hand bookshop based on the barter system, hence the name. It was opened in the front room of what was then Stuart's manufacturing plant in the old station. A partnership was formed that grew into what the New Statesman magazine called 'The British Library of second-hand bookshops'.
They restored and enhanced the Victorian station building, re-exposing the canopy outside, opening up the fireplaces and repainting and replastering the interior. The result is a wonderfully warm ambience in which it is impossible not to linger.
In 2000, Stuart Manley discovered a rare original of the long-forgotten 'Keep Calm and Carry On' World War II poster in a box of old books sold at auction. His wife, Mary, had it framed and hung up in the shop where it became an instant hit. A year later, the shop started selling facsimile copies, which were soon copied and parodied in the millions. The poster has since become one of the iconic images of the 21st century.