- Travel and Places
10 Interesting Facts About Llandudno
Meet Bill Bryson's favourite seaside resort!
Llandudno is a beautiful seaside town in North Wales, where Snowdonia meets the sea.
It has a rich and varied history from Stone Age artefacts onwards; these are just a few snippets I've learnt while working in my gallery on Llandudno Pier. I hope you like them!
Visit our website to download a free, more detailed guide to Llandudno facts, illustrated with beautiful pictures of the town: Free eBook on Llandudno Facts, Legends & Myths.
Interesting facts about Llandudno, North Wales
1. They wanted to name the town what?
Llandudno was originally going to be named Port Wrexham. In the 1850s, the St George's Harbour & Railway Company planned to develop the area as an export base for Denbighshire coal. Presumably they thought that Port Wrexham was a more suitable name for the emerging town, until it was instead developed as a holiday resort. The name 'Llandudno' is based on the name of Saint Tudno ('dud' is pronounced 'did' i.e. 'Tidno').
2. Our finest hour?
Winston Churchill stayed in Room 109 at the Grand Hotel when he visited Llandudno for the Conservative Party's annual conference in 1948.
3. Holiday tragedy
The Great Orme tram fatally crashed in 1932 at the height of the holiday season. A drawbar snapped in two and the tram, which was on the lower stretch of the tramway, crashed into a wall on Old Road. The driver, Edward Harris, and 12-year-old Margaret Worthington were both fatally injured. Thankfully, subsequent crashes have only been minor incidents, so you may like to know that you can catch the tram from the Tram Station on Church Walks (look for the big sign painted on the roof). Next to the Tram Station are Fish Tram Chips, selling the best fish and chips in town, and the very cosy King's Head pub (try the Pieminister pies).
4. A pier of two halves
The oldest part of Llandudno Pier is the section which stretches out to sea from the fishing tackle shop, which was the pier's toll house. It was opened on 1st August 1877. It cost Â£30,000 to build and stood 1,234m long. The Pier was extended past the Grand Hotel to the promenade in 1884.
5. Shipwrecks and warships
There are the remains of over 30 shipwrecks in Llandudno Bay. One of the oldest known wrecks around Llandudno is the Phoenix, a warship wrecked in 1642 off the Great Orme.
6. The pier that never was
Llandudno was originally to have a second pier, located near where Venue Cymru, the present theatre and conference centre, now stands. The original theatre in that location, the Victoria Palace, was opened in 1894. In the original plans by the Victoria Palace Company, the theatre was to have been accompanied by a pier. The pier was planned at 1,305 feet, longer than the present pier and would have been called Victoria Pier. However, inertia and wrangling meant that work on the pier was never commenced, and the Victoria Palace Company dissolved in 1913.
7. The mysterious cave
Perhaps the most famous of the many caves to be found on the Great Orme is the Llech or Hiding Cave, which was constructed in a natural fissure over 400 years ago. The cave is hexagonal, about seven feet in diameter and eight feet high, made of squared blocks of limestone. A stone bench runs around the interior wall, and in the centre is a stone pedestal that once held a stone table. A stone basin, fed by spring water, overflows into an artificial bath excavated in the rock below, but is now obscured by rockfall.
The cave's purpose remains a mystery, apart from a poem entitled 'Cywydd i'r Llech yn Llandudno' by Sion Dafydd Las, a poet to the Nannau family at Dollgellau who died in 1694. He described what we see today with considerable accuracy but added: "In a cave beneath the work a kitchen and wine cellar lie", suggesting that much of the structure is now buried. He also said it was "repaired with skill and taste for Mostyn's Heir, a man of wit", an apparent reference to William Mostyn, a member of the Mostyn Family who controlled much of North Wales. The cave was visited by Charles Darwin in 1824 and is the subject of a brilliant segment on BBC's 'Coast'.
8. The German prisoners of war
It was off the Hiding Cave, on the night of 13 August 1915, that two German submarines, U-27 and U-38, kept a rendezvous. Their mission was to rescue three officers who had escaped from a prisoner of war camp at Dyffryn Aled, Llansannan. The rescue attempt was unsuccessful and the officers were captured in Llandudno itself. The box further down the page contains more detail about their adventures in Llandudno.
9. Ancient tunnels
In the Bronze Age, Llandudno was a major centre for copper mining, with the largest copper mine in Europe located on the Great Orme. The Orme contains six kilometeres of tunnels, some of which are nearly 4,000 years old. Certain tunnels are so small that only children could have dug them. For more information on the mines, click here for the official website: Great Orme Copper Mines.
10. The fashion pack
The goats that can be seen scattered around the Great Orme are wild Kashmir goats. They were introduced to the Orme in the 19th century by Lord Mostyn. He purchased them when Queen Victoria was given a pair as a gift, thus rendering the goats instantly fashionable among the aristocracy.
Although feral, the herd of around 180 goats is managed by Conwy Council. It can be hard to spot the goats in the peak holiday season as they tend to make themselves scarce, but some the best places to see them are around the Invalid's Walk and Marine Drive. They can also be seen quite often on the section of cliff that looks down onto Upper Mostyn Street.
We all have our favourite spot in which to stop for a moment or two. In Llandudno, mine is the top of the Great Orme. Where's yours?
Where's your favourite place in Llandudno to look at the view?
The story of the escaped German prisoners of war
This information is based on a fascinating book on the town, 'Llandudno: Queen of Welsh Resorts' by Ivor Wynne Jones (Landmark Publishing).
On the night of 13 August 1915, two German submarines, U-27 and U-38, kept a rendezvous in the waters off the Great Orme. Their mission was to rescue three officers who had escaped from a prisoner of war camp at Dyffryn Aled, Llansannan. Following an initial contact in the camp via a repatriated civilian who had been interned as an enemy alien, the three officers had received instructions about their escape and rescue in coded letters.
After the first night of the rendezvous, the commander of the U-38, Korvettenkapitan Max Valentiner, released the U-27 which sailed away. U-38 kept a virgil for two more nights, as planned, then sailed away believing the officers had failed to get out of the camp. The escaped prisoners walked back into Llandudno at the end of three days, and discovered after the war that they had been waiting in the wrong cove.
Shortly before 9.00am on 16 August, Korvettenkapitan Hermann Tholens entered the barber and tobacconist shop of W.S Herbert at 26 Mostyn Street and asked for a packet of Abdullah cigarettes. By then there was a general alert throughout the area. Herbert, realising that his customer was a stranger to the town, spoke in Welsh to another customer and asked him to follow the stranger until he met up with a soldier or a policeman.
Strolling up the road, Tholens next called at the Cocoa House at 66 Mostyn Street, and ordered coffee and cake. Police Constable Morris Williams had been alerted and kept observation from across the road, then followed him into the Tudno Hotel (now The Townhouse pub) at number 64, where he challenged and arrested him. Tholens spent the night at the old Police Station in Court Street (at the rear of Osborne House).
Tholens' two fellow officers, Rittmeister Wolf-Dietrich Baron von Helldorf and Kapitanleutnant Bon Henning, remained at liberty until 11.00pm, when they were spotted near the Pier gates by cabman Alfred Davies. Davies' suspicions were aroused by the strangers. "Cab, Sir?" he asked. After the two officers took their seats and asked for the railway station, he drove them the short distance to Bryn Elli, in Gloddaeth Street, then serving as headquarters of the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers. They were taken before the 113 Brigade Major, and from there to the Royal Hotel in Church Walks. Unlike Tholens, who was languishing in an old police cell, the other two officers had come under military jurisdiction, and were given a level of food and accommodation deemed appropriate for officers.
View across Llandudno Bay
This picture was taken from the top of the Little Orme. Across the bay you can see the promontory of the Great Orme. (c) Copyright Geoff Steen 2008.
Good books about Llandudno
These are some of the books about the area that I've found particularly interesting.
A fascinating book comparing old photographs of the town with how each place looks now.
A brilliant, very detailed book on the history of Llandudno from the Stone Age through to the origins of the town as it is today.
Details all the forgotten and not-quite-built piers in North and South Wales. There are more than you might think!
A good all-round guide to the recent history of the town, with plenty of old photographs.
Sunny wild goat on the Great Orme
(c) Copyright Geoff Steen 2007.
Websites on Llandudno to go to from here
There are plenty of websites about the town, but these are some of the best for browsing.
- Pictures of Llandudno
My website, North Shore, featuring photographs of Llandudno, local cards and gifts.
- Llandudno Daily Pictures
My blog! A daily photograph from Llandudno.
- Venue Cymru
Details of the events at the Venue Cymru, Llandudno's theatre and conference centre.
- North Wales Weekly News
The Llandudno page for the North Wales Weekly News, the area's main weekly newspaper.
- Llandudno on Wikipedia
Plenty of detail about the town, its geography and its attractions.