Undiscovered Britain: Wales On the Trail of Alice
To celebrate the launch of the 2016 Best Loved Hotel & Travel Guide, we are pleased to bring you a series of stories on Undiscovered Britain by leading travel writers.
On the Trail of Alice by David Atkinson
I am following the footprints of a White Rabbit around Llandudno. The tiny pairs of paws are leading me, map in hand, through this popular seaside resort on the North Wales coast on the trail of Alice Liddell. All the well-loved characters are here, as statues. The Mad Hatter is busily inspecting the salty-aired promenade, while a giant Alice, pinafore dress flapping in the sea breeze, towers over the train station. Wherever I look, the characters from my favourite childhood story are coming alive around me.
Llandudno recently marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by the Cheshire-born author Lewis Carroll. I’m trying out a new walking trail around the town to find out more about the little girl behind the classic children’s story. Carroll was a family friend of the Liddell family and regularly visited them at their holiday home, Penmorfa, on Llandudno’s West Shore in the 1860s. He delighted in the company of the then eight-year-old Alice Liddell and, soon afterwards, completed his manuscript for the story that would go on to be translated into 97 languages.
The ‘Follow the White Rabbit Trail’ links 55 bronzecast pawprints along the promenade, past the kiss-mequick pier with its historic Punch and Judy show, and up towards the manicured gardens of the Happy Valley.
There’s a carved throne fit for the Queen of Hearts and a grinning Cheshire Cat for kids to clamber over. After lunch at a local cafe, I pick up the trail back into town. For this I’ve downloaded the two new ‘Alice Town Trail’ audio-visual apps to my tablet. The White Rabbit app documents places around town associated with the story of Alice while the Looking Glass app presents clues in a game-style format. They each use the tablet’s builtin camera to bring a street scene to life with animated characters.
Llandudno sees itself as the natural home to the Alice story. Alice Day, including the election of a Miss Alice, is now staged every May and there are plans to resurrect the Alice museum and develop more events around the Alice theme.
“We want to make Llandudno Alice’s permanent home,” says Barry Mortlock, co-director Alice in Wonderland Ltd. “It will be a focal point for Alice enthusiasts from all over the world.” For me, however, a day on the Alice trail is simply a way to see Llandudno in a new way — a bit like going through the looking glass.
Alice Town Trails’ White Rabbit and Looking Glass apps, £2.99 each. www.alicetowntrails.co.uk
For a selection of hotels in Wales, including the latest special offers, visit Best Loved Hotels in Wales.
David Atkinson (www.atkinsondavid.com) is a Chester-based award-winning travel writer and blogger.