I drive into Conwy – a lovely town, with a maze of narrow streets and a confusing one-way system. Eventually, after several tours of the town, I find a long-stay car park. It seems miles away from the starting point for today’s walk, but I follow signposts along a footpath and am surprised to discover I’m really just below the castle walls.
The wonderful old suspension bridge across the river is no longer used, and is sandwiched between a newer traffic crossing and a hideous railway bridge. So I was unable to take a decent photograph but Wikimedia Commons has a great photo of the bridge.
I follow a pleasant footpath / cycle route along the eastern bank of the river, heading back towards the sea.
There are impressive views of Conwy castle on the other side, although I’m not pleased to see dark clouds piling up over the hills.
I reach Deganwy and the path leaves the shore to bypass a new housing estate. Not for the first time I’m irritated by the short-sightedness of town planners. Why allow new developments along the banks of rivers without insisting the contractors provide a proper waterside walking route?
I’m soon back on the shore again, and walk past the back of the railway station.
I reach the mouth of the estuary and the path, bordered by wild flowers, continues winding around a shallow bay towards Llandudno. The Great Orme appears to have grown larger since I saw it from Penmaenmawr. No longer a low island.
My B&B hosts (in Llanfairfechan) told me that the town of Conwy marks the end of Wales and the Welsh language. I must say they are mainly right, as from now on I rarely hear a word of Welsh spoken. The official signs, however, remain determinedly bilingual.
The sign above warns of the danger of being caught by the tide out on the Conwy Sands. And, just in case you fail to heed the warning, it also says: ‘A rescue raft is located on the highest portion of the sandbank during the months April to October inclusive.’
Further on another sign warns of another danger. Golfers! No Welsh translation provided.
The beach here is beautiful and, although the clouds remain dark behind me, the Great Orme is bright and welcoming. It grows larger every minute.
I spot an orange contraption out on a sandbank. Ah. Is that the ‘rescue raft’? It looks more substantial than I anticipated.
At the foot of the Great Orme I stop beside a breakwater for a rest and a snack. From here the path follows a narrow road around the circumference of the Orme. The Marine Drive. An impressive entrance.
The road climbs slowly. I take a photograph looking back along the beach.
As I climb higher I hear grumbles of thunder. Although I’m walking in sunshine, the hills beyond Conwy – Penmaenbach and Penmaenmawr – are suffering from a thunderstorm. I’m glad I walked that section yesterday and not today!
The storm creates a dramatic landscape across Conwy Sands – golden sand and green water, bordered by black hills under an indigo sky.
Below my road is a collection of houses, strung out along the shore. It’s an area called Y Gogarth (I think) and seems an enclave for the wealthy. The residences are pretty impressive.
The houses are served by a lower road. I was tempted to take that route – following my rule of sticking close to the shore – but thought it would be a dead-end. What I failed to spot on my map was the extensive area of open access land beyond the road. Now, I realise I could have walked down there after all, following a track past some interesting ruins, and then a steep (a very steep) path that zigzags up to rejoin my road.
Too late now. I always regret paths I haven’t taken.
Marine Drive is a one-way road with very little traffic. A couple of tour buses come past, driving very slowly, with passengers craning to look out at the views. I meet a few cyclists. Very few walkers.
And the white animals on the slopes turn out not to be sheep, but beautiful white goats.
Eventually I reach Great Orme’s Head, the midpoint of the circular route, where there is a welcome sight – a café. Rest and Be Thankful. Lunchtime. I stop and have a cream scone and a thick slice of bara brith.
Apparently on a really clear day you can see Scotland and Ireland from here, as well as England and Wales. Strangely the café windows face inland, instead of out towards the sea. Very odd. Maybe the staff get a better view from the kitchen?
The café has no proper toilets, only portaloos. Luckily I don’t need to go.
From here onwards, the road winds downhill. I meet a couple of cars and one solitary walker. And a sheep. Otherwise I’m alone.
The sunshine has gone and, with dark clouds above, I expect the rain from Conwy to catch up with me at any moment. But it never does.
After an hour or so, I turn a corner and see Llandudno ahead, with its pier.
A land train passes me. It seem slightly surreal to meet it, after the isolation of the road before. The driver gives me a cheery wave.
I reach the end of the Marine Drive and another impressive gatehouse. Here I realise why the road is so quiet. It’s a toll road.
Now I’m on the outskirts of Llandudno and walking past a park. I see another one of those modern stone circles, presumably constructed for an Eisteddfod celebration.
Llandudno pier looks impressive, and I can’t resist taking several photographs. In the back drop is an array of distant wind turbines.
Long ago my family came here on holiday, and one of my brothers baited a fishing line with 10 or so hooks and dropped the line off the end of the pier. He was very young, 12 or 13, and a nearby fisherman had to help him pull the line up. He’d only managed to catch 7 or 8 mackerel!
Later, the hotel we were staying in offered to cook the mackerel for supper and my brother was served one of the fish on a plate. I don’t know what my brother was expecting, but he burst into tears when he saw it. Perhaps it was because the cook had left the head intact?
In my memory, the pier had a standalone entrance, but either my memory is wrong or things have changed. In fact, from the promenade you can’t see the start of pier, as it’s obscured by a collection of rather tacky amusement arcades and shacks.
Otherwise, Llandudno is much as I remembered it. A wide promenade lined by tall houses, most of them hotels or guest houses of some sort. It’s crowded with old people and young families. English northern accents.
I walk around the bay and the further I get the quieter the promenade becomes. I’m pleased to leave the crowds behind. Next stop: the Little Orme.
[To be continued…]