20 Nov 2010

Bookshop heaven in Perthshire

We arrived at The Watermill bookstore in Aberfeldy just as it opened. The sun was glaring off the sheen of fresh rain and a chill hung in the air, the kind that digs into your bones if you don't keep moving.

The door handle creaked as we went in and the first thing that hit my senses was the scent of wood smoke from the stove in the café downstairs. Right away I knew that this was my kind of place.

Before it became a bookshop, The Watermill, which is on three floors, was restored from a derelict state by a miller who used it to produce oatmeal in the traditional way. When he died the mill was put up for sale and was reinvented again as the bookshop.

Shelves and tables have been constructed around the dark sturdy beams and machinery from the old mill. This gives much of the main floor the kind of intricate clutter that book lovers adore, because we can get lost in it and still feel completely at home.
The feeling of contentment continued as we went upstairs, which houses an art gallery. I loved the sparse display of art books among the steel gears or propped against the stone wall.

The occasional white wall and the peaked ceiling with a well-placed skylight helped to give the space a gentle glow.

I could hear the intermittent murmuring of voices from downstairs, but as there was no one else in the gallery it seemed a world apart. Great moments of silence pushed against the walls.
Whoever designed this bookshop is a retail genius. For example, the children’s section on the main floor is reached by going through an open doorway that leads into a long, enclosed room with shelves right to the floor a high number of books facing the viewer.

It is the modern equivalent of walking into a painted cave. What imaginative child wouldn’t want to spend an entire afternoon tucked into one of those corners with some magnificent tale propped up on her knees?
Another brilliant move was deciding to house the travel section downstairs next to the cafe.

Think about it: there you are in your wee world of escape, sitting on a big sofa with your coffee and your fresh scone. Surrounding you are stacks of books tempting you with tales of even greater escape and adventure.
Every element of this bookstore has been planned with the pleasure of the customer in mind, using many of the structure’s original features. I like to think it was in honour of the miller who first lovingly restored the unique historical building.

Perhaps you have a love of old stone buildings. Perhaps you also enjoy bookshops. Or cafes. Well this is a gorgeously designed bookshop inside of a quaint stone building in the middle of stunning Perthshire, with a café (with a woodstove)! I think I may have to move in. Who’s coming with me?

To read more about Scotland’s unique bookshops, check out this list in the Guardian. The Watermill's own site is http://www.aberfeldywatermill.com/

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