Llandudno in Northern Wales (Cymru) is an unpronounceably good time. Proudly bilingual, the Welsh speak a fascinating, guttural native language that occasionally weaves in and out of English (“Bob the Builder” is quite a bit more tolerable when it’s “Bob y Bilder” on BBC Cymru) with a lot of rolling consonants and few vowels. “Dd” is its own letter, as is “Ll.” With our early training in Spanish, the double-L in Llandudno was giving us a really hard time. Luckily, you don’t need to know how to say it in order to enjoy the fun seaside atmosphere in Llandudno.
We chose to drive through town along the shore to a parking area about halfway up the hill to the west of the pier. From there it’s less than five minutes down to the pier itself, which offers some great views and more than a few kitschy souvenir shops and carnival rides. Skip the snack options on the pier; as lovely as the town is, there’s something odd about eating fair food like cotton candy on a cool Welsh day.
Even though the day we visited was rainy and cold (and in high summer, too) there’s something about Llandudno’s scenery that sets it apart. It’s surrounded by distinctly UK cliffs and rocky grasslands, but the buildings are candy-colored Victorian confections with fancy iron scrollwork, colorful blooming planters, and even the odd palm tree poking out of yards. The dominating Grand Hotel is unmistakably Victorian, but with the fun quirky twist that the Welsh seem to do so well. Walking the boardwalk off the pier really cements the pretty pastels and seaside charm of the city.
From the boardwalk we headed to the Great Orme Tramway. It’s the only cable-powered tram still in operation in the United Kingdom and takes you past some extraordinarily pretty scenery on the ride. We had to disembark mid-way to take a coach to the summit due to some technical failures, but it’s still a fun old-timey ride. The dining options at the top are not thrilling but it’s a great place to bring a picnic and watch the sheep and kids on the playground if the weather is nice–with some protected tables if it isn’t. There’s a bronze mine and other attractions at the top if you have more time than we did, but we only paid for four hours of parking so we hustled down the hillside…
…in a gondola! This is an expensive way to get back down to the pier, especially if you forget to specify that you don’t need a return ticket on the Great Orme Tramway, but it created a perfect loop back to where we had parked and really, how often are we in Northern Wales? Sometimes it’s fun to splurge. The cars seat four and offer some fabulous aerial views of the Irish Sea and the countryside–just make sure to firmly secure any hats and scarves. Top it off with some fish and chips or a second walk on the pier, and you’ve got yourself a great Welsh afternoon.
And for the record, Llandudno’s double-L is pronounced with a slight lispy hiss, and the emphasis is on the middle syllable of the word. I tried practicing saying it and my husband asked if I was having a stroke. Apparently I don’t have the tongue-twisting native skills of the Welsh.
Have you ever had a really great time in a place you couldn’t pronounce?