Llandudno Queen of Resorts in North Wales

May 26th, 2019

If you’re staying with us at the Oakeley Arms this summer and are looking for inspiration for days out and things to do, then spending the day in Llandudno – the coastal town that was once dubbed the “Queen of North Wales Resorts” will be a big hit with all the family. Here’s the lowdown…..

During the nineteenth century, the British seaside resort thrived, as day-trippers and holidaymakers flooded from industrial cities to indulge in clean sea air and seaside excitment. 

“Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction” the doorknob says to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s most famous story. But, by the time Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865, not many people would have needed directions to Llandudno, as it was fast becoming the jewel in the crown of Britain’s seaside resorts.

Victorian Vintage

Like many seaside towns during the early nineteenth century, Llandudno relied on fishing, mining and farming for the livelihood of its 300 or so residents. But, by the middle of the century, the town’s potential had been spotted by an architect from Liverpool, and by 1849, the transformation into a premier seaside resort had begun.

British seaside resorts were incredibly fashionable during this time, as a means of escape from the often smoggy, crowded and dirty industrial cities. Llandudno was perfectly perched on the northern shores of Wales to ensure it captured the holidaying crowds from the busy northern English cities of Merseyside and Lancashire.

Llandudno provided the complete seaside experience, with its beautiful vintage Victorian pavilion and pier (at over 2,000 foot it is the longest in Wales); wide hotel lined promenades; donkey rides on sandy beaches and myriad fish supper cafes and stripy rock shops.

Many of the beautifully designed buildings remain just as grand today, and Llandudno is one of the few original British seaside resorts that has retained its vintage charm and Victorian good looks.

The Orme’s Great!

The Great Orme is Llandudno’s oldest attraction. The limestone headland watches over the town, and dominates its history and legends. Some of the world’s oldest, and most historically important, copper mines were found here, and are believed to date back to the Bronze Age and abandoned before 600BC.

The name “Orme” is thought to come from an old Viking word for sea monster. The Vikings must have thought the headland a monstrous resemblance to mythical sea serpents of their homeland.

In Victorian Wales, tourists were delighted at the sight of the lush greenness of the Orme, but not so enthralled at the steep ascent to get to the top. At the turn of the twentieth century a tram was opened to carry happy passengers effortlessly to the summit. The tram still runs today, over 100 years later, with the original tram cars still in use.

Because of its natural interest and history, the Orme is now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as being a nature reserve. The headland is home to an enormous variety of animals and fauna, including a herd of Kashmir goats that were donated to the town by Queen Victoria.

The cliff faces and caves are crowded with nesting sea birds, and deep in the abandoned mine works, the rare Horseshoe Bat will be spotted by the eagle-eyed. The Orme is home to endangered species of butterfly and rare types of flower, like the Wild Cotoneaster.

Natural water springs and wells are common in limestone areas, and the Orme has plenty. They would have supplied water to the town before modern water works were common, and would have been the water source for the mine workings. Many of the wells are still intact and visible today.

Tall Tales

Since the publication of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s real identity) infamous tale of a girl’s adventure in Wonderland, theories and legends of Llandudno’s connection to the author, and the book, have spread like wildfire.

Many claim that Charles visited the once grand mansion Penmorfa (now sadly demolished) on the West Shore. It belonged to Charles’ colleague and friend, Rev Henry Lidell, and was used as a holiday retreat for his family and five daughters. One of them, Alice, was immortalised in Charles’ tales, and it is believed that it was among the rolling sand dunes of Llandudno’s beaches that he was first inspired to write about Alice’s adventures in the rabbit hole.

So proud of the Alice link were the residents of Llandudno, that in 1933, former Prime Minister David Lloyd George unveiled the “White Rabbit” memorial on the West Shore.

Whether or not Charles did indeed visit Llandudno is still a hotly contested issue; but it’s certain that the rumours worked their magic to help transform Llandudno from a tiny mining community into the “Queen of Resorts” that it became known as during the twentieth century.

all images from wiki commons