Llandudno, Caernarfonshire

High above the lush cream villas on the outskirts of Penrhyn Bay the road climbs up to the sheep-scattered heights of Little Orne’s Head – all pale grey rocky outcrops and seemingly sheer grassy slopes. Over the brow, Llandudno, ‘the Naples of the North’, is spread out on the level land below at the narrowest point of this extraordinary peninsula. The perfect crescent shape of its northern shore is edged with an arc of graceful white stucco terraces and hotels looking out to the Irish Sea and ending in a pretty blue and white painted pier.

LlandudnoThe western shore, where Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice, spent her summers as a child, looks towards Conwy Bay with its famous mussel beds. Beyond, the towering limestone headland of the Great Orme rises abruptly to nearly 700 feet. It was seized on by the Victorian developers of Llandudno as a potential honeypot for visitors. They engineered a four-mile carriage drive spiralling upwards around it, landscaped the Happy Valley gardens, built tea rooms on the Orme’s summit and constructed a cable-hauled tramway to scale its heights from an elaborate, castellated station at the foot. Gabled and barge-boarded villas sprang up on the steep lower slopes of the Great Orme, their gardens stuffed with fuchsias and hydrangeas.

From the highest path, ‘Invalids’ Walk’, you can look down on Llandudno’s grid pattern of tree-lined boulevards and the grand avenue linking the north and west beaches. The resort was planned in 1849 and the landowner Lord Mostyn’s original concept is still very much intact. The main shopping area feels classy and bustling, and some of the glass canopy on its elaborate cast iron framework is still in place. According to the 1885 Murray guide Llandudno was ‘much frequented by the Liverpool people’. There has been little change, although the art deco Winter Gardens, where the Beatles played to mediocre reviews in 1963, has been replaced by a block of flats.

But another art deco gem, Villa Marina, survives. Built in 1936 for £30,000, it was designed by Odeon architect Harry Weedon for Harry Scribbans, a millionaire baker from Birmingham. The baker’s wife detested it, and sold it for £5,000 the moment her husband died.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Lesbardd

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