Chapter set to close on Britain’s remotest bookshop

Simon Long and Kevin Crowe  have built an international reputation for tracking down relatively obscure titles. Picture: Mike Merritt
Simon Long and Kevin Crowe have built an international reputation for tracking down relatively obscure titles. Picture: Mike Merritt
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Britain’s remotest bookshop is up for sale – after the owners finally decided to close a chapter on an unlikely part of the history of Scottish literature.

Over the years some of the country’s best-known writers have made a pilgrimage to the little Sutherland bookshop way out west.

But it is thanks to an army authors trying to track down their out-of-print work – which Loch Croispol Bookshop specialises in, it has managed to ring up sales of over 700,000 titles in the past decade alone.

The bookshop at Durness in Sutherland is run by Kevin Crowe and his partner Simon Long – the first gay couple in the Highlands to have a civil partnership.

The book detective skills of Mr Crowe have made Loch 
Croispol especially famous and he has dealt with some unusual requests over the decade.

They included a professor at Beijing University, China, who ordered all the books he had on witchcraft in Scotland.

Then there was the lawyer in Marseilles, France, who specialised in representing asylum seekers, wanting French-English dictionaries.

Not to mention a Harry Potter collector from Sweden who was looking for an edition of Harry Potter translated into Arabic.

Among the famous who have visited the bookshop are Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, writers Alan Bleasdale and Ian Rankin – who researched his latest novel Standing In Another Man’s Grave in Durness – painter Peter Howson, who even exhibited there, and legendary beat poet Michael Horowitz.

John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird and Sir Paul McCartney’s photographer brother Mike have also popped in.

But one of the biggest earners for the bookshop has been the number of authors trying to track down copies of their out-of-print work.

“I have had many and various authors order copies of their own generally out-of-print titles. I had better not reveal names, but some are well-known now,” said Mr Crowe, 61.

“It just goes to show that somebody, somewhere will want that old book sometime – no matter how obscure or out-of-print. We even sent a particular biography of Margaret Thatcher to Poland.

“When we opened 14 years ago, we barely had 2,000 titles. We now have over 8,000, making us one of the largest bookshops in the Highlands, approximately two thirds of our titles are second hand.

“We cover all subjects. We have sold over 700,000 books during the last ten years. Approximately 20 per cent of our sales are internet and mail order.

“We have sent books in Scottish Gaelic to many countries. Not just the obvious ones – USA, Canada, NZ, Australia – but to Japan, Hong Kong and India.

“We have really enjoyed working in Durness and even after we have sold the business we intend to continue living here. It is hard to think of anywhere that is friendlier and more welcoming than Durness.

“This bookshop would really suit somebody who obviously has a love of books – but also a love of some of the most fantastic scenery anywhere. It would appeal to those who want to move away from busy city life to a peaceful oasis.”