Chasing down the exact etymological history of the Great Orme in Llandudno is akin to pursuing an elusive dragon across the high seas. The most widely disseminated information suggests that it derives from the Old Norse ormr for “serpent” (think wyrm/worm in the Old English/Anglo-Saxon/Tolkienesque sense, depending on your personal preference). Whether that’s fanciful or fact, I would love to believe that this great cliff rising from the shimmering water reminded someone, Viking or Victorian, of a massive beast standing sentinel at the coast.
I certainly experienced the closest I’ve ever come to utter enchantment while perched atop these rolling hills with my dearest companion, watching the waves glow into the distance. I don’t know why more Romantic landscape painters didn’t flock here in droves! The journey to the Great Orme’s heights is a challenging adventure on its own – the gorgeous blue Victorian tramway proved tragically closed for the season, and driving up those steep slopes requires great courage.
The non-Orme parts of Llandudno comprise a charming seaside town with gorgeous Victorian pastel hotel architecture everywhere. Its promenade reminded me of my trip to Nice years ago – though the Llandudno walk offered much more privacy in cold January.
If we’d visited in the summer, I would have loved strolling down the pier in some kind of vintage attire (ideally late nineteenth century to match the pier’s construction date, but sadly that’s a little more difficult for me to acquire!).
Still, I preferred the hauntingly empty pier stroll to the blaze of color and sound we would have experienced during the daytime. The silent arcades, shadowy lines of toys and masks and oversized plastic sunglasses, and glowing lights of shops just shutting down provided an eerie juxtaposition with the endless sea that holds no closing hours of its own…