When visiting Llandudno, you can’t miss seeing the Great Orme. The limestone rock that rises out of the Irish Sea is one of the seaside town’s most iconic features. You can reach it by foot, car, tram or cable car, and admire the sweeping views of the town from the top, and on clear days, you can spot Liverpool in the distance.
But the Great Orme is more than a big rock with pretty views. It is a history dating back more than 350 million years and home to all sorts of flora and fauna. Learn some things about the Great Orme you may not know before getting one of Lyons Wales holiday homes for sale and visiting yourself.
It wasn’t always called the ‘Great Orme.’
The name Great Orme didn’t come into common use until the 19th century when the headland was developed to be part of the seaside town of Llandudno. Prior to that, it was known by Welsh names ‘Creuddyn’ which means blackberry and ‘Pen y Gogarth’, the Welsh for Great Orme. Originally it is thought the name came from the Norse word for sea serpent ‘ Urm’ as sailors approaching the rock described the shape to be like a serpent rising from the sea.
The Great Orme has a little brother
You may not know there is also a Little Orme, on the far side of the bay to the Great Orme. The Little Orme is only 150 metres at the summit and is very popular in its own right. The smaller Orme is picturesque and tranquil, great for a ramble and a picnic. There is also a vast array of seabirds who have made their home on the sheer cliffs of the Little Orme, making it a hotspot for birdwatchers.
The surrounding waters are hazardous
Despite an impressive lighthouse on the Great Orme’s most northern point, there have been more than 30 shipwrecks over the last couple of centuries in the surrounding waters. Ships have met their end being dashed on the rocks at the foot of the mountain. One example was the Hornby which wrecked on New Year’s Day 1824. The ship was heading to South America from Liverpool, but sadly all passengers and crew, save one man, were killed in the disaster.
An unusual species of goat roam the rocks
The Great Orme is home to around 180 wild Kashmiri goats, whose ancestors roamed Northern India. They came to be in North Wales as the original breeding pair were a gift to Queen Victoria in 1837 from the Shah of Persia (now Iran) for her coronation. The breed then became very fashionable, and the Mostyn family who owned land around Llandudno released them into the harsh environment of the Great Orme, where they have thrived ever since.
You can find the world’s largest prehistoric copper mine at the Orme
The Great Orme was found to hold rich deposits of copper 4000 years ago and was worked during the Bronze Age. The metal was used for everything, from jewellery to weapons. The rich seam of copper was mined for 1000 years, resulting in over five miles of tunnels and passages. The Mining ceased in the late 1800s, though only in the 1980s was the extensive mine analysed. Archaeologists have since spent years investigating the site and have found human and animal bones, fascinating tools and artefacts.
Rare and ancient flora and fauna can be found on the Great Orme
The Great Orme has been relatively untouched for thousands of years, and it hasn’t changed much in all those years. In fact, the flowers that grow on the Orme have evolved following the last Ice Age. Though it is not as cold today, the flowers retain their alpine characteristics. The heathland of the Orme consists of lime-rich soil, which is perfect for the flowers. Rarest of all is the cotoneaster Cambricus, a variety unique to the Great Orme. You will also find rare species of butterfly, including the Silver Studded Blue. Out to sea, you may spot local grey seals or bottlenose dolphins.
It is home to the only cable-hauled tramway in Britain
The Great Orme Tramway has been a timeless tourist attraction since it opened in 1902, and it is the only cable-hauled tramway in Britain. It takes you from the base station of Church Walks to the Summit Complex, giving you fantastic views all the way. It has also been used to haul goods and supplies up and down the steep slopes, in addition to the passengers who are not wanting to tackle the climb to the summit by foot.
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Image credit: Ruth Sharville