Written by Julia Thorley
(A Runner-up entry in the Travel for Seniors Writing Competition.)
‘When were you last in Llandudno?’ the hotel receptionist asked. ‘Probably in the sixties,’ we replied, ‘though we didn’t know each other then, of course. We visited as children with our respective families.’
‘Well, you’ll find nothing’s changed.’
This wasn’t said for comic effect. It’s true. Llandudno is the same peaceful seaside town it’s always been, with a somewhat justifiable reputation as an old person’s resort. There are no hen parties squawking in the streets or drunken hordes rampaging up and down the promenade.
It became a popular holiday destination in the late 19th Century and has never lost its civilised atmosphere, being perfectly situated between two headlands that cocoon it from unwanted influences.
Now, lest you think I’m poking fun, let me assure you I’m not. We loved it. We weren’t there for the nightlife, but rather for a weekend pick-me-up. We were after sea air and peace, and there was plenty of both.
Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that the place is geared up for the less nimble visitor. The first clue to the anticipated clientele was the sign in the hotel car park that showed us where mobility scooters and wheelchairs could be recharged overnight.
In our well-appointed room, the welcome pack informed us that breakfast was over by 9.30, so clearly there was no leeway for party animals who wanted a lie-in. The menu was cereals, fry-up and toast; not a flax seed in sight. Dinner stopped at 7.30pm. That’s right: 7.30.
The wonderful wide prom lives up to its name: people walk up and down, simply being there. It’s a great place for mooching. The seafront is mercifully uncluttered and most of the buildings there are hotels and guest houses, not boisterous amusement arcades. These are on the pier, but even here their clanging jangle competes for attention with a constant broadcast of fifties and sixties music.
There’s a Punch and Judy show, children’s rides, a few stalls and, of course, plenty of ice-cream sellers. A word of warning, though. If you treat yourself to a cornet, take care to eat it in the shelter of the awnings. As we strolled to the end of the pier, a seagull swooped down and relieved my husband of his 99. Later that day, we saw a terrified waitress call for back-up when trying to clear an outside table that had been taken over by a couple of these hoodlum birds.
Parking in Llandudno is at a premium, so on the advice of our receptionist we didn’t move our car out of the hotel grounds all weekend. Whether in deference to elderly, non-driving visitors or simply a result of good planning, there is plenty of public transport. A land train carries visitors from North Parade down to the West Shore, and a hop-on/hop-off bus will take you further afield to Conway (Conwy), a World Heritage town.
You can’t go to Llandudno without taking a trip up the Great Orme (Y Gogarth), the country park and wildlife reserve that looms at 700ft to the north of the town. Ride the tram from Victoria Station on Church Walks to the summit; or jump on the cable car in Happy Valley (yes,
really) and take in the views over a land that has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.
But we know that senior doesn’t mean decrepit, and the best way to explore the Great Orme is on foot. There are many trails to discover that will take your breath away in both senses. The ZigZag route is particularly challenging and your knees will be thankful when you see the summit come into view. From here you can explore the ski centre, Pigeons Cave, St Tudno’s church, the old lighthouse, the pitch and putt and the Haulfre Gardens.
Or walk down to the Halfway Station and follow the signs to the Copper Mine. Pop on a hard hat and take the self-guided underground tour through 3,500-year-old passages leading to a Bronze Age cavern. There are surface excavations, too, uncovered in the 1990s. Fascinating stuff.
Back down in the town, there is nightlife, if you fancy it. There are lots of pubs and wonderful restaurants, not to mention Venue Cymru, the theatre and conference centre that plays host to music, drama and comedy for all ages.
See? Llandudno’s not just for folk in bath chairs with rugs around their knees.
POSTED 14th DECEMBER 2017 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of JULIA THORLEY. The photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged.