Monday, 31 March 2008

Stanfords' Travel Bookshop, London

If wandering around the travel section of your local Waterstones gives you nearly as much of a rush as ordering that first cold beer in a new country, Stanfords' flagship store - 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden - will feel like a round-the-world trip for your itchy-footed soul.

The shop's three floors are stacked high with travel guides, maps old and new, globes inflatable, illuminated or traditional, travel lit, pictorial coffee-table hardbacks and geographical miscellany . It's the only bookstore I've visited that attracts backpackers like moths to flames or like mosquitoes to ... well, backpackers sleeping in beach bunks.

Mixed in amongst travellers of the armchair or imminently departing varieties might be commissioning editors from the capital's travel publishing houses. They've just stopped in to handle the competitors' latest editions and sniff out a few ideas for next year's publishing programme. I particularly like sitting on the window ledges up on the first floor when I'm there 'researching'.

The secret to the store's success has to be its decor and range of stock: let's call it the ambiance of sun-crinkled, well-travelled great uncle's study. The buyers here seem to have filled their shelves with books on destinations and subjects that fascinate them and not just those that will sell 100 copies every week. For example, you'll find that hardback copies of Graffiti World are displayed as prominently as Lonely Planet's ubiquitous Blue List.

Stanfords' website is just as diligent in its offering of diverse travel inspiration and features in-store events listings , interviews with the likes of Simon Calder , Bill Bryson and Michael Palin , and articles written by its staff.

Stanfords is the UK's leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books and other travel accessories, having been established in 1853 by Edward Stanford... read more of the store's history here.