Best bookshop: Charlie Byrne’s

This Saturday, we’ll publish the winners of the Best Shops in Ireland 2013. Before that, we want to introduce some of the shortlisted shops. The third in this series is from Charlie Byrne's Bookshop on Middle Street in Galway.


Charlie Byrne’s bookshop looks like a miniature version of Trinity College’s old library. In its warren of small rooms, some 100,000 books line the shelves from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.

“You can browse for hours without obligation,” says Eamon Haverty, one of the many readers who nominated Charlie Byrne’s labyrinthine ode to the written word. There are comfortable chairs at every turn to encourage you to stay.

The shop, run by archaeologist turned bookstore owner Charlie Byrne, covers every subject and subject matter. Customers like “the mix of new and second-hand titles, the relaxed atmosphere and the readings, events and launches,” Byrne says. “The shop is organised by subject and the staff are very knowledgeable. They’re all book lovers.”

Byrne employs seven people full-time and five part-timers, including Olivia Lally, who started working in the bookshop when she was still in school. She holds weekly readings for kids on Saturday mornings from 11am to midday, which allow parents time to browse the shelves in peace.

Carmel McCarthy is the Irish language specialist and oversees that extensive section. The staff spend their day inviting customers to try their suggested literary adventures, Byrne says, adding: “They have an enthusiasm for books and pass that on every day to customers.”

The shop also runs a book club that meets monthly. “In an era of dying bookshops and instant downloads this shop is an outstanding example of what can be achieved by being passionate and committed to its customers,” says reader Bernard McHale.

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Cornstore Mall, Middle Street, Galway, tel: 091-561 766,

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