SCOTLAND’S National Book Town is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a tea party today.

Being given the title transformed the fortunes of Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway after years of decline following the closure of a large creamery and a distillery.

Nowadays it is a thriving community boasting more than a dozen booksellers who between them stock more than half a million books – more than 500 for each of its nearly 1000 residents.

The annual Wigtown Book Festival, which started in 1999, has welcomed audiences of more than 220,000 and last year generated an estimated £3 million for the regional economy.

Today’s tea party is being hosted by the Association of Wigtown Booksellers. Chairman Richard van der Voort said:“We really want to thank everybody in the town for all they have done to make Book Town such a success. So many people have given so much time over the years – it’s just been wonderful.”

Van der Voort was one of those drawn to Wigtown because of its Book Town status, moving up from London in 2002 to open a sci-fi and detective fiction shop called At the Sign of the Dragon. Over the years he has seen a steady increase in footfall, despite the fact that many shops and chains of book stores have been experiencing tough times.

He says: “I think it’s because we have achieved a critical mass here, and the town is such a wonderful base for exploring the countryside – here by the Machars, on the edge of the Solway Firth and set in a horseshoe of beautiful hills.

“People also get to know you, and when they want a particular book in future they will give you a ring or drop you an email.”