In a pretty orchard in the middle of Flintshire lies Hawarden Estate, once the home of Victorian Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The Glynne Arms in the village and the estate shop, both owned by a descendant of the former PM, offer delicious fresh food, grown on the estate.
Work up an appetite first by exploring the village and surrounding countryside. From the back of the village car park, a footpath descends into Bilberry Wood where you’ll uncover the remains of an 18th-century corn mill.
Return from the wood to the crossroads where, on your right, a small door leads to a path through the tranquil Hawarden Park, with its gorgeous views of the woods. Before a gate (beyond which you can’t venture without a permit), you’ll see the ruins of a motte and bailey castle on your left. This was taken from the English by Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Welsh Prince Llywelyn, in 1282, and captured by Cromwell during the Civil War.
Back in the village, follow the sign for Gladstone’s Library and walk down Church Lane. Pass the beautiful tree-lined churchyard of St Deiniol’s Church, which contains effigies of Gladstone and his wife.
Perhaps surprisingly, this small sleepy village has played its part in hefty historical and political events. The estate’s most famous resident, Gladstone, was a founding member of the Liberal Party, gaining the nickname, “The People’s William”. He served as Prime Minister four separate times and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
As a gift to Hawarden, he left his collection of 32,000 books to the town. The residential library at St Deiniol’s, fronted by an imposing statue of the man himself, has now grown to 250,000 tomes. Join a guided tour of the impressive floor-to-ceiling archive from around midday, or attend one of the evening academic talks or readings.
Hawarden Estate is still owned by the Gladstone family. You can explore the balmy, fragrant orchard by taking the nature trail – just follow the orange markers. Children can record what they find on a leaflet, and there is a playground with chickens and pigs nearby.
You can also pick your own fruit here – sweet, soft fruit in early summer and delicious Victoria plums, crunchy pears and several varieties of apples in late August and September. Seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs are picked each morning and sold in the farm shop, alongside organic eggs, estate-reared meat, homemade bread and mouthwatering pies.
There is also a great selection of foods from other local producers such as the Pant Glas Preserves, Cheshire Farm Ice Cream and drinks such as Snowdonia Ales. A veritable feast fit for a king – or, indeed, a prime minister.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hawarden is six miles from Chester on the A550, off the A55. Trains run from Bidston and Wrexham; buses from Chester. The farm shop is on the B5128, just over ½ mile from the village crossroads.
The Glynne Arms
3 Glynne Way, Hawarden
This 200-year-old pub serves food from the estate.
Hawarden Estate Farm Shop Café
Chester Road, Hawarden CH5 3FB
Sample home-grown food.
Church Lane Ch5 3DF
B&B with dinner (optional) in a unique, peaceful residence.