The great British seaside – it’s an iconic day trip every family has to do, but is LLandudno still a vibrant seaside town or has it faded from it’s heyday?
When I was little I lived close to Skegness and Mablethorpe and spent endless happy days at the seaside. I loved building sandcastles and splashing in the paddling pools, or performing handstands on the grass of the bowling green (just don’t tell the bowlers that was us). Our annual summer holiday was to Scarborough, which had the added bonus of cable cars, rock pools and a castle. When the weather wasn’t perfect we could make 50p last for hours on the two-penny nudger arcade games, or there were plenty of indoor swimming pools and play centres (anyone remember Panda’s Palace?). Even now the smell of chips, donuts and candy floss reminds me of those happy days.
During the 1990s and 2000s as foreign package holidays became more accessible and popular, the British seaside towns suffered to attract holidaymakers. The arcades started to look a bit shabby, and some of the attractions closed down. I lived near Bognor Regis and the pier was converted to a rather unlovely night club (that didn’t stop is going and showing off our dance moves there most weekends!) The grand promenade was still there but there wasn’t much else to do.
So during a recent trip to Britain when we wanted to stop off somewhere to break up the journey a seaside town wasn’t my first choice. But Llandudno seemed to have the widest choice of accommodation in North Wales so we decided to give it a go.
We arrived on a Monday afternoon the week after the kids had returned to school, so we expected it to be quiet, but I was pleasantly surprised with how busy the promenade was. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and the sun sparkled off the many mobility scooters. Yes the kids had gone, but they had been replaced with lots of holidaying pensioners.
I was immediately surprised with how smart it looked. There were signs in places of old derelict facilities, but generally everything looked freshly painted, and the fresh flowers and neat benches gave a good impression.
The promenade is lined with grand Victorian hotels and guest houses, and while some look a bit dated most have been modernised, and most people would find one to suit them. They were built in a time when not many people had cars, so the car parks are all very small. We couldn’t get parked in the hotel car park, but we managed to find a spot on the seafront right outside, and once I’d figured out the instructions were in Welsh and found the English version, it cost just three pound to park right through to the next afternoon. The hotel had good accessibility ramps and automatic doors to get in, but because the hotels are old they have all been retro-fitted rather than purpose built, so the lift was a tight squeeze with a pram, and there were steps down to some of the common areas.
Once we had checked in we packed up the buggy and headed for the pier. The lure of the smell of hotdogs and donuts was immediately familiar. The jangling of coins from the arcade drew us in, and we had a quick go on the arcade games. Our baby was loving looking around at all the lights and noises, but she wasn’t old enough to understand the games so we didn’t stay long, which is probably a good thing because 50p doesn’t seem to last as long now.
We walked along the 700m pier and it was perfect for a buggy, very smooth and wide. You can see out to the wind farms, and back along the promenade, and there’s a great view of the Great Orme headland that dominates the Llandudno skyline. At the end of the pier we had a drink in the bar and watched the waves crash against the fishing platform. For older children there were some great games and rides on the pier, but for us it was just a nice walk.
After dinner in town we took another walk along the promenade along to the paddling pool, and as we strolled back along the smooth surface we watched the sun set over the headland. The waves were crashing against the pebble beach and it was very soothing, and sure enough it lulled our baby to sleep.
The next morning after breakfast we were keen to see the Great Orme up close. You can get to the top by car, cable car or tram, and all of these would be great with older children, but we felt it would be a bit hard to maneouvre a buggy and probably a bit too windy at the top for a baby. Instead we took a stroll along Marine Drive that circles the headland. This is a one way toll road, so traffic was light, and there was a footpath all along. In places it was a bit hilly but very manageable. The views were fantastic, and when I stopped to feed our girl on a bench I can honestly say it was the best view I’ve had whilst feeding her. She really enjoyed looking around and feeling a bit of breeze.
That was all we had time for before we packed up the car and headed to Holyhead, with a renewed appreciation for the great British seaside. Living in Ireland we have some stunning coastal towns, but none of them quite have the piers, promenades and amusements to rival a British seaside town. The seaside towns will probably never return to their heyday, but they are showing signs of recovery, especially this year when we’ve had such a great summer weatherwise, and I think they should be back on the agenda for every family to visit.
With a baby there isn’t many activities she can do, but Llandudno is nice to stroll round. I’d love to come back when she is older so she can enjoy doing all the things I used to love doing like paddling, splashing in the waves and I might even let her do handstands on the bowling green.