His giant green head loomed out of the choppy seawater. Gulls dancing around his eyes, bravely dived into his substantial temples to peck for tasty morsels, perhaps searching for a spot to build a home. He didn’t blink or flinch. Calmly he welcomed them into his many folds as he rested, looking out to the swelling ocean. Quietly, he contemplated the next step on his journey; wondering if another long cold winter was around the corner, and if then these creatures would stay. The Great Orme had had many wild years without company in this blustery corner of the world. Now, he would enjoy others, and embrace them into his life.
As I arrived at the car park perched on the head of the beast, it was clear that humans were taking advantage of his welcoming attitude too. Alongside some hungry seagulls looking for lunch, the visitor centre was packed and the area buzzing with life on a windy Easter Sunday. I was there, fighting the weather in search of the most famous residents. A woolly pack of wild Kashmir goats. They’ve been roaming the cliffs for about a hundred years, and are said to be able to predict the weather. A handy skill in North Wales!
The Great Orme is a mini mountain of limestone that looks out over the Victorian town of Llandudno. For 300 million years, it’s been forming into the grand headland that now juts out into the ocean; surviving volcanic eruptions, dinosaurs and the ice age. When early sailors arrived, they thought it looked like a giant sea monster’s head, with the land being the body. This earnt it the name ‘Orme’ – an old Norse word meaning worm or sea serpent. Birds, butterflies and a verdant spread of plants have since made the monster their home over the years.
Abandoning the warmth of the car, I wish I’d brought another layer to wear over my bobble hat. The wind whirled around my head, making my ears ache with cold, while my trousers flapped wildly across my legs. A spot or two of water dripped on my cheek from the angry grey clouds above; teasing me for wearing my trainers with holes in the toe.
But, I cannot be an explorer in North Wales without bravely going forward on my quest regardless of the weather. There are some lovely, cosy-looking cafes down in Llandudno – but I stay strong; hold my hat firmly on my heads, and push through.
It’s worth the effort. The coastal walk along the cliffs is stunning. Lush green grass is splattered with snowy-white limestone mounds that wear spots of yellow. Sea-birds dive in and out of cracks in the cliff, with camera-shy speed. Looking out across bright blue sea, I spot an army of wind turbines working hard through the mist. I’m reminded of the need to maintain this environment if we want to ensure life on this great sea beast for future generations.
The Great Orme has a way of keeping his previous inhabitants alive throughout time though. The limestone rocks started as living creatures an unimaginable amount of time ago. They died, and their skeletons formed fossils and combined with other materials to slowly built up into these shapes. Across the land, you can see other evidence of life, including stone circles, and the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber. More exploration needs to be done but it’s highly likely these Stone Age men and women shared their home with mammoths, and maybe even Lions.
I continue to twist and turn around the well-marked paths, passing views of country life, copper mines and sheep. The wind carries sounds of the mothers crying out passionately, while their young totter along to find them. Some simply hide further up the mountain, looking for a break to munch on some grass.
Strolling through the nature reserve, the heathland appeared to be breathing with bushes pulsing up and down. It seemed I’d stumbled into the headquarters of the Easter Bunny himself. While he was out delivering chocolate, the babies broke their curfew, hopping freely around and popping out to eyeball us as I excitedly snap my camera.
“S’cuse me” puffed a fell runner passing through behind me, causing even the bravest of bunnies to duck into the nearest hole. And suddenly the land was quiet again. Fingers beginning to feel the chill, and an ominous cloud overhead, I decided it was time to move on. Reaching the final stretch of the walk, I stopped at a bench overlooking the start of Llandudno ski centre’s toboggan ride. Two men struggle to push themselves along the silver slide, as I unwind my trusty flask, and crack open a bag of chocolate mini-eggs. There’s a sense of disappointment not to have found what I came here for, but I’m also content from a beautiful day out.
As I take the first sip of steaming milky tea, the sun decides to make an appearance. Glowing through grey cloud, it warms my cheek and brightens the sea monster’s neck, on the opposite side of the hill. I gaze over, smiling to myself and planning my next trip in the summer.
In that moment, a white dot leaps into view and begins trotting happily across the precarious cliff-side. From this distance, I can just make out two horns and a wispy white beard, before he’s joined by a party of fellow woolly friends. They’d been hiding in a cave, waiting patiently for this break in the weather to arrive. Because who’d be crazy enough to walk around the hills in North Wales otherwise?
These goats are smart.
A Few Snaps after the Sun Came Out
Visiting The Great Orme
Fancy visiting the Great Orme yourself? Here’s all you need to know for your visit.
If you’re driving, the postcode for your satnav is: LL30 2XF
You can also take a train to Llandudno. From Chester, they run about one an hour. From there, you can either walk up or take the tourist tram, which stops close to the visitor centre.
When to go?
I visited in April, and would recommend this as a great time of year for seeing lots of cute baby animals – sheep, bunnies and potentially kids (goat babies!).
In the summer, you could have the opportunity to take a boat trip around the cliff edge to see the abundance of birds that nest in that area.
What to wear?
Whatever the time of year, I recommend taking layers and a waterproof. The weather can get pretty blustery on the top of the hill, but when the sun comes out you’ll be warm walking around the paths. It’s North Wales… lets face it anything could happen weather wise.
Where to stay?
If you want to stay a little longer, Llandudno is a small Victorian coastal town and has several hotels and bed and breakfasts along the beachfront.
There’s public toilets, a cafe, shop and plenty of information about the area at the visitors centre.
Have you ever been to North Wales? Anywhere you recommend I visit next?
Happy 1st Birthday Wanderful Wednesday blog hop!