Finding an unexpected gem is one of the lovely things about travelling and it can happen even near to home. The Gladstone Library in Hawarden just over the Welsh border beyond Chester was one of those moments. We were walking through the beautiful Hawarden countryside, watching early butterflies on the verges and stopping to examine the first signs of Spring. In the village we sought out a tea shop for refreshments and found much more. The grand stone 19th century building in the photograph is The Gladstone Library. This building holds over 150,000 items in its library and has a reading room where many writers have toiled. The magnificent building also runs a variety of residential events and courses; you can learn languages or brush up on your local history or theology. Alongside this, anyone can pop in and enjoy the atmosphere and comfort of the building as visitors to the tea room, and sitting in the elegant dining room with excellent afternoon tea and a view over the well-tended gardens is hard to beat.
It became a weekend of memorable cafe stops, as the one we found the next day made a good attempt to rival the Gladstone Library. Having stayed near to Llanrwst we walked in more sunshine to Grey Mares Tale waterfall and through the woodland and old mine workings emerging over the hill to a panoramic view of the Snowdonia hills across the trees. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Llyn Geirionydd, watching red kites soar across the blue sky. At the remote Llyn Grafnant you wouldn’t expect to find any facilities but here we stumbled upon another fantastic Welsh cafe on the banks of the lake. The cafe was being run by two people who sparred in an amiable fashion over the cakes and teapots in the converted Welsh stone barn, entertaining us as we chose which cakes to try. We sat on a bench in the garden with home-made cake on china plates, lazily watching kayaks on the lake and making friends with the ginger tom cat that stopped by, it was blissful.
It seems that even places just an hour or so from home are still waiting to be explored. It is just as well we are retired and have the chance to find more hidden gems.