Apart from going to the supermarket and wandering in the woods I haven’t been beyond my own four walls and garden since lockdown on March 23rd. I’ve been quite content, stoic even when the September holiday was cancelled (at the hotel’s request). The thought of foregoing a holiday in the sun during December isn’t upsetting me. I’ll endure a Scottish winter rather than deal with these ridiculous airbridge shenanigans. But I found the thought of not visiting Edinburgh in August – despite there being no physical book festival – unbearable. The lack of convergence in Charlotte Square would give me time to visit other attractions. Not that much has opened yet. Only one museum last week, with a second to follow this coming week. However, the paradise-for-coeliacs gluten-free brewery was open for business, and most importantly so were those havens-for-bookworms, nightmares-for-bank-managers, commonly known as bookshops.

The 3-day bookshop trail was meticulously planned ….

Day one

Starting point was Charlotte Square, home of the book festival, looking quite different. Let’s just mourn the loss for a minute ….

2019 image copyright edbookfest

… before walking to Waterstones on Princes Street. I am very fond of this bookshop. I can easily find everything I want (and more), so, before entering, I set some ground rules.

1. Purchase only books on my wishlist. (This is an inversion of my usual rule for August when I go on a voyage of discovery and seek out books previously unknown to me.)

2. Maximum of two books per store (to spread the love).

As I suspected Waterstones had everything on my wishlist (bar one). How then to choose just two? Part of the fun of a festival – even a mock one – is the acquisition of signed copies. While picking one up from a table is not as exciting as attending an author signing, in these days it is an acceptable substitute. Hence ….

Next a leisurely stroll in the sunshine, down George Street (Princes Street while not exactly full, looked a bit too busy for comfort in these times), through St Andrew’s Square (busier still), past York Place and along a short section of Leith Walk to Toppings and Co. Only I couldn’t cross the road – there’s an extension to the tramline under construction. This turned out to be fortuitous because I came across McNaughtan’s / Typewronger Books. I’ve never seen this shop before. It looks intriguing and has an interesting selection of books. But nothing on my wishlist – this time. I’ll be back.

I finally found the pedestrian crossing, and walked back up the road to Toppings and Co. Did I say, it was a warm, sunny day? Boy was I ready to remove my mask and enjoy a refreshing and complimentary pot of tea, while deciding what to purchase. Again, there was fantastic choice but I settled on books 3 and 4 of Abir Mukherjhee’s Sam Wyndham series. I devoured books 1 and 2 last month, and can’t wait to binge read to the current end of the series.

Thereafter, it was time to rendezvous with Rossetti at the aforementioned brewery ….

Day Two

The day began in Stockbridge at Golden Hare Books. Another small independent whose stock of books that could easily be mistaken for my own collection. The two books I purchased here from my wishlist, due to twitter contacts. @kimbofo, you are entirely to blame for Daisy Jones and The Six, and as @MumblingDeafRo wrote Leonard and Hungry Paul, there’s no reason to seek out another culprit.

With a little time to kill before lunch, I wandered down Stockbridge High Street, and discovered some very well-stocked charity book shops. No time to browse, but they have been noted for future reference.

During lunch, the heavens opened. Typical festival weather! Edinburgh wouldn’t be the same without it. But masked-up bookshop browsing with bemisted spectacles is no fun, and so I skipped visits to Blackwell’s and The Edinburgh Bookshop, went back to my digs and watched the virtual EIBF instead.

Day Three

Would The Portobello Bookshop have the two books remaining on my wishlist? They didn’t as it happened. One was a new release, which surprised me, and the other was a tough ask. None of the other shops had had it either.

As it was time to return home, I ordered those two books from Hive, (Alex Pavesi’s Eight Detectives and Stewart Conn’s Aspects of Edinburgh). Hive will make a donation from the sales to my nominated bookshop (The Edinburgh Bookshop).

Blackwell’s will be the first port of call next time I go on a (hopefully maskless) bookshop crawl in Auld Reekie.