Written by Lynsey Oxton
Llandudno (pronounced clan-did-no if you’re wondering) is a coastal town in North Wales, famed for its Victorian architecture, the cliffs of the Great Orme, a history-packed pier and traditional trams! It is also the largest seaside resort in North Wales and a holiday favourite since the 1850’s.
I’ve been to Llandudno countless times and it never changes (that’s a good thing, by the way). As a child, we had a caravan in Caerwys (approximately 20 miles inland) – and it’s home to many a memory of donkey rides, walks along the promenade and not forgetting, hours of fun on the 2p machines in the arcades!
Knowing that this was our last chance of some Indian Summer sunshine, we decided to have a drive out to the coast (and take the other halves’ new car for a spin!). It’s around a 90 minute drive from our home in Manchester.
Pastel coloured hotels surround the promenade.
Llandudno’s Pier, at just under 3000 feet, is the largest in Wales and the fifth largest in the UK. It was built by a Glaswegian in 1877 and in it’s heyday, played host to musical concerts and plenty of entertainment at the (then) Pier Pavilion with acts such as Cliff Richard and Petula Clark (the Pier Pavilion was subject of a huge fire in 1994). The Grand Hotel that sits prominently on the pier has been a popular holiday home to visitors since 1901 and is also one of the largest hotels in Wales.
Recent history has seen the pier star as a favourite filming location for Edwardian and Victorian seaside television and film productions, as well as featuring in a VW car advert – so its fair to say, it’s quite famous. It is now a place where traditional meets new, with original wrought iron railings and wooden decking, alongside bustling amusement arcades, gift shops and food stands selling artisan delights (and candy floss).
Don’t forget your bucket and spade because the beaches are lovely and sandy in most parts, pebbly in others. If you are lucky enough to get a scorching hot day, the beach at Llandudno is the perfect place to sit and while away the hours, soaking up the sun and watching the tour boats and jet skis dart across the bay. I’m pretty sure the donkey rides are still there, but it may have just been out of tourist season when we visited.
Having arrived with an appetite, I’d heard about the Afternoon Tea at the Llandudno Bay Hotel – and thought it only right to try it out. We were not disappointed! At just £15 a head, it was well worth a visit. The cakes were uber-yummy and all homemade. It was worth the trip out to Llandudno for that chocolate eclair alone!
Unlike other seaside resorts in Great Britain, Llandudno isn’t just about the beach – no – here you also have dramatic mountains, ideal for walkers and explorers. If you’re planning a visit to Llandudno, no trip is complete without going up the Great Orme – the impressive limestone cliffs on the northern side of the bay, standing 207 metres above sea level. It is from here that you get spectacular views across the Conway Estuary and the vast green landscape below.
Of course, you can walk up the Great Orme – and many do. As much as that might have been a good idea after the Afternoon Tea, we decided against it! You can also drive up, but we thought we would be ‘old school’ and take the tram. The tramway is traditionally cable-hauled and has been running since 1902! In its day, it was described as ‘thrilling’ and ‘spectacular’! I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it quite so enthusiastically in this day and age, but nonetheless, it’s a little piece of history and for £8.10 per rider, return – you can’t say fairer than that for the experience.
When you do reach the summit of the Great Orme, you can grab something to eat, relax with a beer on the grass, purchase a souvenir at the gift shop or even play crazy golf! Beware, however, that even on the calmest of days, it’s a wind trap up there! Ladies: tie your hair up!
Once we reached the top, we decided to take the (albeit half-hearted) healthy option and walk down from the Great Orme. Despite the challenges of going downhill in flip-flops, it was a great opportunity to take in the views back down to the bay and look at the quaint little cottages and guest houses dotting the route.
Like any modern coastal town in Britain, Llandudno has a street of shops, including high street names like WH Smith, Marks and Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s. So, if sunbathing or hiking are not your thing, you can go shopping instead. If shopping is not your thing, you can go to the theatre, the swimming baths or do the Alice In Wonderland trail (apparently Llandudno was the favourite holiday destination of the real Alice and inspiration for the Lewis Carroll book). Whatever your poison, whatever your passion, there’s plenty to do.
One place we didn’t find time to explore on this occasion was the Little Orme, which stands just over 140 metres above sea level. This is on the list for my next visit, along with a visit to the dry ski-slope and toboggans, a ride on the old-fashioned colourful cable cars and seal spotting in Angel Bay! A return visit for Afternoon Tea will also be on it….