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England Adventures - Gladstone's

I'm here to tell you about a residential library in Wales.

If you are a reader and love books and libraries, I assume I have your attention now.

author Lisa Brideau in the reading room at Gladstone's Library

I was in England for most of June to visit family, but I started with a week-long Arvon writing retreat in Shropshire at The Hurst (former home of playwright John Osborne). That was fabulous. The house and grounds were lovely, the other attendees were wonderful, the instructors were great.

Just spending a week with nothing to do but write and think about writing and talk about writing was amazing. I did a whole post about Arvon courses - I highly recommend them.

map of ENgland showing location of Gladstone's Library

After the family visit, I booked a few nights at Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, Wales.

This is a bit out of the way, but after a few trains I got myself there and immediately died of happiness.

The library was the vision of former UK Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The current facility was built after his death, in 1904 to replace the temporary one he arranged. It was built using funds he put in trust for the purpose and it houses his library collection. He wanted to create a place for people with no books and for books in need of readers to meet. A place for people to study and work at minimum cost.

exterior view of the front of Gladstone's Library

interior of the reading room at Gladstone's Library

And this is what it is today. You can just visit and use the library and reading rooms (for a fee). Or you can also stay there in the simple hotel accommodation they provide. There is a cafe on site for meals and tea. And a lounge if the library is too quiet. There's a garden outside for nice days and a lovely old church and graveyard next door. Down the street in the village you can turn in at the castle gates and walk the paths on the Hawarden Castle estate grounds where you will meet all the town dogs (and their people) out for a walk.

Gladstones's is a historic building (a challenge to maintain, I'm sure). It's lovely. It sparks the imagination. People are there to research and write - it's a place where no one expects you to be social. You are allowed to focus on your task, read, or just be an introvert in peace. It is introvert heaven. There are identified sharing tables in the cafe if you want to socialize at breakfast or lunch, but you are also free to not. There is zero FOMO here.

I spent time writing in the reading room work stations where the quiet was so deep you felt you could cut it with a knife. I wrote in the lounge with my tea, sitting in a comfortable leather armchair looking out the tall windows at the facade of the old stone building. And I wrote in the garden under a tent with sunshine beating on my back. The reading room was open to residents until 10pm and being in a historic library full of old books late at night felt like cheating somehow, in the best possible way.

My room was simple but perfect. With a desk and a radio and tea and a kettle and my own en-suite bathroom, I had everything I needed. The beds each came with a lovely wool blanket woven at a mill in Wales that's been in operation for 150 years. As a weaver, this was icing on the cake.

My stay there was a complete retreat from real life, a break from any hassles or expectations or small talk. The hardest decision each day was when to go for a walk on the castle grounds, when to stop for lunch, and where to work - reading room/lounge/garden. I've never felt so rested in my life.

The library is a non-profit and I've never been so happy to pay a hotel bill in my life. It was very affordable (if you are a Society of Authors member you get a discount) and I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed my stay. I'm already plotting how I can get back and lamenting how very far Wales is from Vancouver. Clearly North America needs its own non-profit residential library - can someone start that and let me know when it's ready?

lounge of Gladstone's Library with leather armchairs and tall windows
reading room of Gladstone's Library

the back garden of gladstone's library
Author Lisa Brideau working in the reading room of Gladstone's Library

entrance to Hawarden Castle grounds

beautiful walking path in Hawarden, Wales with a large tree on one side.
view of the lounge in Gladstone's Library
view of a delicious high tea in the cafe at Gladstone's Library
hotel room at Gladstone's Library. Simple and comfortable

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