Thursday, 23 July 2009

Day 11 - Wales Coast - Llandudno - Bronze age records to Victorian splendours

Well-known travel writer Bill Bryson knows the UK well...he wrote a comprehensive travel book called Notes From A Small Island, about his journeys all over the island. And so when he said in 2003 that Llandudno was his favourite town, his opinion must carry a lot of weight.

And one can see why he thinks this way. The town of Llandudno is on a peninsula between two huge outcrops, called Great Orme and Little Orme. The bay curves round between the two, and a long beach lies in front of a succession of Victorian-age hotels and apartment blocks. Lording over the whole scene is the Grand Hotel, which sits at the base of the Great Orme.

Walk to the top of Great Orme, for great views over the sea, Llandudno, and onto the mountains of Snowdon. It really is a pretty sight - even when it rains, as it was when I was there.

But the town is not only superficially pretty and neat. Dig a little deeper under the surface of Great Orme, so to speak, and you'll find the biggest bronze age copper mine in the world. In fact, you could dig 70 metres below ground to get to the bottom of a mine that was first dug 4 000 years ago by neolithic people.

Yes, I know, if you're not a geologist or archeaologist, it may not sound that interesting at first, but trust me, once you get there, and get talking to Nick Jowett, you'll find it fascinating. When they're not operating the visitor centre during summer, Nick and his team are working right through winter to keep digging out more and more rubble. They keep discovering more and more tunnels, in a labyrinth that extends to 6 kilometres! You'll get to walk down deep into the earth, through the original tiny tunnels, which, in neolithic times, were literally hacked out bit by bit with animal bone. You don't want to get lost, because you won't get out - but there is a guided pathway, so don't worry.

The Great Orme Copper Mine in Llandudno.

Almost 1800 tons of copper was mined, enough to make 10 million axes, which was what everyone wanted in those times. It was the most valuable mine in the world during the bronze age. And then the Victorians came thousands of years later, and mined it even more. Since excavations started in 1986, a human jaw bone has been found, as well as one black cat (dead) surrounded by a circle of berries...all from Victorian times. Sinister stuff.

The Great Orme is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of 4 000 in the UK. It not only hosts the copper mine, but also an iron age fort ruin, with a rock that was used to determine whether someone was guilty of a crime. The accused would stand on the rock (which is there to this day), and if it didn't rock, you were guilty. Try it out. I was guilty of my crime - didn't move one millimetre!

A great way to get to the top of Great Orme is the cable car, which starts in town and takes you to the summit, with more superb views of the area. And while you're up there, there is a tabogan run, which is great fun even for old folk who feel the need for speed.

I stayed with Annie Cooper of Boscombe House, a grand Victorian three-storey home a few blocks back from the promenade. "Stayed with" doesn't really describe adequately how things are at Boscombe House. It would be more accurate to say that Annie looks after you like you were one of her own grand children.

She does things in style, and with a serious amount of care and love. Her rooms are HUGE, the ceilings are HIGH, and the decor is way more comfortable than it should be for £30 a night, which is what Annie charges for Bed & Breakfast.

The first thing Annie did when I arrived was give me scones, jam and big pot of tea, and we sat in her homely lounge talking about the horrible weather. When she heard I hadn't eaten lunch, she jumped up and immediately made me a sandwhich. When I went to bed, she had turned down my bed, and left two teddy bears to keep me company for the night, as well as a glass of sherry and two biscuits to help me start dreaming deeply. And in the morning, breakfast kept coming and coming...if you didn't ask Annie to STOP bring more home-baked bread and scones, then you'd be eating all day. And when I left, Annie had made me a packed lunch for the road...

For more things in the area check out Llandudno's tourism website.

My room at Boscombe House, with two teddy bears to keep me warm.

Old and new...

Imposing Conwy Castle near Llandudno is part of a World Heritage Site that includes several other castles in the area.

Day 10 - Wales Coast - Abersoch - Some scenic pics from

While I was in Abersoch, I bumped into John Wormald, who's a photographer based in the town, with his own studio and shop that sells photographic prints. He's got lots of outstanding photos of the area. Check them out at

Here are a just a few of them. All were taken in the Abersoch area.