A stay at Gladstone’s Library has been on our wishlist for a long time and last week we finally spent a night there to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.
Founded by William Gladstone himself, Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library is situated near Chester in the Welsh village of Hawarden. The Grade I building has 26 bedrooms, a bistro – Food for Thought, and the famous historic Reading Rooms which residents and day readers can use between 9am and 5pm each day (up to 10pm in the Theology Room for residents). Although very welcoming, this literary sanctuary is definitely an adults-only destination – a place for quiet contemplation and study.
Booking and Checking-In
I booked our one night stay at Gladstone’s Library via it’s online booking system about 8 weeks in advance and most of the rooms had already been taken so if you would like to stay over, then I advise planning ahead. 2018 room rates range from £66 for a standard single room (not en-suite) to £100 for a double en-suite – all including a continental breakfast. There are discounted rates for students, clergy and members of the Society of Authors.
We arrived at lunchtime, two hours before the 2pm check-in, but it’s fine to leave your bags at reception and explore the building in the meantime. I’d mention that Gladstone’s Library isn’t a hotel though so don’t expect lots of amenities, room service or luggage assistance. I’d describe it more as a luxury hostel or a retreat centre – simple with added comforts.
Our bedroom was small, yet light with mullioned windows and a compact en-suite. There are no TVs in the rooms, but they all have a Roberts Radio so we happily tuned into that and stacked up our books on the lovely Melin Tregwynt blanket that covered the bed. You can also access free Wi-Fi during your stay and if you’ve brought a laptop, you can borrow DVDs from the extensive collection at the top of the main stairs.
There’s no need to take towels or toiletries as Myddfai Trading Company miniatures are provided. This social enterprise supports local young people with learning difficulties and gift sets are available in reception.
The Book Collection
With a collection of almost 150,000 printed materials, we definitely weren’t going to run out of books! The historic Reading Rooms house the main collection. You have to obtain a pass to enter and once inside, there’s a code of complete silence. Non-residents can catch a 5 minute Glimpse by joining sessions that start at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm (bookings at Reception). There’s also an annex joining this section which contains titles on a range of subjects.
If silence isn’t your thing then you can find a more relaxed area in the Gladstone’s Room, a communal lounge with lots of comfy sofas, an honesty bar and a library full of recent fiction which can be borrowed. There’s also a garden with picnic tables and benches if the weather is fine. This place specialises in book nooks of all kinds!
All that thinking stirred up a healthy appetite so we were glad of the licensed onsite bistro, Food for Thought. It’s open 10am – 5pm seven days a week for snacks, lunch and afternoon tea (check specific times when you arrive). Dinner is served between 6.30pm and 7.30pm although you can remain in the dining room for a few hours afterwards.
The standard continental breakfast is laid out in the main dining room (8am-9am). If you want a hot dish then you can order it from the counter for an extra £2 per person. The hearty food was tasty and the chef was able to cater for Al’s gluten and dairy-free diet so it suited us perfectly. We didn’t try any of the pubs or cafes in Hawarden, but there were several options available.
Hawarden is a pretty village and it’s worth exploring. We were particularly taken with the Hawarden Estate although parts of it were cordoned off for tree-felling so next time we’ll go when all the paths are open and will also check out the Farm Shop. If you’re staying at Gladstone’s Library for a while then Chester is very close by and you can reach Liverpool fairly easily too.
Staying at Gladstone’s Library was just the tonic we’d hoped for and I’ve only just covered the basics in this post. Aside from the colossal collection, the library also hosts numerous workshops and events as well as an annual literary festival, Gladfest. If you’d like to see a video tour then I highly recommend watching the Live in A Library Vlog by SavidgeReads.
Forget 5 star hotels, this is the dream ticket for all bibliophiles out there. Comfortable, quirky and with the nicest staff – oh and enough books to last one hundred lifetimes. Maybe we’ll see you there next time! x