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Just why is the Great Orme so great?
The Great Orme (Llandudno)
Member Name: pumfster
The Great Orme (Llandudno)
Advantages: Is free to walk around. Variety of things to do. Getting back to nature.
Disadvantages: Isn't the most easily accessable for the less mobile.
Now for those of you who are not familiar with Llandudno, you are probably thinking that's a very grand title, just what exactly is "The Great Orme" and what's so great about it? Llandudno is located on a headland with beaches on each coast of the little peninsular, however at the end of the headland is a 207m (679ft) high mountain which dominates the skyline along the coast. It's quite a remarkable feature really, and has been declared a nature reserve, managed by Conwy County Council and it is well worth taking time out of your holiday if you are visiting Llandudno to explore all that it has to offer. Llandudno is very easy to reach being well served by buses and trains, with the resort located just a few miles off the main A55 North Wales coast road.
So what could a bizarre little mountain right on the coast possibly offer the tourists? Well the answer is quite a bit to be honest and there are several top tourist attractions located in and around the mountain to be explored. I'm not going to go into too much detail about the attractions individually, as they are separate topics in themselves, but I will give a brief overview before telling you what I really like about the mountain, and what I think should be done whilst visiting it.
Firstly as with any mountain the summit garners a lot of interest, and can be reached by several means. Firstly and most boringly, by car via a toll road which will set you back a couple of quid, but this also covers your parking at the top. I really wouldn't advise taking the car up there however as this is not only a bit dull, you miss out on all the scenery, the bracing gale that is inevitably blowing off the Irish Sea, and the rugged limestone dominated scenery on the way up. You can walk up the road and several different paths of differing steepness and difficulty to the summit, although no path is more than a moderate challenge for a reasonably fit person. There is also a tramway to take you up the mountain, which has been in operation since 1902, and is a good option for those who don't wish to walk up, and an infinitely more rewarding trip than taking the car. The tram drops you off right next to the visitor centre and café, which are waiting for you at the summit. On a nice clear day (rare I know in North Wales!) you can see across to the Isle of Mann in one direction and up to the highlands of the Lake District in another. The views are well worth the effort to get to the top.
The Great Orme is more than just a mountain with a café on the top, with several other high profile attractions dotted around, with the next one being a copper mine. Copper has been mined here in Llandudno since the Bronze Age, and again at varying times through history. The Bronze Age workings are some of the most important discoveries of the era on the British Isles, and are now accessible for a fee, which will get you a guided tour and a chance to go down into the Orme itself. I've not been down there myself since I was a kid, but it is still as popular as ever, and is situated not far from the summit.
Next up is a ski slope. Well actually an artificial ski slope, its only around 200m high to be fair! The ski slope is a very popular tourist attraction in the summer months, and also has one of the longest toboggan runs onsite, and is popular with visitors of all ages. I've never personally tried, as I'm not really into skiing, but its well worth checking out if that's your thing.
Finally there is a cable car ride from one little rise to another. Again this is very popular at the height of the season, but is only in operation in the peak season, and even then only when weather conditions allow, and the wind is low enough. The ride isn't particularly long or high, but is probably best avoided by people who are slightly nervous or don't like heights. It does on the other hand provide a different prospective to Llandudno and the views are really good from it.
So that's all of the major tourist attractions dealt with, so what do I like about the Great Orme, and why should you visit it? Simply put it is a fantastic place for a walk. OK so maybe I'm showing how boring I am, don't go to the ski slope, no to the cable cars etc, but honestly for those who enjoy walking, the coastal road around is a classic. The best way to walk in my opinion is along the toll road known as Marina Drive. Very few cars actually drive down it, with the turning to the summit shortly after the start, and only a small bed and breakfast located in an old disused lighthouse and a café along the road.
The best place to start the walk is next to Llandudno Pier on the North Shore, which is well signposted from all around the town, and is approximately a 5 mile walk right the way around to finish on the West Shore, and you will need to allocate around 2 hours to complete it. As walks go its not the most challenging of routes, as the road literally hugs the edge of the headland, so although you do climb up to quite a height at the top highest point of the route, the gradient is generally quite gentle but you are climbing for quite some distance, making it a good walk to get your heart rate up, without causing your leg muscles too much distress! The route up is made all the more exhilarating by the prevailing wind coming off the Irish Sea, which hits you as you turn around a corner and stays with you right to the top. Even on a relatively calm day, this wind really packs a punch, so if the day were particularly windy, I wouldn't advise doing this walk. As you climb, you will inevitably come across the 200 strong feral herds of Kashmir goats, which have roamed freely around the Orme since Victorian days. The smell of goat is particularly strong around them, but they are used to visitors so will just look at you pass whilst continuing with their business. There are plenty of seabirds to view on your climb up, as well as on the way back down with Oyster Catchers a particular highlight when we went. If you're particularly interested in birds, then a pair of binoculars would be an advantage during your visit. At the top of the climb there is a small little café called Rest and be thankful where you can stop for a drink or light snack if you need to. The route back down is slightly steeper than the climb, which is why I prefer to do the walk this way around, to avoid climbing the steeper parts. You are treated to superb views across the Conwy estuary to the foothills of the Snowdonia range, as well as some of the smaller resorts further up the coast. You also get a good view of Conwy castle on a good day and quite often some form of water sport is taking place on the West Shore beach, with things like kite surfing particularly interesting to stop and view for a while.
It is well worth emphasising here that you do need to wrap up warm if attempting this walk, as even on the warmest summer days, the wind is still keen, and it does get its fair share of rain, which can move in very quickly and soak the unprepared walker. I would also not recommend this walk for the less mobile for obvious reasons, and I wouldn't like to push a wheelchair around here either. For the less mobile or disabled, a trip up on the tramway would be a much better option.
I will close by saying that the Great Orme is a fantastic place to explore, and apart from the attractions and walks that I have set out here, there are many other little paths that vary in steepness and difficulty, as well as little areas to discover and explore. There are plenty of maps around the Orme so you are unlikely to get lost at any point, and I would definitely encourage anyone who is planning on visiting Llandudno to consider giving the Great Orme a visit.
Thanks for reading this, and this review may also appear on Ciao under my same username.
Summary: A great place to visit on the North Wales Riviera :)
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