CXII – Llanfairfechan to Llandudno

Hasteful MammalI HAD a plan that, while not exactly cunning, had at least had some cunning described to it once.  The plan was this: stay overnight in Llandudno, catch the train back to Llanfairfechan and then walk back to my hotel, where all the heavier things from my bag would be waiting for me.  It was a good plan. I liked my plan. But it had one tiny little flaw.

It relied on trains

Getting to Llanfairfechan

Industrial Inaction

A strike cancelled almost all the trains from Llandudno as conductors belonging to the RMT union downed tools in protest over the sacking of two colleagues. 

The RMT alleges that Arriva Trains Wales wilfully used the most draconian interpretation possible of its grievance procedures with respect to absences, unfairly victimising the two conductors. Arriva Trains Wales claims it followed the procedures to the letter and that the two conductors racked up 890 sick days between them (although the time period wasn’t specified).  Draw your own conclusions.

My personal conclusion is that blatant arseholery is a quality with which many are blessed; the Orifice Fairy shows no favouritism.

A Glimmer of Hope

Fortunately, as I said, almost all the trains were cancelled.  One train only was still running. So I bought a ticket and, no sooner did I have my ticket in my hand than they cancelled that one too.  There were now no trains until noon at the earliest, damn it.

The Sad Alternative

There was one solitary taxi in Llandudno that morning, its driver blissfully unaware of the absence of trains.  Being the only taxi, she had absolutely no intention whatsoever of trekking all the way out to Llanfairfechan. My plan appeared to be doomed. I had no choice but to look absolutely crestfallen, radiating disappointment and misery until she relented.  It took about thirty seconds.

‘I can take you as far as Junction,’ she said, suggesting a sensible compromise.

Llandudno Junction

And thus I made my way to Llandudno Junction, where I would have changed trains for the main line, had any of them been running.  An earnest young man in Arriva livery did his best to be helpful despite having no idea where Llanfairfechan was.  Or anywhere else for that matter.

‘I don’t know the area,’ he admitted ruefully, ‘I’m from Aberystwyth.’

My Conveyance of Choice

He was all set to call out a coach of my very own to convey me to Llanfairfechan station when I espied another taxi sitting next to the station. 

True, a taxi would cost me while the rail replacement bus would be free but the taxi could leave immediately and take me direct to the part of the village I wanted to be in.  My plan, zombie-like, shuffled back to its feet and demanded a metaphorical snack of tasty cerebral material.

‘I can take you to Llanfairfechan,’ said the taxi driver, ‘but we have to leave right now.’



Llanfairfechan Beach

Thus, I found myself in Llanfairfechan, standing down by the beach, a couple of minutes before my mainline train would have arrived at Llandudno.  Relieved to have even reached the start of my day’s walk, I gazed down the coast to the Great Orme and Llandudno.

View from Llanfairfechan Beach
The Great Orme is the thing that looks like an island. Llandudno is on the flat bit between it and the hills to the right.
Ambulatory Alternatives

This particular walk presented many choices. Not only did the Wales Coast Path (Llwybr Arfordir Cymru) fork into two routes — one along the shoreline and an upland route amongst the hills — but there was also the North Wales Path (Llwybr y Gogledd), which partly overlapped with the WCP upland route and partly went its own way. 

I really didn’t much care for the lowland route, sandwiched between the A55 and the mudflats, so I resolved to take one of the upland routes. Or both.  Yes, that was it, I would pick and choose as I went.

Coast Path waymarks gave up the ghost on the edge of Llanfairfechan, while my map predated the WCP.  I decided that it didn’t matter and headed uphill through the village.

Afon Ddu

Initially the houses, I passed were fairly modern but soon I was in the old village, with tightly packed stone cottages and the gurgling stream of the Afon Ddu (‘black river’).  South of the village, a narrow, tree-lined road led uphill and I followed it, knowing that the North Wales Path would join it soon enough. And so it did.

North Wales Path

The North Wales Path, having joined the road, then stuck with it for a while as the road curved and zig-zagged its way up the hillside.  The road in question was a narrow country lane, with occasional branches leading off towards remote farmsteads. 

Eventually, the North Wales Path also branched off towards a farmstead, heading up its access track and past its buildings before presenting me with a gate that, due to the positioning of its latch, could only be easily opened if you were heading in the opposite direction.  I fumbled with it clumsily for a while, trying to avoid having to climb over the gate. The gate mocked me with its intransigence. 

Eventually, sighing, I climbed it and continued on towards the next obstacle, which looked altogether more equine.  I didn’t climb that.

An Anxious Pony

The pony regarded me with cautious eyes and started to back away up the farm track towards a point where it would inadvertently block the path and trap itself in a corner.  I left the path and quickened my pace, trying to outflank it without scaring it further.  It saw me speed up and did likewise.

A short race followed, which I somehow won by dashing up the bank of the hill that formed most of a field and then leaping back down onto the path a couple of yards ahead of the nervous pony.  It leapt backwards in shock and turned tail, fleeing in the direction from which I had come.

I, smugly victorious, strolled on to the next gate where a welcoming committee of important sheep lauded my victory with their indifference.

View over Llanfairfechan
My prize was this rather lovely view.


Cefn Coch

Beyond the sheep, the fields gave way to open hill tops, all moorland and rocky crags.  Here and there, large stones were scattered around and across the path, with the emphasis on around.

Stone Circles

According to my map, they formed a number of stone circles but the circularity of the pattern, while very real, was hard to see from the ground. Mostly because, when you found one, the others tried to hide behind long grass.  They defied counting; I’m sure they moved about while I wasn’t looking.

Standing stone on Cefn Coch
I’ve got my eye on you, stone.
Glowering Map Girl

As I went my way across the hill tops I started to encounter gaggles of girls in their early teens heading the other way. Each girl wore a backpack about three times her size.  The first couple of groups were confident and happy-looking, striding ahead with barely a glance at a map.

It wasn’t long before I found one more wearied, its leader frowning at the map, the others swaying under their heavy loads.  They bid me ‘hello’ while radiating lostness, so I pointed them in the direction that their predecessors had taken.  Glowering Map Girl’s frown deepened as she pointedly ignored me.  Then, with rather more petulance than confidence, she led them off on entirely the wrong trail.  I shrugged and watched them go.


The path led me along Cefn Coch (‘red ridge’), with views to my left down Gwddw Glas (‘green gorge’) to the town of Penmaenmawr

The town is named for the hill of the same name (meaning ‘great head of stone’) which separates it from Llanfairfechan to the west.  To the east the lower hill of Penmaenbach (‘small head of stone’) cuts off Penmaenmawr and the neighbouring village of Dwygyfylchi from the town of Conwy

A quarry town, Penmaenmawr’s fortunes were closely tied to that of its namesake ‘mountain’, which originally reached a summit of 1,500 feet (460 m) but is now more like 420 m on account of the quarrying. 


Not only has the quarry reduced the hill top considerably but it also obliterated the site of Braich-y-Dinas, which was one of the largest Iron Age hill-forts in Europe.  The hill fort’s last remnants were destroyed in the 1920s.

William Gladstone

Even while the quarrying was in its heyday, Penmaenmawr also tried to position itself as something of a tourist town with an Edwardian-era promenade along the seafront (replaced in the 1980s).  Its nineteenth century prestige as a holiday resort was enhanced considerably by Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, who holidayed there no less than eleven times between 1855 and 1896. 

Rail Crash & Murder Spree

The twentieth century was less kind to its resort ambitions, which were hardly helped by a rail crash in 1950 in which a signalling error resulted in a collision and six fatalities.

Worse still was a 1976 murder spree in the now derelict Red Gables Hotel.  In the latter incident, the hotel’s former gardener, a retired submarine commander who had seen action in both WW2 and the Korean War (earning the Distinguished Service Cross in both conflicts), shot everyone in the hotel — the owner, her daughter, the daughter’s husband and an antique dealer from Texas — before setting the building alight and then shooting himself. No one knows why he did it.

Foel Lûs

Something else that caught fire in 1976 was the rounded hill of Foel Lûs (‘bilberry hill’), which sits between Penmaenmawr and Dwygyfylchi. Foel means a bare hill (as in one not wooded) and it certainly fit the description by the time a raging gorse fire had burnt itself out. 

The hill has a path around it which does not form part of the North Wales Path but is included in the upland stretch of Wales Coast Path, which had joined me on the hill top some way back.  This meant that I had a choice looming. Would I go round the hill or straight past it?

Foel Lûs
The choice loomed larger than the hill. That’s it dead ahead, disappointingly un-fiery.
Craig Hafodwen

The path didn’t lead directly towards Foel Lûs but first swung around the rocky tor of Craig Hafodwen (‘rock of the white summer house’).

I glanced back just before rounding Craig Hafodwen and was pleased to see that the girls I had passed earlier were now back on the right track, the sulky stomping of their map-clutching leader evident even from a distance.  Ahead of me, my own path was proving easy to follow although I knew that somewhere ahead I would have to choose.

Path round Craig Hafodwen
But not yet.
Eleventh Hour Options

The choice, when it did come, was between following the obvious track onto Foel Lûs or tramping across a field. I decided to stick with the track — not only was it easier and less boggy but it also felt more ‘coastal’. 

It also provided me with a handy bench on which I sat and ate a sandwich I’d cunningly brought along for elevenses.

The path became even more obviously a track with old no entry signs suggesting that it had once been an actual road. A glance at the map showed the track connecting an outlying farm to the road network, so yes it was.  Down below, Mr Gladstone’s favourite resort basked in the sun, while the islands of Anglesey and Puffin Island frolicked in the calm seas.

Penmaenmawr, Anglesey & Puffin Island
I tell you, the islands are frolicking. But in geological time.
Landy Man & Diminutive Dog

The point where the path met the road proper formed a small car park by which I mean that the car park was small; all of the vehicles were Land Rovers, one of which was trying to reverse.  A small and over-excited dog kept running around the vehicle’s back wheels while the diminutive dog’s owner desperately tried to call it back. 

For a man who could only reverse six inches at a time and then had to wait for Diminutive Dog Owner to reassert some sort of control of his pet, Landy Man was remarkably relaxed.  Diminutive Dog Owner seemed both and exasperated and perplexed — I’m pretty sure he hadn’t trained his dog to try to catch vehicles by the wheels.

Jubilee Path

While the road wound down the hill behind me — the car park essentially occupied a hairpin bend in the track — a footpath kept going forwards, its start flanked by two pillars

Having passed between them, I would be walking on the Jubilee Path, a footpath around Foel Lûs that was opened in 1888 and named for Queen Victoria’s jubilee of the preceding year.  Cut by hand from the hillside, the path cost £50 to build with the pillars thrown in for an extra £5.

Jubilee path pillars
They’re not bad for £2.50 each.  (£2 10/- in pre-decimal money).

The path started off quite broad but narrowed considerably when halfway round the hillside.  The view across to Anglesey was awesome but I chose not to dawdle as Diminutive Dog Owner and his excitable animal were coming up the path some way behind me.  It would, I decided, be just my luck if Diminutive Dog threw itself under my feet just as the Jubilee Path reached its narrowest and least level part.

Dwygyfylchi Village

I pressed on, rounding the hill to reveal the village of Dwygyfylchi, which mostly dates from the 1930s.

Dwygyfylchi from Foel Lûs
How fitting then it lies in a great depression between Foel Lûs and Penmaenbach.
Llys Helig

Sadly unrevealed was the fabled lost land of Llys Helig, which would be in the photo above were it not covered in water.  Technically, Llys Helig (‘Helig’s court’) was the name of the palace of its alleged sixth century ruler, Helig ap Glanawg

The story goes that Helig’s daughter, Gwendud, fell in love with a commoner named Tathal but they could not marry on account of his lowly status.  The mark of a nobleman was a golden torque so Tathal hit upon the pragmatic, if unethical, solution of murdering an actual noble and stealing his torque.  While he was burying the body, a voice promised that revenge would come in the time of his great-grandchildren. 

Gwendud and the now demonstrably noble Tathal were married and lived to see their great-grandchildren born whereupon the sea inundated the land. Only a maid and the court jester escaped.

Actual Inundation

Not only is it a great story but it may have some basis in reality.  Today, Llys Helig is the name given to a submerged rock formation in Conwy Bay but the presence of a rock formation means nothing. The Ice Age left a lot of weird rocks and many of them have associated legends which are little more than geological ‘Just So’ stories. 

However, there is evidence of a submerged forest in Conwy Bay and an 1864 exploration of the site claimed to have identified the walls of ruined structure.  Along with the nearby Lafan Sands — now a tidal mudflat but said to have once been farmland — it is entirely possible that what was once inhabited land now languishes under the waves.

Looking Ahead

All attempts to spot Llys Helig from the side of Foel Lûs were in vain and simply allowed the Diminutive Dog to get closer.  I hurried onwards around the hill to where the Wales Coast Path and Jubilee Path parted company. 

The former headed down the hill at an angle, heading back to Dwygyfylchi on an overgrown and muddy path that was clearly little used.  Before I headed down it, I looked across to Alltwen (‘white hill’) and the Sychnant (‘dry stream’) Pass.

SYchnant Pass from Foel Lûs
The village on the left is the edge of Dwygyfylchi, that dead ahead is Capelulo.  The road snaking up the valley behind Capelulo is the old Conwy Turnpike and was the route taken by mail coaches when the old coast road was impassable at high tide.

I picked my way slowly through knee-deep vegetation until the path deposited me on the old Conwy Road that skirts Dwygyfylchi and heads through Capelulo.  It seemed rather rude not to follow it.  Thus, I soon found myself in the tiny village of Capelulo, the original settlement of which Dwygyfylchi is an outgrowth.

Yr Hen Bentre

Capelulo’s name means ‘Chapel of St Ulo’ — whoever St Ulo was, it appears a mediaeval chapel dedicated to him once stood there — but it is also known as Yr Hen Bentre meaning ‘the old village’.  The actual village is not that old though, dating only from around 1770, when it developed around three inns on the turnpike road to Conwy. 

The Fairy Glen

Capelulo straddles a stream called the Afon Gyrach, which forms a narrow wooded valley above the village as it descends rapidly from the hilltop moors.  This was originally known as Nant Daear Lwynog (‘glen of the fox den’) but the Victorians felt this to be lacking in near-terminal tweeness and it has been the Fairy Glen ever since.

My route did not carry me through the Fairy Glen itself but it did carry me to the doors of a pub bearing its name.  I reached those doors just as it opened for lunchtime and I came to the rapid conclusion that I would fall for its fairy glamour and venture inside in search of cold drinks and foods.

Afon Gyrach

To my great relief, when I later emerged from the Fairy Glen, half an hour had passed and not one hundred years. 

The North Wales Path appeared to take the road to Sychnant Pass while the Wales Coast Path went another way, following a leafy footpath along the lower reaches of the Afon Gyrach.  I was unsure exactly where this latter path was heading but I took it anyway; it carried me to the eastern edge of Dwygyfylchi and another road leading to the pass.

Sychnant Pass

Entering the pass on foot was more impressive than I expected for the road turns away to zig-zag up the hillside while the footpath angles its way up the side of a steep scree slope.  An old packhorse trail preceded the 1722 turnpike road and I rather suspect it was that which the footpath made use of.  It felt like quite a testing climb.

SYchnant pass from the top
Clearly I passed.  This is the view back down to Capelulo.
The road on the hillside to the left is the old turnpike road.

From the top of the pass a footpath led across the hilltops of Alltwen and Conwy Mountain (Welsh Mynydd y Dref meaning ‘town mountain’) and the slopes of Penmaenbach.  Some poor waymarking nearly misdirected me to the top of Alltwen, where I would have found the site of an old hill fort, but fortunately I can read a map. 

Glimpses of Llandudno and Great Orme’s Head showed that they were slowly getting closer.

Great Orme's Head from Alltwen
‘Great Orme’s Head’ sounds like an oath or exclamation. I certainly plan to use it as such.  It’s almost as good as ‘By the goat!’ which is actually just a good spot to meet up in London’s Old Spitalfields Market


Conwy Mountain

The path across Conwy Mountain — actually a hill at 244 m high — was enjoyably uneven and rambling and in a couple of places I was sure I must have gone the wrong way until I saw a helpful waymark.  At this point, both the North Wales Path and Wales Coast Path upland route were using the same trail but the former was far better marked. 

Conwy Mountain is actually an ancient volcano that erupted some 450 million years ago and, like every sticky-up bit for miles around, it has the remains of a hill fort on its top.

Castell Caer Seion

This particular hill fort is known as Castell Caer Seion and was in use between approximately 300 BC and 100 AD.  Its earthen banks were about 3 m high with a chest-high stone wall atop them. Over fifty round buildings nestled within its defences. 

I was almost persuaded to detour off the path and spend time investigating it but the weather forecast had threatened rain mid-afternoon and I could see dark clouds lowering on the horizon.  With some reluctance, I decided that my best bet was to press on, any delay now could mean walking for miles in the pouring rain later. 

Ahead, Conwy Castle (Castell Conwy) — a relatively more recent fortification — patiently awaited my arrival.

Conwy as seen from Conwy Mountain
Conwy Castle sits in the town of Conwy beside the River Conwy (Afon Conwy) as seen here from Conwy Mountain.  The river empties into Conwy Bay. Can you guess what they called the modern local government area? I’ll give you a clue: It isn’t ‘Llandudno’.
Afon Conwy

A long, slow descent from Conwy Mountain brought me down into Conwy itself, passing through some streets to the banks of the river. 

Upstream, the castle and various bridges dominated the view and a pleasant stroll along the (metalled) riverside followed.  The river itself seemed very quiet with only the occasional tourist boat to be seen.  Two hundred years ago, it would have been bustling; the Conwy was one of the most important pearl fisheries in the country and provided over 4 kg of mussel pearls to London jewellers every week during early the early nineteenth century. 

A limited amount of various types of fishing still occurs as evidenced by fishing boats and lobsterpots on the quayside near the castle.

Mussels scuplture
Mussels were a pillar of the local economy
The Smallest House

Something else still in Conwy but limited in size is the smallest house in Great Britain, which is helpfully painted bright red in case you miss it.  It was lived in until 1900 when it was declared unfit for human habitation, and is still owned by the same family.

The smallest house in Great Britain
A lovely house with one small problem…
Conwy Castle

I headed up the quayside almost to the walls of Conwy Castle, which was built between 1283 and 1289 for Edward I of England as part of his conquest of Gwynedd.  He also built the town walls, which established Conwy, with its garrison and strategic position, as an important and powerful market town. 

Aberconwy Abbey

Prior to the conquest, the site was home to Aberconwy Abbey, which had been founded by Llywelyn the Great in 1199. After it, the monks were expelled to a site upstream at Maenan. English settlers encouraged to move into the new town, while the Welsh were initially forbidden to enter it.

James of St George

The castle contains the earliest known machicolations in Britain, these being the gaps between the corbels of a battlement through which oil, rocks and other unpleasantness could be dumped on enemies below.  Much of its architecture betrays a Savoyard influence, probably on account of Edward’s chief architect, James of St George, who hailed from Savoy.

Revolt of 1294

As one might expect, the castle has witnessed much action and many historical events over the years including the 1294 rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn, who managed to besiege Edward I within his shiny new castle. 

During the siege Edward beautifully illustrated the dichotomy that makes him difficult to appraise — on the one hand he was a power-hungry terror to Wales and Scotland, ruthless to his enemies and cynically expelled England’s Jews after wringing every last drop of cash from them that he could. On the other hand, he was a gifted administrator, made a number of much-needed legal reforms and was very well-respected by his English subjects. 

In the case of Madog’s siege the King made a gesture that was at once generous and cynical, by sharing out his private wine supply amongst the garrison, raising morale and helping to bind tight their personal loyalty to him.

Henry Bolingbroke

If the castle was a refuge to Edward I, it was a thorn in the side of Henry IV.  Firstly it was used as a refuge by Richard II in 1399, during Henry’s own rebellion. Then when Henry had won and had himself crowned, Owain Glyndŵr’s cousins captured it during his rebellion. 

Wars of the Roses

One of the cousins was Rhys ap Tudur, whose great-great nephew Henry Tudor would eventually become King Henry VII at the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485.

English Civil War

During the English Civil War, the castle was Royalist, initially held by the Archbishop of York, John Williams, from 1642.  Three years later, the King appointed Sir John Owen as governor of the castle and this upset the Archbishop so much that he defected to Parliament instead. 

Conwy Town fell to Parliamentarian troops the following year but Sir John refused to surrender even though Charles I had granted him permission to do so.  General Thomas Mytton besieged the castle for three months before successfully storming it. 

The castle was slighted on Parliament’s orders in 1655 but its true end as a defensive structure came ten years later when its owner, the Earl of Conwy, stripped it of all iron and lead, selling the metal off and leaving his castle as a ruin.  This was not popular with the citizens of Conwy.

Three Bridges

Today, three bridges stand beside the picturesque ruins, crossing the narrow gap between castle and a spit of land that projects almost across the estuary.  This was the site of a ferry in earlier times but the building of the oldest of the three bridges, the Conwy Suspension Bridge, put paid to that. 

Conwy Suspension Bridge

The suspension bridge was built by Thomas Telford in 1826 and is very similar in design to his Menai Suspension Bridge to Anglesey

Building it required partial demolition of the castle walls but he made the effort to design its towers in a style that matched the castle’s architecture. The result is that the bridge looks at first glance as though it is actually part of the castle, like a drawbridge of surprisingly advanced design. 

It originally carried the Holyhead-London mail road, later the A55 (which now passes beneath the Conwy via a tunnel) but at only 2½ m across, it proved something of a bottleneck. Today, it is simply a footbridge, sandwiched between its two companions.

Conwy Railway Bridge

Immediately upstream of the suspension bridge is Conwy Railway Bridge, built in 1848 by Robert Stephenson.  Like Telford, he used the same design to cross the Conwy that he also used to cross the Menai Strait. Unlike Britannia Bridge, no one set fire to it by accident and so Conwy Railway Bridge remains true to the original design, which is essentially a square-section tube of wrought iron on legs. 

Conwy Road Bridge

The third bridge is a road bridge, built in 1958 to carry the A55 and thus relieve the bottleneck caused by Telford’s suspension bridge. It is a fairly dull affair — a single span concrete arch — and sits immediately downstream of the bridge that it replaced.

Conwy bridges and castle
Together, they look something like this.
Conwy Tunnel

The 1958 bridge now carries local traffic while the A55 dives beneath the river in an immersed tube tunnel, the first of its kind in the UK, constructed in 1991. 

An immersed tube tunnel is one made out of sections that are constructed offsite and temporarily sealed at both ends, floated out to where they need to be positioned and then sunk into place.  The finished tunnel is thus an underwater tube sitting on the river bed rather than a tunnel bored beneath it.


Llandudno Branch Line

Once across the Afon Conwy, the path took me alongside the A55 as it dove into (or rose from depending on direction) the tunnel but this was mercifully not all that evident. 

The path followed the far bank, heading downstream, and soon came alongside the railway line that links Llandudno and Llandudno Junction.  A train, cruelly mocking my problems earlier that morning, rumbled past to show me what I’d missed.


After a while the riverside walk became more urban as I entered the village of Deganwy.  Modern Deganwy is basically an outlying suburb of Conwy (though I’m sure its inhabitants might disagree). 

It has a marina, which was developed in 2006 on the site of a Victorian slate wharf originally constructed by the London & North Western Railway.  It also has the ruined remains of a castle, which are far less impressive than those of Conwy to look at (hardly anything remains) but which was once an important Royal palace. 

Deganwy Castle

Deganwy Castle was the stronghold of Maelgwn Gwynedd, sixth century King of Gwynedd, and served as the kingdom’s capital before it moved to Aberffraw on Anglesey.

A Norman castle was built on the same site in 1082 but Edward I had it demolished so as not to compete with or threaten his new castle in Conwy.

A Pulverised Promenade

Something else that had been demolished in Deganwy was its seaside promenade.

Deganwy sits at the very mouth of the Conwy and thus faces onto the sea.  Judging from the smashed concrete rubble, the sea had recently demonstrated its terrible power.  A big red sign indicated that the footpath was closed and that I would have to go another way.  I completely ignored it. So did half of Deganwy.

Traeth Melyn

North of Deganwy, the path became a sandy cycle track running between the beach and a series of dunes.  Somewhere on my right there was a golf course but I couldn’t really see it so that was all right. 

I loathe golf courses, agreeing with Mark Twain: ‘Golf is a good walk ruined.’


Approaching the Orme

As I headed northwards the Great Orme (Y Gogarth) loomed large before me with Llandudno nestling at its foot.

Llandudno West Shore
Not that an orm or sea serpent would have any feet.
Llandudno West Shore

Upon reaching Llandudno I availed myself of a handy beach café to enjoy a brief rest, accompanied by lemon cake and tea. 

Llandudno is the ‘Queen of the Welsh Resorts’ and has been known as such since at least 1864.  It certainly wasn’t called that a decade earlier, though, since most of modern Llandudno had yet to be built.  The town’s development began in 1847 when Liverpool architect Owen Williams persuaded local landowner Lord Mostyn to turn what was basically a village in a marsh into a conurbation made mostly out of hotels. 

The result is a rather pleasant seaside town with an impressive promenade along the North Shore facing into Llandudno Bay.  Unfortunately I had reached the West Shore facing Conwy Bay, which was considerably drabber and less impressive.  As if on cue, the promised rain chose that moment to arrive.

Around the Orme

The rain was light and I was carrying a waterproof jacket so it in no way deterred me from continuing.  Although I had already reached Llandudno, I still had another five mile or so to go, since I had the Great Orme to walk around before reaching my hotel on the North Shore.

The Great Orme takes its name from Old Norse orm meaning ‘worm’ or ‘serpent’ and is a large promontory of limestone.  Atop it can be found the site of some Bronze Age copper mines, the twelfth century Church of St Tudno (built on the site of St Tudno’s sixth century monastic cell) and various other attractions but I had no intention of climbing up there in the rain.

Instead, I planned to follow Marine Drive, a toll road round the headland opened in 1878 and converted from the route of an 1858 footpath.  The road was not unpleasant, with a low stone wall on one side and limestone crags and grassy slopes on the other.

Marine Drive
It mostly looked like this. For the next four miles.
Manky-Smelling Markhor

About half the Great Orme is given over to agriculture in the form of grazing sheep but the sheep are not alone. A herd of feral Kashmiri goats (markhor) dwells on the Great Orme, having originally been acquired from Queen Victoria. 

The goats are shy but confident — they won’t run away like sheep do but they won’t let you get close either. Instead, as you approach them, they calmly walk in the other direction maintaining their safe distance.  This is perhaps a blessing as markhor smell absolutely rank.

Markhor on Great Orme
They may be a safe distance from me; they’re a very long way from Kashmir.
A Very Surprising Vulcan

As I was looking at the goats a shadow overhead caused me to look up and I was extremely surprised to see the distinctive delta-wing shape of a Vulcan bomber overhead.  This was surprising for a number of reasons not least of which is that there is only one airworthy Vulcan left in the world, and that’s based in Doncaster

An amazing aircraft, the Vulcan was designed as a long-range nuclear bomber in the days before ICBMs and was iconic in its day: a huge, noisy flying triangle of thermonuclear doom.

Important Omissions

I stared up in amazement at the Vulcan and gradually realised that something important was missing, namely the aforementioned noise.  If there’s one thing the Vulcan wasn’t, it’s a stealth bomber — at least not to anything with ears.  They made a terrible din. The one I was looking at was utterly silent however. 

Then, as I watched, it swooped low over the craggy hill top and I got a frame of reference regarding its size.  A bloke on the hilltop with a control box was also a bit of a giveaway clue. I was watching a remote-control glider: A remote control glider in the shape of an Avro Vulcan.  Words do not express how cool a toy that is. I watched it for some time…

…After a while I realised that I was looking upwards and rain was not landing on my face.  Marvellous.

Rest And Be Thankful Café

When I eventually tore myself away from the RC glider, I continued my way along Marine Drive, reaching the Rest And Be Thankful Café at the traditional hour of Just After It Closed.  It’s a special knack.

I didn’t actually need a cup of tea but now I felt aggrieved I couldn’t get one and stomped off down the road muttering to myself. 

Great Orme Lighthouse

My feeling of high dudgeon carried me past the old lighthouse, which is hardly visible from the road anyway and which was built in 1862 by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company. When operating, it was the highest light on the Welsh coast at 325 ft (99 m) above sea level but it was decommissioned in 1985 and is now a B&B.

Gwynt y Môr

One thing I very much could see from the road — although they were a little too far away for my camera to make them out with any clarity — was a veritable army of wind turbines some way offshore.  This was Gwynt y Môr (‘sea wind’), Wales’s largest offshore wind farm and ‘some way’ was about ten miles.

Comprising a hundred and sixty wind turbines, it is in fact the second largest offshore wind farm in the world, second only to the London Array in the Thames Estuary.

WW2 Pillbox

Much closer to the road was a dilapidated WW2 pillbox, a reminder that the Royal Artillery’s coastal artillery school spent the war based on the Great Orme.  Near to it, I found some rock climbers scaling a limestone cliff that looked to me like a featureless wall but apparently was to the climbers as easy as going up stairs.

Llandudno Pier

Not long after, I found I had rounded the bulk of the Great Orme and was now facing onto Llandudno Bay.  Great parades of Victorian hotels spread out along the shoreline, gazing in the direction of Llandudno Pier, Wales’s longest pier at 700 m.

Llandudno Pier
Llandudno is the Queen of Welsh Resorts and this is a Pier of her Realm

Llandudno Pier was built in 1877, replacing a shorter one built in 1858.  As well as being a general tourist attraction, it also occasionally serves its theoretical purpose as a landing stage, serving excursions to the Isle of Man and receiving an annual visit from PS Waverley, the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world (based in Glasgow).

I may have decided that it was absolutely necessary to wander up to the end of the pier and back again just for the hell of it although that is an almost an extra mile that I won’t be counting as part of my walk. 

The Parade

From the pier, it was just a short stroll to the broad Victorian promenade along which I ambled in search of my hotel.

The Parade, Llandudno
It was very short search; I already knew where my hotel was. After all, I had awoken there that morning.

Distance Summary

Hasteful MammalThis time: 19 miles
Total since Gravesend: 1,825 miles

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