Hawarden, Wales

Photo: Gladstone's Library
Photo: Gladstone’s Library

As the temperature drops and the snow falls, you start thinking about warm and cozy spots. Your perfect afternoon would include a hot drink, a good book, and a comfortable chair next to a window so you could watch the snowflakes. There’s a place in northeast Wales that sounds ideal—and unique.

Hawarden is a picturesque town on the Welsh and English borders. It’s home to the ruins of the medieval Hawarden Castle, the New Hawarden Castle estate, and scenic Hawarden Park. Fountains and statues dot the small village. Little pubs serve hearty food and even heartier ales. It was even named one of the best places to live in the United Kingdom. But there’s a specific reason you ventured all the way here. Hawarden is also home to Gladstone’s Library.

Gladstone’s Library was founded by a Victorian politician who gave millions of dollars and much of his own library to start it in the late-19th century. Today, it’s known as Great Britain’s largest residential library, as well as one of its most important research libraries. You arrive in time for a “glimpse” of the library. The quick tour begins outside the grand wooden doors. You hear about the history of the building and its generous founder. Then you peek into the reading rooms, browse the impressive collection, and visit the gallery. It’s polished and dusty, dark and sunlit all at the same time. You follow the tour with afternoon tea at Food for Thought, the on-site bistro. Scones, sponge cake, homemade biscuits, and a fruit platter are served with your steaming hot beverage. As if on cue, it starts to snow outside.

But you didn’t travel all this way just to sip tea. Unlike most libraries, which kick you out when you only have a few chapters left to read, Gladstone’s Library lets you spend the night. That’s right, you can sleep with the books at this library. It’s simple bedrooms have faux books on their walls and crisp white linens. There are no televisions in the rooms, though the reading rooms have comfortable spots for you to read, sketch, and dream. A locally sourced breakfast is served with the newspaper each morning. A roast lunch is offered on Sunday afternoons. The Gladstone Room has an honesty bar, in case you want a late-night gin and tonic. While those little pubs are just a short walk away. Now what shall you read?

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