By Jack Callahan
For the literary traveler, finding an accommodation that fits both your budget and the theme of your trip can be a daunting task. Budget hotels and hostels are rarely in the most historic districts of any city and even more infrequently do they boast a literary clientele list. Yet, to walk the same halls, drink at the same bars, and dine in the same restaurants as your favorite authors, is often out of reach. Some hotels, however, perfectly bridge this gulf in accommodation options, and one such place is Gladstone’s Library.
William Ewart Gladstone was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom four separate times, a great orator and political mind, and a famous enemy of Disreali and, by extension, Queen Victoria. While he is probably not one of your favorite authors, he was a magnificent bibliophile, and his estate in Wales boasts one of the world’s largest personal libraries. The exciting part about all this is that the library, and the subsequently built residential wing, is open to visitors. Both the rooms and the restaurant are comprised in the library, and rather than being a museum or a tourist trap, the stacks are accessible to all guests for research or pleasure, reading or discussion.
After his death in 1898, Gladstone’s main request in his will was the completion of the library, which he intended to be a meeting place for people to be inspired and engage in debate, research, and discovery. The home of over 250,000 volumes that make up prominent collections of theology, political, and historical materials, Gladstone’s Library is an expansive building that was built in 1902 by the architect John Douglas. It boasts impressive collections on Islamic Culture, the development of Capitalism, and Liberalism. The surrounding grounds are beautifully manicured and the Welsh countryside provides a pleasant place to rest one’s eyes after a long day in the library.
The library is located in the town of Hawarden, in Flintshire, Wales. Located in northern Wales on the border with England, the town is 20 miles south of Liverpool and even closer to the coastline of the Irish Sea. Attractions in the area include the River Dee and the Hawarden Castle. Echoes of Gladstone, born in Liverpool, abound in the Hawarden area, where his wife was from. Her family, the Glynnes, had lived in Hawarden Castle for generations, and Gladstone himself spent time there.
What makes Gladstone’s Library so unique are the rates. A variety of room types are available, as are discounts for students and clergy, and the rates never pass £100 (approximately $156.77). Whether you are travelling on your own or with a friend, with a group or as a couple, there are simple, comfortable accommodations in the residential wing. While a vacation in the Welsh countryside certainly lacks the glitz and opulence of many other famous literary locations, few places can match the bookish environment and even fewer make as good a place to explore literary passions and research.