I went to Llandudno many years ago, and have never forgotten it. Other places I have been have entered memory and appear now and again, but Llandudno in North Wales comes to mind often, unbidden.
Ancient tales live in this place, stories associated with the local landscape. There is the legend of Taliesin, early Brythonic (Celtic) poet of the sixth century, and of Maelgwn Gwynedd, a Brythonic king of the same time. For me, Llandudno seemed from the moment I arrived a haunting place where I could enter those stories and feel them in the air. My passion was to be there.
The town of Llandudno can be traced back to the Stone Age, with evidence of settlements over many hundreds of years after, seen on the limestone rock known to sea-going travelers as the Great Orme and to those on land as the Creuddyn Peninsula.
I wanted to walk on the headland, so I followed the road that shows here three-quarters of the way up— probably taking my life in my hands because cars came around the curve ahead very fast. But I never made it all the way to the turning. Wind came up across the sea as I got closer to the curve and the force of it was so great I couldn’t move forward, but instead was sent back three steps for each one I took. I turned around to head back and I am pretty certain my feet did not always touch the ground getting back to the Promenade, for the wind surely carried me a good part of the way!
Alice in Wonderland
Llandudno is famous for a very special reason, as well. Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to create the world of Alice in Wonderland, visited Llandudno with her family when she was eight years old and many times thereafter. A lovely description is given here on a Welsh website, titled “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Carroll, a close friend of the family, listened to Alice’s stories and her love for the seacoast and hills of Llandudno, which inspired the tale he began to create. His sequel Through the Looking Glass also had Llandudno as part of its inspiration. Two huge rocks on the West Shore of Llandudno are named the Walrus and the Carpenter.
St. George’s Hotel and Agatha Christie
For the several days I was in the town, I stayed at St. George’s Hotel, a grand Victorian affair built in 1854 on the Llandudno Promenade. It is famous for visitors that have included seven United Kingdom Prime Ministers, beginning with Benjamin Disraeli.
It was grand to walk on the Promenade directly as I left the hotel. It stretches for 1.4 miles and is intersected by one of the longest piers in the U.K., with a wonderful pavilion, concessions, and wide, wide views of the sea. Here is another view of it:
In St. George’s, I was in heaven. An avid reader of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, I found everything during my time in that hotel so atmospheric. The dining room was massive, ceilings with cornices high above me, chandeliers that sparkled in facets of light, soft rugs, the tables set with white linen and crystal glassware. I’d linger over each meal, but especially breakfast, watching the sheer curtains on the tall windows move back and forth in the breeze that had come up. I don’t think I had a single meal there without imagining characters from one of Agatha Christie’s stories entering the room, dressed to the nines, expecting to be served, and harboring dark secrets… :-)
In the daytime, I walked all over the town, which has a maze of streets, many of which climb heights too far for me to navigate — I saw those views by using the delightful tramway. It didn’t always work if the fog rolled in, but I didn’t care — whatever weather we got was evocative to me. I do remember walking down a winding street not too far from the hotel and coming across a row of Bed and Breakfast houses, all of which had names, and one of them was called “Regina.” It told me I was definitely in the right place to be. In this photo below, the small house on the right with the pink-orange trim is exactly like what I saw (though alas, this one here is named for another).
I walked often on the beach, feeling the beauty of it all entering my heart deep inside. On the shore there were many rocks smoothed by the sea, and in lovely colors. I collected some of the very smallest ones, hardly more than a pebble in size, and in my hands they looked like a vision in a kaleidoscope.
In the end…
When we travel we imagine what might come of our journey, how it might bring us new knowledge, or satisfy a yearning to see something we have thought about for a long time. There is a wanderlust in all of us, even if it only takes us a short distance from home. We breathe in the air and feel the light in a different way, and find ourselves drawn to reflection and contemplation as well as action and adventure. Travel helps us know more about who we are, because it expands our awareness of this precious world.
That’s what being in Llandudno did for me.