First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Llandudno is a great traditional seaside resort, and proud of it. Giciante Ferrari and his Performing Birds and high diver Walter Beaumont share equal billing with Sir Malcolm Sargent and Matthew Arnold on a ‘Notable People Who’ve Stayed Here’ plaque on the promenade. The high Victorian hotels stand draw up in a long line around the curve of the bay, buttressed by the two bulbous headlands of Great and Little Orme and backed by the distant mountains of Snowdonia. It all made a fine setting for our walk to explore the rugged charms of Great Orme, where the National Trust own a major piece of land, Parc Farm, at the heart of the Great Orme Country Park.
The peace of a cold, cloudy morning lay over Happy Valley gardens as we climbed their pathways, then on up steps to the crest of a natural limestone amphitheatre. How proud those Victorian holidaymakers must have felt of their civilisation as they wandered the gardens among Scots pine, palm trees, rockeries and flower borders, looking down over the pier to the sparkling white arc of the town, and up to the mountainous Orme above, all ‘savage nature wild and rude’.
Great Orme is a giant lump of limestone, in profile like a barking dog with muzzle raised to the northwest. Paths and tracks crisscross it, legacy of leisure walking and of the quarrymen and copper miners who dug it for stone and ore since back in the Bronze Age. We set out on an anticlockwise circuit of the top in the teeth of a strengthening wind, past the farmhouse of Penmynydd Isa and Powell’s Well, down to St Tudno’s church perched above the sea. In the sprawling graveyard the names of Jones and Davies, Williams, Roberts and Evans adorn black slate slabs. Inside we found intricate medieval Celtic stonework, and a fine dragon snarling in the shadows above the chancel window.
We headed west from St Tudno’s towards the Orme’s seaward snout over a moor patched with limestone pavement and scattered with big erratic boulders left there by the retreating glaciers ten thousand years ago. The fat sheep of Parc Farm stood munching heads down in a walled beanfield. The wild goats of the headland were keeping out of sight today, but close under the cable car station at the summit we caught their pungent whiff.
On over the brow of Bishop’s Quarry where hundreds of lovers, rogues and wanderers have spelt out their names in white limestone fragments. A sensational view over the Conwy estuary to the packed mountains of Snowdonia, stamped on a stormy sky in flat grey-blue silhouettes as though cut in profile from the lead and slate they are founded on. And then the skeltering path of the Zig Zag Trail, steeply down through windblown heather, rocks and cliffs to the gentle pathways of Haulfre Gardens and Llandudno’s promenade once more.
Start: Happy Valley Road, Llandudno Promenade, LL30 2LR (OS ref SH 782828)
Getting there: Rail to Llandudno.
Road – Llandudno is signposted off A55 between Colwyn Bay and Conwy
Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL17): Opposite Grand Hotel front door (782828), up Alex Munro Way to Happy Valley Gardens. Path up left side of lawns; follow Happy Valley Summit Trail (‘To Summit’/TS arrows, blue-ringed posts/BP) to top of gardens (780831). Up steps beside ski slope area; on across heath to Penmynydd Isa farmhouse (774834). On to St Tudno’s Church (770838). Up road towards summit; 100m beyond top of graveyard, fork right (TS, BP). In 150m (768836) right along gravel track, then grassy path, keeping wall on your left, for 1½ miles anti-clockwise to SE corner of wall (765831), just below summit station. Bear left to see pebble signatures and Bishop’s Quarry; return to wall corner; follow track past yellow-ringed post to brow of hill. Bear half right over ridge; aim half left for post near erratic boulder (769828). From here follow Zig Zag Trail (‘To Town’, black-ringed posts) steeply down to tarmac path by shelter near sea level (772823). Left via Haulfre Gardens to Promenade.
Lunch: Haulfre Tearooms, Haulfre Gardens LL30 2HT (01492-876731)
Accommodation: St George’s Hotel, The Promenade, Llandudno LL30 2LG (01492-877544, stgeorgeswales.co.uk) – welcoming, traditional seafront hotel.