Saturday, 14 June 2014

Always Catching up - part whatever; the last of these posts

On the last day of our Welsh trip we set off for Llandudno, where we were booked into the Quay Hotel, a rather posh place right on the estuary of the Afon Conwy, overlooking Conwy Castle on the opposite shore.
The Castle at Conwy

On the way we stopped in Conwy and had a short walk around the town.  Conwy is another walled town and still has an almost intact castle.  We did not bother to go into the castle this time but wandered around the water front, looking at the boats. 
Conwy's fishing industry seems to be thriving

The tide runs very fast in the straits there.  I would not want any boat I owned on that mooring, if the painter broke, the damage would be immense when it crashed against the bridge or some other obstacle
Conwy boasts the smallest house in Great Britain and it is open as a tourist attraction.  A woman dressed in traditional Welsh dress shows people around, in what I imagine must be rather small numbers becaue not a lot of tourists can fit inside all at once.   She had no customers that day, there was only one other person around and TBH was not interested in a visit, so we gave it a miss. 

After a coffee in a small café just inside the town wall, we drove on to Llandudno.

We stopped on the sea front, being very lucky to find the only empty parking space anywhere near the North promenade.
We wandered around the sea front and then decided to have a go on the Great Orme tramway and have a look at the summit, which overlooks the town.
The name Orme is said to be derived from Wyrm, the olden name for a dragon or sea serpent.  Llundudno lies between the Great Orme and the Little Orme and so looks a bit like a great serpent with its tail at the Little Orme end and its head being the Great Orme.
The tramway is one of four ways to the top of the Orme.  You can walk, drive, take a cable car or use the tram.  We were not going to walk, TBH is not comfortable with heights, so the cable car was out and I had found the drive up to the top was not exactly simple, due to narrow streets, the steep incline and the tram which always takes priority over cars, plus the last time I tried there were no parking spaces.
So it was the tram.  

The Great Orme tramway opened in 1906 and consists of two tram cars attached to a cable.  As one is winched up the track, the other is lowered down, passing each other at a passing loop. The trams themselves have no motors, only brakes.  They cannot stop by themselves and only apply the brakes if something goes wrong, so any cars sharing the road must keep clear of the trams.
The Great Orme  tram station

Cars and trams share the road on the lower part of the tramway
The distance to the top of the Orme, which is 207 m (679 ft) high, is just over one and a half kilometres along the tramway.  The cable cannot be made to work safely over that distance, so the Victorian engineers who designed the tramway made the ride in two stages.   The first stage travels 797m to the halfway point and then you get out and walk through a building to get onto another tram which is one of another pair of trams on a second cable.  This tram goes the remaining distance to the top, a further 756m.  Once on the second tramway, there are no roads and so no one can cross the track and the cables are exposed for easier maintenance.  They make an unusual sight as the rollers rotate and the cables run ahead of you as you climb. Not easy to describe, but once seen you will understand why it is kind of fascinating. 
The upper section of the trasmway
That day, it was hazy and a light mist prevented us from seeing far when we got to the top, it was the coldest day we had experienced on our trip, so after a quick look around we headed for the cafe and had ourselves some lunch. 
Heading back down, Llandudno spread before us
We rode the tram down again in the afternoon and then walked around to the pier. This was crowded and had all the usual candyfloss stalls and amusements and we continued past without stopping. Nearby is Happy Valley Park which is reached by some steep paths and we walked up to the top where there is, as I remembered, a small hut containing a Camera Obscura.  

These pre photographic devices were a source of wonder to our ancestors.  If you have never come across one before, there are no windows in the hut, so once the door is shut it is very dark but via series of lenses and mirrors, the camera obscura would project a view of the immediate area outside onto a screen on the wall.  In most of these, by moving the optical lenses, the operator can then scan the optics in a 360 degree panorama revealing in full colour all the scenery and movement outside.   
In Llandudno, the view from the top of the hill was quite spectacular, taking in the whole town and as described in their advertisement from Liverpool Bay to Anglesey.  Our ancestors must have thought it was magic.
Part of the view that the Camera Obscura would show
The hut with the camera obscura was still there but not yet open for the main season, so we walked on into town and looked at the curious shop fronts that I recalled from my previous visits.  Many shops have a cast iron and glass awning or balcony over the front of the older part of the shopping area which must date back to Victorian times. 
This is the National Lifeboat charity shop and is slightly more elaborate than many.  After looking at several shops that we could have visited in any town in the UK, we returned to the sea front, where we had an icecream each before going to look for our hotel and check in.

The view from our room was all it was cracked up to be and after admiring it for a while, we changed and went down for dinner.  

The view of Conwy from our balcony

A closer look at the castle
Nearly sunset
Conwy Castle at night
 Next morning it was TBH’s birthday and I gave her my present, which had been packed away in my suitcase.  Being a special birthday, I gave her a necklace, which she had picked out as a possible gift a little while before our trip.  
In the morning, there were a number of Oyster catchers right on our balcony and we could see them wading around in shallow water as the tide ebbed.
I had lived by the sea for some years of my life and I was unprepared for the speed at which this stretch of water could change as the tide rose and fell.  One minute you were looking across a single sheet of water with yachts and boats serenely moored up in what appeared to be deep water, and then returning from a meal you were confronted by acres of mud flats and sand banks, with all the small boats stranded on these and standing up on their keels. 
An oystercatcher on the balcony
High and dry with ostercatchers wading nearby
The final part of our trip was to head for The Daughter’s (TD) home further north via Morecombe.  This would have been an easy journey but for roadworks in Lancaster.  The shortest route to get to Morecombe from the M6 from the south is to head for Lancaster and skirt that town via its often congested ring road.  The alternative is to head two junctions further north and then drive all the way back practically to Lancaster.  Foolishly we decided to do it the slower but shorter route.  Big mistake!  Lancaster had a vital part of its inner ring road dug up and so closed to traffic.  The resulting chaos kept us for almost an hour moving at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic as all the different lanes of traffic tried to squeeze into one.  We would have escaped sooner but the one road sign that would have helped us early enough to miss at least half of the jam was broken in two and the important bit with the name of our alternative route was missing.  Later another signpost was hidden by trees and could not be read, so we arrived in Morecombe much later than anticipated.

When in Morecombe, I always head for the Old Pier Bookshop, one of those Terry Pratchett L-space emporiums which I find fascinating.   Nearly forty minutes later and loaded down with a pile of ancient SF magazines we then went on to our final destination, in time to celebrate both TBH’s and The Granddaughter’s birthdays that evening.


  1. Oh my goodness! Our second home. Barry's Mom and Dad lived in Llandudno. We've spent many, many days there. They lived down towards the Little Orme, in Craig-y-don and just one block away from the beach. Conwy is one of my favorite places. The kids have been all over the castle when they were little. But more than anything I remember the cream teas! I love North Wales second only to Flamborough.

    1. I knew that our Craig-y-don was named after the real one, but I did not know you had relatives living in both of them. I only knew they lived in Wales.

  2. I just never took to Llandudno. I went a few times when I was in Liverpool. Conwy looks good though.

  3. Oh, wow. I love Conway. It's been many years since I last visited, but I still recall it vividly. Thank you for bringing back happy memories. Looks like you had a wonderful visit yourself.

  4. Love Conway! We went there on our UK bus trip in 2010 with sister and brother in law. It was a wonderful trip and I think the Cotswolds and Conway were my favourites. Unfortunately there was no time to explore Wales any further, but the trip sure whet my appetite for more! Would love to know the connection between 'our' house and Craig-y-don!

  5. Your photo of Conwy Castle prompted me to do a drawing of it for Creative Tuesday. So what was the connection between 'our Crag-y-don' and the town of the same name, do you know?