The Open Book in Wigtown, Scotland

Let’s travel back in time to winter, 2016.

My husband David and I were living in White River Junction, Vermont; he was studying for his master’s degree in cartooning. There was a lot of drawing going on, but we were also working on Well Fed Weeknights and dreaming of the day when we would eventually move to Prague.

I remember him calling to me from his office with an excited tone in his voice. He’d been reading an online story about an Airbnb in Scotland that’s a bookstore. It’s called the Open Book, and when you rent the flat for a week, you also run the bookstore. Located in Wigtown (pronounced wig-ton), the shop is one of about a dozen bookstores in what’s officially Scotland’s Book Town.

In the mid-1990s, the Scottish government decided the country should have a book town, modeled after Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Six small towns with economic needs submitted bids and an international panel chose Wigtown—there were empty and dilapidated buildings, but the natural setting is beautiful and the area is rich in history. By 1999, Wigtown was hosting its first Book Festival, and was solidifying its reputation for being a bookish nirvana.

We fell in love with the idea with the idea of being bookshop keepers in a town by the sea, and went to the Airbnb site to book it immediately.

*sad trombone*

The bookstore flat was completely booked until December 2018.

I was very disappointed, but after pouting for a bit, we decided to just go ahead and book the first available date. “We’ll figure it out somehow between now and then, ” we assured each other.

And so we did.

We’re leaving for Edinburgh, Scotland tomorrow, where we’ll meet up with some of our favorite people and head to Wigtown for our adventures as book sellers. I’ll be sharing photos on my Instagram and Twitter—and we’ll probably update this blog that’s written by the guest booksellers at The Open Book—so you can keep up with our exploits.

Read All About It

These two first-hand articles about staying at The Open Book are awesome; I can’t wait to add my own to the list.

Buzzfeed: I Ran A Scottish Bookshop And You Can Too

The New York Times: A Critic Sells Books Down by the Seashore

What Should I Read Next? Podcast

At yoga yesterday, our instructor threw down the challenge to set our intentions for the year. As longtime readers know, I ditched resolutions a few...

Read More
Reading Day: The Ultimate Staycation

I'm tired. Not the "I stayed up too late last night, so I'm a little droopy" kind of tired. I'm the "please don't make me put...

Read More


  • MICHELLE from Maryland says:

    Melissa this is just awesome! i began working in a bookstore in NJ in 1974 – working my way thru college. I worked for Waldenbooks, then in a college bookstore, began a career in publishing sales that brought me to bookstores throughout the Northeast. I thought i had died and gone to Heaven as i LOVE LOVE books and bookstores, and even worked in my best friends independent bookstore! i loved every minute of my career but sadly all those stores are now gone and it breaks my heart. I need to visit Wigtown. Can’t wait for your pics of the experience. Nothing like browsing thru a bookstore. Enjoy!

    • Hello, sister book nerd! I worked in a Waldenbooks when I was in high school, and I loved being around all those books and magazines. My co-worker was a few years older, and we were both giant Duran Duran fans. We had a blast reading all the magazines and getting the first look at the DD books that showed up in the store.

  • Cristin says:

    Gasp! Are you going with Ann Bogel?! Can’t wait to read about it!

  • Leora says:

    This is the coolest thing ever!!! Enjoy! I can’t wait to hear about it. For many years, I have said that in my retirement…or in my next life…I would like to open a bakery, bookstore at the beach where people sit around and feel good about themselves. I never thought to look to airbnb for the opportunity!

    Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.


    • When we lived in Austin, I had a daydream of opening a big magazine store/newstand/coffee shop where people would read, talk, and hang out all day, discussing big topics… this might come close 🙂

      Maybe one day you’ll stay at the Open Book?!

  • Linda Sand says:

    That sounds like such a cool vacation! I enjoyed the articles so much that I’d sign up for this if I was still physically able to do so.

  • Jena says:

    This is just the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I hope you have a blast, and I can’t wait to read about it!!

  • Kathie Gray says:

    Wow, this sounds like the most amazing trip ever! Very cool. On a clear day I can actually see Scotland from my house and Wigtown is only about 80 miles away as the crow flies! So I will be able to hive you a wave, well kind of! Have a fan time.

  • Moira Moore says:

    Your discovery of Wigtown and its status as a book town, plus running one of those bookstores covers 2 of the items on my Bucket List: A trip to the UK and the opportunity to be in a place with unlimited access to books! Wonderful! Enjoy youe experience!

  • Amy says:

    LOL! How did I not think of this? How do I get me some hipsters to come and do my job and pay ME?! Brilliant!

  • Kim Walker says:

    I knew you were cool!! You are my favorite cookbook author. I have all your books and use your recipes constantly. (Changed my cooking/process forever! Your Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat (yep, absolutely!) plus your Moroccan Dipping Sauce is beyond YUM. And thanks for bringing attention to Penzey’s! )

    So ironic then that just yesterday I booked a 2 night stay in that little town for our visit in May (my husband’s ancestors lived and are buried there…) and came across the blog associated with this little book shop. Fun to read…What an experience for book lovers! I went back and looked for your blog posts but couldn’t find them…So eager to hear about your experience–where can I read them?

    • I have been a BAD BLOGGER—I haven’t recapped my experiences in Wigtown yet. But my friend Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy joined us on the trip, and her blog post about it is awesome.

      It is fascinating to me that your husband has ancestors there! What a cool trip you’re going to have!

      Wigtown is really fun, and May is a PERFECT time to visit. Definitely have lunch at Reading Lasses. Their soup, sandwiches, and cake are incredibly delicious (although not paleo). The Cafe Rendezvous has wonderful breakfast and coffee—and all of the bookshops are great, although my favorite was Well-Read Books of Wigtown because the owner Ruth carefully curates a vast selection of fiction.

      Definitely recommend making time to walk down to the water and enjoy the big sky, sheep, and birds. Have a wonderful time!

      • Thanks, Melissa! I’m excited to explore Wigtown and will check out your recommendations 😉

        BTW, a book I ordered just arrived in the mail today–called “3 things you need to know about rockets” by Jessica Fox is how her experience running that very same Wigtown bookstore for a month changed her life…thought you might want to check it out!