Adventures: Sand in your toes. History and mystery at your fingertips

The captivating seaside town of Llandudno in North Wales evokes a bygone era.

Llandudno’s beaches and history are anchored by ancient headlands Little Orme (facing) and Great Orme.

Llandudno, North Wales, is one of the few parts of Britain that truly retains an uncontrived Victorian, or Edwardian, ambiance and identity. For some reason  the town always reminds me of a friendly old duffer who flatly, unapologetically, refuses to be dragged into the 21st century, and is proud of it.

Picture a spectacular sweep of sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see between ancient limestone headlands known as the Little Orme and the Great Orme.

Dignified white columned residential hotels, rooming houses, bed and breakfasts, and genteel hotels stand guard around an elegantly curved natural bay flanked by a promenade, and a dramatic seascape.

The scene is reminiscent of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, Jane Austen fashions, Mr. Darcy dandys, and genteel visitors ‘taking the air’. double doors of my well-appointed St. George’s Hotel room open onto a veranda extending around the venerable old building which was built in 1854. Clouds hover over the Little Orme to the east urging me to face the bracing sea breeze to explore the distant Llandudno Pier which recently sold for £4.5 million. Well-endowed with rides, colourful ‘carny’ fast-food, fortune teller stalls, and souvenir shops, the famous Llandudno landmark built in 1877 is anchored by a pinball-style ‘Family Amusement’ arcade at one end and a “Deck Arcade” under a Brighton Pier-style dome jutting out into the sea.

[‘Alice in Wonderland’ adds whimsy to Wales in Llandudno (pronounced ‘clandudno’). Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis]

Apart from the two arcades, the fun stuff is ‘Closed for the Season’. Waves batter the base of the Grand Hotel on the north side of the pier which, until a face appears at a second floor window, I assume is closed permanently. It’s a perfect Hitchcock set. The town will be packed at the height of the summer, but exploring in the ‘off season’ has, for a writer, its own unique charm. It’s only when contemplating the giant teacup rides that I recall Llandudno’s connection to Alice in Wonderland.

Alice Liddell, a child who regularly holidayed with her family over 150 years ago, is reputed to have been the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’. As a result, the promenade has featured in many a Mad Hatter-themed tea party and other related events.

Jogging back to the warmth of the four-star St. George, I detour off the beach through the main streets. I am sorry time doesn’t allow for exploring the eclectic assortment of village shops. A particularly staid looking hotel advocated Christmas turkey dinners in November to beat the festive rush. A plastic Christmas tree swayed precariously in the windy doorway. Marks for initiative, I thought.

Dinner, on the other hand, at The Sea Horse Restaurant, 7 Church Walks, was a complete contrast. Tucked into a refurbished ‘Victorian’ with stone walls, oak pews and priests’ chairs for casual dining, or more formal red leather furniture upstairs, I find an upbeat atmosphere catering to a decidedly trendier clientele.

Owned by Don and Gill Hadwin, the personable Manchester pair clearly enjoy fine food and friendship. Don, a Master Chef, and Gill, a drama and English major, were school friends who drifted apart, but reconnected on-line in 2002 through Friends Re-United.

They’re also avid fisherfolk who pride themselves on serving their own ‘fresh catch’ complemented with locally-grown and raised products for their varied menu. Grilled sea bass with garlic butter and prawns paired with a crisp white wine were perfect choices with which to end my day.

[The Victorian era lives on at the end of Llandudno Pier. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo]

Exploring the Great Orme, famous for an old copper mine, a 13th century church (where even your pooch is welcome to attend services), and a visit to the nearby ancient walled castle town of Conwy are on the agenda for tomorrow.

Wales is steeped in mysteries, histories, and surprises. No wonder writers, poets, musicians, and independent spirits are drawn to it and thrive here.

For more information on the many charms of ancient Wales, go to:

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a retired Black Press managing editor and British Columbia-based writer and photographer.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey gallery welcomes big, colourful Indian art on tour

Large-scale paintings and drawings at Bear Creek Park facility starting Saturday, Jan. 20

Unstable soil means more studies, drawings needed for Cloverdale Arena

The added geotechnical work and designs won’t put a delay on proceedings, City says

‘Still room to grow’ for Semiahmoo team

Totems ace Surrey Fire Fighters Senior Girls Goodwill Basketball Tournament title with 76-62 win over Tweedsmuir Panthers Saturday in Cloverdale

Union files human rights complaint over Chilliwack school trustee’s LGBTQ comments

Board and trustee Barry Neufled facing $50,000 tribunal charge over alleged ‘unsafe work environment’

Simulated whale rescue on White Rock beach

Training endeavour aimed to ready crews for future strandings

More than 2,000 people left without power in Surrey after truck hits power pole

BC Hydro works to restore power after crash at Fraser Highway and 184th Street

Pipeline routing through Chilliwack subject of NEB hearing Monday

City of Chilliwack, WaterWealth Project and local Sto:lo intervenors in the hearing

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

Stealth work OT, come through with first win

Joel McCready nets winner, Eric Penney makes 52 saves as Vancouver knocks off Buffalo

VIDEO: Southern schemes on stage in Langley

The farce of “The Foreigner”

B.C. Liberal hopefuls begin final leadership push

Five MLAs, one outsider pitch policies to party members

Vancouver Island marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Aphria’s annual production forecast increases to 230,000 kgs

UPDATED: ‘Young, innocent’ teen hit during Vancouver shootout dies

15-year-old Coquitlam boy was in a car driving by the scene

Fraser Valley truck driver killed in Alberta semi truck crash

Young driver was adjusting load on side of highway to Fort McMurray

Most Read