© Stuart Madden – Great Orme, Llandudno

Snaking out into the Irish sea the two Ormes stand glorious and proud. Their rocky cliff foundations cascade into the ocean in gorgeous natural formations, with craggy caves found carved into their structure.

So named ‘Orme’, as it comes from the Norse word for ‘Dragon’ or ‘Sea-Serpent’, as it appeared to them when they sailed around the coast in their longboats in search of settlements to raid. These are limestone headlands which is also much of what of the surrounding landscape is composed of. Their prominence and solitude as they stretch into the ocean has made them something of a national treasure. They stand on either side of the gorgeous seaside town of Llandudno which was built which the express intrion of being situated adjacent to these impressive natural landmarks, the town is referred to throughout the United Kingdom as the ‘Queen of Welsh Resorts’ famous for its victorian seafront hotels in Llandudno.

These two Ormes are named in regards to their size, the largest of the two named ‘The Great Orme’, while it’s neighbour is concurrently called ‘The Little Orme’. Originally, when the Viking reavers were passing by, the Great was named the ‘Great Orme’s Head’, the land where now the Vicorian-era Llandudno stands would have been the sea-monster’s body, while the Little Orme would have been it’s tail. However they are now simply labeled ‘Great’ and ‘Little’ respectively.

The Great Orme

The Great Orme being aside Llandudno was a perfect opportunity for a fabulous tourist destination, so a tramway was constructed to bring holiday makers to the summit. This steam-powered tramway is still in operation and available to ride today! You can take this up to the summit complex, a large building with cafe and arcade facilities.

Great Orme Tramway – Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

These Ormes were cause for settlement in this area for a long time, the Great Orme is home to ancient mines, in fact these are the oldest mines in Europe, dating back over 4,000 years!

The Great Orme’s fame and location has afforded it some development, such as its summit-tourist centre, dry ski slope, cable car, and happy valley park area. However the natural beauty of the Orme rings true regardless, with large swathes of grassland, and great crags suitable for rock climbing. The Great Orme is also the residence of a herd of Kashmir Goats, these descend from a pair of individuals which were originally a gift to Queen Victoria from the Shah of Persia.

Statue to Kashmir Goats at Summit – deadmanjones

Kashmir Goats – Marcus Schroeder


The View from the Orme is quite staggering, with the not-so-distant mountains of Snowdonia and the isle of Anglesey in clear view, you can look along the north coast of wales and towards the Wirral. As you gaze North you are treated to vast ocean leagues as far as the eye can see, and on a clear day you can even see the Isle of Man (If you squint, you can even see a distant Manx cat looking back at you).

The Isle of Man, perfectly visible from the Great Orme’s summit – Geoff Steen of North Shore Gallery

The Great and Little Orme’s sea caves are famous for their gorgeous, water-glossed grandeur and is a wonderful spot for some exploring, water level inlets on the ocean side of the headlands ate a favorite for kayakers. While famous among locals, they are hidden gems nestled in the stone features of the coast. Featured on BBC’s coast, the Great Orme’s series of caves have been catalogued and explored by local enthusiasts, these caverns even have stories to tell.

Ogof Llech is perhaps the most interesting cave for scholars; although one of the most difficult to get to. It is said to be the cell of a monk, St. Tudno who from this cell brought the faith of christ to those who dwelt on the Orme. The tale doesn’t stop there, in WW2 it was the hiding spot of 3 escaped soliders from a local POW camp who tried to rendevous with a German submarine, they were later captured.

Olog Llech when it was still accessible – Mel Davies 1975

Anyone hoping to explore any of the caves should make sure they check the tides though as it may be unsuitable for entrance to some caves when high.

The Little Orme

The nature of the Little Orme’s less traveled knolls means seabird and seal life make their home there compared with the bigger and busier Great; also its prominence and seclusion from surrounding towns make it a natural oasis for oceanic wild life. The Little Orme should not be discounted in favour of it’s counterpart, as it has a few bays and rocky shores which are a beautiful sight to behold for those who know where to look.

This includes the Angel Bay, which is one of the best kept secrets of a quiet and naturally beautiful beach. Here plenty of wildlife can be spotted.

Seacaves #nature #caves #cave #sea #wales

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On the Silver Screen

These sibling Ormes are world famous, even recently the Great Orme was mentioned in Thor: the Dark World, as one of the Norse-centric locations (along with Snowdon) integral to triangulating the site that the antagonist Elf Lord Malekith would try to enact his evil plan – this turned out to be London – big surprise there Hollywood! We personally think that the cliffs of the Orme or the mountains of Snowdonia would make for a much more interesting backdrop for an alien invasion.

Dr. Erik Selvig: Stonehenge, Snowdon, the Great Orme. These are all coordinates taking us… here.
Ian Boothby: Greenwich?

Feature Image Credit: © Stuart Madden – Great Orme, Llandudno

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