As a child, I dreamt of being surrounded by books.
I always wanted my very own library you see. One that was lined floor-to-ceiling with beautifully bound, leather first editions oozing sophistication interspersed with a smattering of trusted paperbacks that would reflect my all-time favourite reads. I daydreamed about sitting for hours in a huge red leather chair, consuming page after page of my latest book before swiveling around the room on a rickety old ladder in search of what I believe would be my next great read, swiping dust off the shelves where large volumes have stood for months unattended.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the opportunity to spend a night at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Wales – a residential library created in memory of four-time British Prime Minister, William Gladstone.
Gladstone himself was a renowned bibliophile who spent his life collecting more than 30,000 books on various topics including not only politics but travel, theology, history, and poetry. Today, this collection is housed within the walls of a grandiose Grade-I listed building and acts as not only a library but also a space for theological learning, author retreats and residential stays for anyone who would like to spend time in tranquil surroundings.
Gladstone’s Library took me back partly to my University days, where I would have the ability to walk the halls late in the evening in search of a book to help me sleep because unlike many other modern places you could opt to stay in nowadays, Gladstone’s does not provide televisions in the rooms. Instead, Gladstone’s hope that people will either utilise the reading rooms or retreat after a home-cooked meal to the communal living space, where you can either relax in a corner to continue your reading, play a board game with other residents or spend an evening discussing whatever comes to mind with others beside a warming open fire and a well-deserved nightcap from the honesty bar.
Spend a couple of nights here and you will fall in love with the relaxed, user-friendly, welcoming environment that Gladstone’s have created. I have never felt more comfortable walking around in my slippers, wrapped up in a warm fleece jumper, a giant book in one hand and a steamy coffee cup in the other.
The Bedrooms of Gladstone’s Library
As I have already mentioned, there are no TV’s in the rooms themselves, making way for creative inspiration to flow. There is a very stylish retro radio provided where, if classical music isn’t your thing you can tune in to any number of other stations, although I am sure that classical music only helps to create the right mood for your stay. I may have been staying in Wales, but with the classical music flowing, the tiny iron-clad window that looked directly out onto the churchyard below and being surrounded by endless amounts of reading material, I could easily imagine myself featuring in one of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse adventures.
Each of the 26 rooms which have a writing desk with a perfectly poised reading lamp included, are both quaint and fresh looking with many of them including a decorative wall of books to make you really feel like you are spending a night in the library itself.
Several also include an en-suite although during our stay we also noticed that there were many other individual shower rooms and even deep-soaking bathtubs for people to take full advantage of.
With over 250,000 titles, a visit to Gladstone’s library was never going to be quick. I loved wandering around the different reading rooms filled floor to ceiling with books not only gifted by the Gladstone estate itself but from other individuals from around the world.
This is one of the few libraries where you can re-read the pages that the Prime Minister himself once read for yourself. Nothing here is behind glass, you are free to pick up as many volumes as you like and wander off to a little nook with an inviting winged-back chair where you can sit and read for hours. For me, I loved looking through the pages of the well-worn books and seeing the handwriting of Gladstone for myself and it is believed that he never read a book in its entirety without at least making a note or two in the margins. After seeing his collection for myself I quite believe it.
For those here to work, the library also offers a tranquil environment for you to allow your creativity to flow. The peaceful writing tables dotted around both the lower floor and the mezzanine of the library allow for that escapism from the modern-day world; they allow for that break in modern-day trappings that are offer a distraction. Here the only noise you will notice is from others wandering the slightly squeaking floor-boards in search of the book that will either provide them with inspiration for their next sermon or best-selling novel, with over 500 books having been researched and written within the library’s grounds to date.
Gladstone’s library is not your typical hotel stay and therefore should not be treated as such. Gladstone’s instead is a place to visit if you are looking for time away from your everyday life. This is the place to come to unwind, it gives you time to immerse yourself into that book you have wanted to read for ages but haven’t had the time. It is a place where no one judges – you can read, wander the grounds, walk around and explore the beautiful Welsh landscapes before retreating to either the local pub or back to Gladstone’s Communal room for a spot of reflection and refreshment in the form of one of their scrumptious afternoon teas.
If you are a self-confessed bookworm I guarantee if you spend a night here you will never want to leave.
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We would like to thank everyone at Gladstone’s library for an enjoyable stay. We did work with Gladstone’s in collaboration for this article but as always, we would never recommend somewhere that we have not thoroughly enjoyed for ourselves.