I was looking for a quick getaway for my family and I while visiting my brother’s family in Manchester, United Kingdom. We didn’t want to stay put in one place the entire time, and since he has a little baby in tow — it couldn’t be somewhere too far away either. So after weighing my options, I finally decided that we would be heading to the north of Wales — firstly, because I have never been to Wales (visiting as a toddler doesn’t count); and secondly, it was only a 1.5 hour drive away. Perfect!
The Welsh seaside town of Llandudno is located on the North of Wales in the Creuddyn Peninsula, facing the Irish Sea. It lies on the slopes of the Great Orme, a limestone headland; and is believed to have been around since the stone age. As I have never heard of Llandudno before, I thought of it as a small and charming seaside town that I just happened to come across — but in fact, it is the largest seaside resort in Wales. During our visit, we noticed that the town was packed with tons of senior citizens on vacation.
And while there, I also found out that the classic tale, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has roots in Llandudno. It is said that the author, Lewis Carroll, was in town in 1861 to visit a friend whose daughter’s name was Alice Liddell. The 8-year-old became the inspiration for the ‘Alice’ character in the books. I really wished I had more time to go on an ‘Alice Trail’ and search for all the Alice in Wonderland-themed sculptures and statues around town!
We left Manchester for Llandudno after breakfast in the late morning. We had to ensure my little nephew was all fed and comfortable before making the trip over (it was my first time traveling with a baby, and it really required a lot of patience and planning). It was great that he managed to sleep all the way to Llandudno (for 1.5 hours), and it was straight to lunch as soon as we arrived.
Lunch at the Rabbit Hole Cafe
I think it was the catchy name of the cafe that caught my attention when I searched online for somewhere to eat upon arriving in Llandudno. I mean… we’re in the town of ‘Alice in Wanderland’, so where better to dine than heading down the rabbit hole? The Rabbit Hole Cafe is known for its healthy food selections that include vegan meals. Since I was in Wales, I thought it was a good idea to order the ‘Welsh Rarebit’ — a local dish that is made of a savoury cheese sauce poured over toasted bread. Mine came with ham slices and wholegrain mustard — and was delicious! My family also ordered dishes like the jacket potato, burgers and sandwiches; and we later had dessert of carrot cake and scones. The food was really good.
The White Heather Private Hotel
After lunch, it was time to check into our hotel in Llandudno. The White Heather Private Hotel is located in the town center, just next to the promenade. It is set in a charming white Victorian building, complete with panel windows and black awnings (and a really old school manual door lift). The hotel has been owned by the same family for three generations. What I loved about the White Heather is the absolutely adorable rooms that come in different color themes. Between us, our family was placed in pink, peach and blue colored rooms — all furnished in a traditional English decor of floral wallpaper and curtains. I really felt like I was staying in old Britain, but with all the modern comforts!
The Great Orme Mines
After a short rest to let the baby feed and sleep a little, we were off to our first attraction of the day — the Great Orme Bronze Age Mines. Located near the mid-tram station of the Great Orme, the mines were only uncovered in 1987. Since then, more and more tunnels are being discovered — and the 4,000-years-old mine network is now believed to be the largest (known) prehistoric mine in the world. The copper ore malachite was mined here back in the bronze-age, with the use of stones and bone tools.
The visit to the mines is a self-guided one — and after picking our colored helmets, walking through the visitor centre and its mining history displays, and watching a short introductory film; we made our way to the actual mines. There are a couple parts to these prehistoric mines — the underground tour brought us through a labyrinth of passages that were dark, cold, and dimly lit. Along the tunnels, there were lots of signboards explaining the different levels and features of the mines, which I thought was great. We then made our way to the surface excavations and the opencast to get a full view of the entire complex.
It was an interesting and educational visit to the bronze age mines; and I felt that it was just amazing to see and visit something so old! Entrance cost £8 (~US$10) per adult.
And then it was time to explore the town! I have to say it was lovely walking around Llandudno and admiring its Victorian architecture of white and pastel colors (and with chimneys too). Most of these historical buildings have been turned into shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels — while still retaining its historically elegant and charming feel. I really felt like I just stepped back in time during the musical movie days; where it’s normal for people to suddenly break into song and dance in the middle of the street while swinging around poles and swaying in front of doorways! I guess it must be because this seaside town has actually remained unchanged for over a century.
The Looking Glass Ice Cream Parlour
While walking around Llandudno, we noticed this ice cream parlour for two reasons — firstly, it said homemade ice cream; and secondly, because of its name! Another ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed cafe to visit, The Looking Glass Ice Cream Parlour has a myriad of ice cream choices, to be had in many different ways — banana split, waffles, crepe, and something called a knickerbocker. I had my banana split with three scoops of vanilla, rum’n’raisins and berry banana; and it was a £7.50 (~US$9.5) bowl of yumminess.
We then made our way to the Llandudno Promenade for a little stroll along the seaside. The wide and flat promenade faces the Irish Sea and runs along the coast for almost two miles — from the Llandudno Pier to the other end at Craigside. Our hotel was located towards the side of the pier, so we just walked around the area between the pier and the Mad Hatter Statue (one of the many ‘Alice in Wonderland’ character statues that can be found around Llandudno). It’s a lovely place to enjoy some cooling ocean air, or to walk off all that ice cream!
Dinner at Harvey’s New York Bar and Grill
We ended the day at Harvey’s New York Bar and Grill for some delicious grilled meat. I ordered the Harvey’s BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs (my family ordered the steak, a BBQ and pizza burger, and even a Philly’s Cheese Steak) and enjoyed it with a pint of Bud Light — and it was a pretty good meal. After dinner, we took an evening walk along the promenade again to enjoy some cool night breeze; before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Second and last day on our very quick vacation in Llandudno. Our stay at the White Heather Hotel included breakfast — so we made our way down to the restaurant in the morning for a hearty English buffet breakfast of eggs, toast, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, hash browns, sausages and coffee. And then it was check-out, and straight to our first stop of the day that opens at 10am.
The Great Orme Tramway
I think I was most excited to get on the Great Orme Tramway. The tramway first opened in 1902, taking visitors up the limestone headland for over 1,500 meters to the top. It is Britain’s only remaining cable-hauled, or funicular tramway (with its original restored Victorian tramcars) — beginning at the Victoria Station at the base of the Great Orme, to the Halfway Station for a tram change, and then the rest of the journey to the Summit. I thoroughly enjoyed my ride up, especially with the beautiful bird’s eye view of Llandudno town when looking down; and the green grassy meadows of the Great Orme when looking up. A return trip costs £8.10 (~US$10) for adults.
The Great Orme Summit
The view from the summit of the Great Orme is really quite spectacular. It was wonderful to see miles and miles of hilly meadows, with the ocean in the distance. From afar, I thought I spotted some sheep — but I later found out that they were actually the Great Orme Kashmiri Goats, known to roam around these parts. I really wanted to sit down and admire the sweeping views, but the strong winds made it too chilly to stay outside for long.
So to shield ourselves from the wind, we made our way into the Summit Complex, the only building standing on top of the 679 feet Great Orme . The complex was pretty packed while we were there — the restaurant and cafeteria were filled with people, so we sat for a drink at Randolph Turpin’s Bar instead (named after the world middle-weight champion boxer who once owned the complex after buying it in 1952). The complex also houses a souvenir shop (with the cutest trinkets), an old Victorian picture house, and a mini-golf course. There’s also a small exhibition about the Great Orme at the Visitor Centre.
We got to the summit via the tramway; but visitors can also drive to the top, hike up, or take the cable car (it wasn’t running on the day we visited because it was too windy).
After taking the tramway down from the Great Orme, we made our way to the Llandudno Pier. First built in 1858, the original (and shorter) pier was destroyed — but it was build again in 1877 with its first entrance on Happy Valley Road. In 1884, the second entrance from the Llandudno Promenade was added. The Llandudno Pier now measures at about 700 meters, and is the longest pier in Wales. I had a nice time walking along the pier that is lined with all kinds of souvenir/knick knack shops, small food stalls, old arcades, and even funfair rides. I can almost imagine what it would have been like back in the day — and how much the people then must have enjoyed these little entertainments. And looking at how busy the pier was that afternoon, I guess people nowadays enjoy it too!
Lunch at the Wildwood Restaurant
Late lunch (and our last stop) that afternoon was at the Wildwood Restaurant. We wanted to dine at this Italian restaurant the night before, but it was booked out so we opted for grill instead. But I guess it was late when we headed for lunch, so the restaurant was pretty empty. Wildwood serves pastas and pizzas; and I was pretty happy with my delicious seafood risotto. It was almost 4pm when we left the restaurant for our journey back to Manchester.
After my trip to Llandudno, someone asked me if the trip was worth it. And it got me thinking. Yes, I had a great time in this Welsh seaside town. I got to smell the ocean. I got to see a birds-eye view of rolling meadows. I got to sit on a hundred-year-old tram. I got to walk through a bronze-age mine. However, Llandudno would probably not be on my list of places to visit had I not been looking for a quick 2-day trip from Manchester with my family. But since it was a place I got to visit — I’m glad I did. And to answer the question; yes, to me, it was pretty worth it. I had wonderful company.