Ireland is home to some of the most picturesque independent book stores in the world. Even if you can't visit them yourself right now, you can spend some time learning about the most enchanting shops, and imagine yourself thumbing through the thousands of titles on their shelves. Make a cup of tea, and settle in for an informative journey that’ll have any book lover adding new destinations to their bucket list.
Scéal Eile Books
Ennis, County Clare
Start your journey through Ireland’s spellbinding bookstores by visiting Scéal Eile Books. Located in the quaint town of Ennis, this independent shop sells a wide breadth of titles for you to explore. With sections dedicated to new, used, and bargain books, there’s something for everyone regardless of your reading preferences and budget. Looking for a unique gift? Scéal Eile Books also houses a collection of rare, out of print, and first edition titles. Delight any booklover you know with a rare edition of a James Joyce novel as an ode to your time in Ireland.
The shop is located near museums, stores, and restaurants, making it the ideal destination for travelers who want to embrace the local culture. Scéal Eile Books also doubles as a special events arts venue, so be sure to check the list of upcoming events before you visit. Great books and great art, what more could you ask for?
Dingle, County Kerry
Picture yourself walking down the charming streets of Dingle, a port town located in county Kerry. The streets are narrow and inviting, with numerous shops lining both sides. With sweeping views and cozy corners, Dingle is a great place to imagine yourself as you dream of exploration. One of the most popular, and beloved, stores in this beautiful area is the Dingle Bookshop. Another independent store, the Dingle Bookshop has an impressive selection of genres to browse.
The books are displayed on gorgeous wooden bookcases, making it easy to see exactly what’s available while snapping a perfect pic to remember your visit.
Kilcullen, County Kildare
Rated Ireland’s Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2018, Woodbine Books in Kilcullen is a visual joy to behold. The walls and bookcases are painted in soft, light tones which gives an ethereal air to this quaint shop. Visitors can stop over at the Coffee Counter and pick up a cappuccino or latte to sip slowly while browsing through the collection of titles on display. Woodbine carries a diverse range of books for visitors of all ages, as well as a delightful selection of greeting cards and gifts.
Kilcullen is a rural town, which makes it the perfect backdrop for a quiet afternoon of relaxation. The bookstore is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and is nestled in the heart of the downtown area. Pick up a few titles, refresh your coffee, and head out to explore the surrounding neighborhood to see what magic waits for you.
Hodges Figgis is Ireland’s oldest bookshop. First established in 1768, this iconic store is located near the impressive Trinity College. If you’re stopping in Dublin to explore the bustle of this amazing city, you’ll want to devote an entire afternoon to the Hodges Figgis experience. The bookshop sells a mix of everything, including fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, stationery, and gifts.
With a multi-level layout, you’ll get lost amongst the titles from Irish authors and writers from around the world. Buy a few books for yourself, grab one of their gorgeously designed tote bags, and head back out into the heart of Dublin for a day of good food and good company.
The Winding Stair
While you’re already in Dublin--either literally or in your daydreams--wander over to another mesmerizing bookstore, The Winding Stair. Part restaurant, part bookshop, The Winding Stair has been a staple in the city since the 1970s. Named after the William Butler Yeats poem bearing the same title, this store is one of the oldest surviving bookshops in Ireland. With a selection of new and second-hand books available, you’ll be able to search to your heart’s content.
Literary magazines, cards, notebooks, and tote bags are available for purchase as well. Located in a picturesque part of Dublin, The Winding Stair is the perfect place to grab a fantastic meal while cracking open one of your newly purchased novels. The experience is truly as unique as the restaurant/bookstore itself.
The Company of Books
Located in the Ranelagh district in Dublin, The Company of Books is a suburban dream. With gorgeous wood floors, dim lighting, and floor to ceiling bookshelves framed in brick, this is the type of shop you tuck yourself into when you want a break from the action. Independently owned and operated, The Company of Books prides itself on its eclectic selection of titles. Fiction, nonfiction, art, science, travel writing, history, and crime are all represented in this beautiful little shop.
Ranelagh is an extremely walkable neighborhood, with the perfect blend of stores, restaurants, and quiet side streets to explore. The suburb is great for travelers who don’t want to get bogged down by city life but still want to stay entertained during their time abroad.
Athlone, County Westmeath
Specializing in antiquarian books, John’s Bookshop first opened in 1997, much to the delight of this cozy county Westmeath town. The store is small, though it prides itself on containing thousands of titles for readers of all ages and interests. Nestled along the River Shannon, John’s Bookshop sells signed first editions, as well as an array of paintings and photographs. If you’re interested in browsing the collection online, the store graciously ships anywhere in the world free of shipping charges.
With an unmistakable turquoise front door, you’ll easily navigate your way to John’s Bookshop as you walk through the area. The interior bookshelves are painted in the same turquoise shade, and there’s some delicate greenery and twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling. The books are somewhat haphazardly displayed, but this further adds to the overwhelming charm of the store. You’ll love John’s Bookshop so much that you’ll want to go home and brag to your friends about this wonderful hidden gem.
Top photo by Darwin Vegher