Beautiful British libraries

23rd September 2019

With National Library Week running from 7th – 12th October, what better occasion to explore some of Britain’s most beautiful libraries?

Britain boasts some of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world where tales of drama, history, extraordinary events and life-changing human achievement can be discovered and enjoyed. From historic to modern buildings, whether you’re looking for a quiet read, a sanctuary from a hectic schedule or somewhere new to explore, who knows where a library could lead you?

Hop on a train, bring a book to escape in and relax as the scenery rolls by. Try some of these suggestions below and use your Railcard to enjoy 1/3 off rail fares.

To get the best fares, buy your tickets now.

London Libraries

Maughan Library, London

Dating back to the 13th century, the Maughan Library building we see now was built in 1851. As the main university library of King’s College, it can only be accessed by students and holds over 750,000 items.

Closest station: London Blackfriars

British Library

With an estimated 170-200 million items, of which almost 14 million are books, the largest library in Britain receives a copy of every book produced in the UK and Ireland. The British Library also features exhibitions which you can get 2FOR1 on when you go by train.

Closest station: Kings Cross St Pancras

Regional Libraries

The John Rylands Library

Founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband, the building took ten years to build and opened to readers on New Year’s Day 1900. With now over 250,000 printed volumes and over a million manuscripts and archival items, the library is now the third largest academic library in the UK.

Closest station: Manchester Piccadilly or Deansgate

The Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Opened in 1602 and occupying five buildings in Oxford, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and the second largest in the UK. Though it’s only open to students and specific tours, the library holds 13 million printed items, 80,000 e-journals and even 300 oil paintings.

Closest station: Oxford

The Library of Birmingham

Opened in 2013 and holding 800,00 books, the Library of Birmingham is said to be the largest regional library in Europe, the largest public cultural space in Europe and was even the 10th most popular visitor attraction in the UK a few years ago.

Closest station: Birmingham New Street

Liverpool Central Library

Composed of several neighbouring historic buildings, the first completed in 1860, Liverpool Central Library holds computer, iPads, a gaming space with an Xbox and 15,000 rare books.

Closest station: Liverpool Lime Street

Wren Library

Designed in 1676 by Christopher Wren and part of Trinity College, Cambridge, it contains many rare books including A. A. Milne’s manuscript of Winnie-the-Pooh and Isaac Newton’s edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica featuring handwritten notes for the second edition. Though it’s used by students, it also opens to the public during specific times.

Closest station: Cambridge

Central Library, Aberdeen

Inaugurated in 1892, Aberdeen Central Library holds an impressive collection of maps, photographs and local newspapers. Located on Rosemount Viaduct, it forms the iconic trio of buildings known as “Education, Salvation and Damnation” along with His Majesty’s Theatre and St Mark’s Church.

Closest station: Aberdeen


Whether you’re planning on visiting during Library Week or at any other time, if you have any specific access requirements to any of these libraries, it is better to contact them beforehand to ensure any possible adjustments are made.