B&B and Beyond: Escape, Llandudno
A Victorian villa on the North Wales coast provides the setting for a very modern retreat, says Sue Watt
Sunday 08 July 2012
Ever since the Victorians developed Llandudno as a tourist resort in the late 19th century, crowds have come here to take in its invigorating sea air and inspiring Snowdonia scenery. With Wales's longest pier, a sweeping seafront promenade, and Professor Codman's famous Punch and Judy show (now in its 153rd year and still using the original theatre and puppets), its heritage is still very much intact. But amid the opulent Victoriana there's another, more subtle aspect to this seaside resort that is still a bit of a secret, with stylish, contemporary enclaves such as the Mostyn contemporary art gallery (01492 879201; mostyn.org), the Fat Cat Café Bar (01492 871844; fatcatcafebars.co.uk), and Escape B&B, bringing the town right up to date.
A short walk from the seafront and the main shopping street, this graceful Victorian villa looks resolutely traditional. Inside, however, its nine rooms have been designed with a quirky sense of humour. Our room, One, was called "Contemporary Eclectic". Vibrant splashes of orange and pink in the cushions and upholstery on the Seventies armchairs brightened up a sleek grey colour theme, together with a multi-coloured crocheted bedspread. My favourite was the "Retro Red" room, with a canvas of an old-fashioned phone box covering the entire wardrobe door.
Continuing the contemporary theme, all rooms have Bose iPod docks, Wi-Fi, Blu-Ray players and LCD TVs. Despite the modern makeover, the design respects the building's Victorian past, retaining many original features which are perfectly at home with the vast grey sofas and neutral tones of the lounge and breakfast room.
Fresh fruit salad is vibrant and virtuous, served in a long tall glass. But wanting to indulge a little and realising we couldn't do justice to the full English, we opted for scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on wholemeal toast. Other options include a full vegetarian breakfast, croissants, pastries and porridge with honey.
Eight years ago, searching for a lifestyle change and wanting to leave the pressures of urban Manchester behind, Sam and Gaenor Nayar spotted a niche in the Llandudno market – there were no boutique B&Bs that might attract the prosperous "Cheshire set".
Escape was born, converted from five rather delapidated flats and refurbished again in 2010. Gaenor's background in the fashion industry proved invaluable in designing the interiors while Sam – who in his "spare time" manages two local rock bands and is chairman of Destination Conwy – knows all there is to know about Llandudno.
The one-hour open-top bus tour (0800 043 2452; city-sightseeing.com; £7.50 adult) provides a snapshot of Llandudno's main sights and shores (it has two beaches), and takes in the impressive 13th-century castle (01492 592358; cadw.wales.gov.uk) in neighbouring Conwy, with an entertaining commentary on local history.
One of Llandudno's landmarks is the Great Orme, the distinctive limestone headland that bookends the bay with its smaller sister Little Orme on the opposite side. Accessible via a carefully restored Victorian tram (01492 577877; greatormetramway.co.uk; £5.90 return) or via the longest cable car in Britain (01492 877205), it is protected as a nature reserve. Among its inhabitants are around 150 wild Kashmiri goats and some migratory birds. The best way up is to walk, with three routes taking up to 90 minutes, delivering extensive vistas of Llandudno Bay, the Isle of Anglesey and Snow-donia's rugged mountains.
If you can tear yourself away from the summit's views, one of the descent routes takes in a 4,000 year-old copper mine (01492 870447; greatormemines.info; adults £6.50) and a simple but beautiful 12th-century church, St Tudno's (01492 876624; llandudno-parish.org.uk).
The charming St Tudno's Hotel (01492 874411; st-tudno.co.uk) on The Promenade, offers the best afternoon teas in town. In true Victorian style, they are a real treat of fine china, delicate sandwiches, cakes and pastries, strawberries – and champagne, for £24.95. Less than a five-minute walk from Escape, the Seahorse Bistro (01492 875315; the-seahorse.co.uk) is perfect for a relaxed dinner. As befits a seaside resort, fish is a speciality. Two courses cost £27 per person without wine.
Escape B&B, 48 Church Walks, Llandudno, North Wales LL30 2HL (01492 877776; escapebandb.co.uk). B&B starts at £89 in a double room.
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