Wales Coast Path, day 90: Conwy to Llandudno

May 7, 2017 0 Comments

We’re quite a crowd, today, six of us.  Enough to cause anxiety, with our clompy boots and bulky rucksacks, to anyone encountering us on the Coast Path.  As well as M we have two other guestwalkers, Ca, and M-A, who’s waiting for us at Conwy station.  A misunderstanding in the café nearby gives us one more slice of cake than expected, but extra calories for the walk past Plas Mawr and the castle, across the bridge, and along the east side of the Conwy estuary to Llandudno.  M-A tells us about Thomas Pennant, our distinguished predecessor as Welsh coastal traveller three centuries ago.  Caernarfon castle, he thought, was the dark symbol of an oppressor: ‘it was built within the space of one year, by the labour of the peasants and at the cost of the chieftains of the country, on whom the conqueror imposed the hateful task’.  But he tended to see Conwy castle, another of Edward I’s bastions, in a kindlier light (‘a castle of matchless magnificence …  a more beautiful fortress never arose’) – as a building of lower profile and mellower stone, sitting more comfortably in its landscape.

We pass the end of the A55 expressway as it disappears like the White Rabbit down the hole under the river.  Soon we reach the respectable suburb of Deganwy, where M-A as a girl spent holidays with her grandparents.  The marina here shelters boats of a size and magnificence intended to impress.  An old metal beach shelter has been carefully dismantled and awaits resurrection.  We stop by the shore to have a snack, each sitting on a different rock, like forlorn characters in a Samuel Beckett play.  At the furthest edge of the village more plutocrats are in evidence .  They’re busy tearing down the modest former houses and replacing them with showier, neo-modernist villas. 

The others continue along Marine Drive but M-A and I form a splinter group and set off on a steep, oblique path up the side of the Great Orme, the limestone mass that blocks our way to Llandudno.  We pant towards the top.  Below us the road winds in its sedate Victorian way around the Orme’s edge.  William Gladstone, we’re told, was responsible for its construction.  He complained on a visit in 1868 that walking the existing Orme path was plain dangerous, and that he had to be led blindfold along the path to avoid being frightened by the sheer drops (strange, I’d never thought of him as the timid sort). So the private Drive was built, not just for safety but to cater for the ever-increasing number of Llandudno tourists.  Today it’s still a toll road, discouraging car traffic and making the circuit easy for pedestrians.  Beyond, we can see the coast stretching west.  The massive vertical cliff of Penmaenmawr shakes a fist at the sea.  Little wonder that Samuel Johnson and other pre-romantic visitors shuddered with fear at its ‘horrid’ appearance.  Today it gathers dark rain clouds about its head. Against the gloom shine the white sails of a few yachts offshore.  The top of the Orme, when we reach it, is a large bare plateau, with heather, gorse and occasional sheep.  We try to work out which of its many paths will lead us down to our rendezvous with the others at a café.

Reunited, we finish the Drive together.  There’s a long winding descent, past the old lighthouse, a dirty cormorant colony and weather-sculptured rock strata.  At last the sweep of Llandudno’s bay and its long pier come into view.  We pass a middle-aged man in dark waterproofs carrying a bulky rucksack, and there’s a flutter of recognition on both sides.  We’ve seen each other before, earlier in the week: he’s possibly the only other full-on coastal walker we’ve met all week.  Towards the bottom, in a roadside cave, a young man is ‘climbing’, hanging like a bat upside down from the roof with the help of his whitened, sucker-like hands and feet.  A videocamera records the feat.

Continual coastal walking leads, I’ve noticed, to a nagging, unsatiable hunger.  By the time we reach the town, after seven days of walking, we feel the need for a celebratory meal.  We head for the Rabbit Hole, a below-street café already discovered by H on her ‘day off’, and tuck in.  We emerge to weave our way through the funfair – M, a funfair expert, maintains it’s unlicensed and not a genuine funfair – to where our respective buses wait to take us away –  M-A back to Conwy and the rest of us to Abergele.  Sitting on the top deck of the no.12 bus has its usual curious effect on us.  An irresistible drowsiness fills our heads.  We begin to wonder, now that Lewis Carroll has infected our thinking, whether Arriva habitually releases some kind of invisible gas into the interior of its vehicles, perhaps to sedate troublesome passengers.  But we’re beyond being able to cause much trouble.




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