To those still burdened by an outmoded image of Wales’s north coast, ‘Escape, Llandudno’ may sound more like advice rather than a destination, but it was definitely London we wanted to escape. It was a grey and miserable Sunday in the capital – the kind of grey that makes you want to stay in bed. We stood enviously behind a couple at the Hertz office in Victoria as they were invited to upgrade to a Saab convertible and could only wish we could get out of the city as fast.
We were soon heading out of the city as fast as our snug little C-class Ford would carry us, and looking forward to a relaxing little sortie to the coast. As we zoomed up the M6 under the brooding skies, the excitement of a couple of days’ rest began to increase. The rain fell horizontally, the windscreen wipers working overtime, but everything was in place for the perfect break: no phones or laptops – just me, my fiancé, and a favourite CD. Anyway, if we’d had a convertible we’d have risked drowning.
We took the scenic route to Llandudno, via the mist-wreathed Snowdonian mountains and the slate-grey hills of Blaenau Ffestiniog. After a lot of soggy sheep and an unplanned diversion through a field, we crested the last ridge and descended into Llandudno, the sun appearing just in time to greet us with a spectacular sunset. We were given a warm welcome to Escape – Llandudno’s first contemporary boutique B&B – by one of its owners, Sam, and within minutes were invited to a convivial beer on the soft grey sofas in the Victorian sitting room.
We sat in the two Conran Love Chairs overlooking a perfectly manicured garden and took in the eclectic mix of original grandeur and modern touches. The contrast had been thoughtfully and tastefully arranged; next to the plasma screen, photos of the villa’s original inhabitants in 1888 stared benignly down at us. With telling attention to detail, Sam and his wife Gaynor had found the photos in the local council archives.
There are nine individually designed rooms at Escape. When you speak to Sam and Gaynor about the fun they had browsing eBay and antiques fairs for signature furniture, such as Robin Day chairs, infinity mirrors and original 1960s Sanderson flock wallpaper, you can feel their passion for design, and it’s reflected in every corner of the B&B. We’d chosen luxurious Room One, every bit as fab as the new wave of B&Bs we know in Brighton, except with the kind of fantastic mountain view it’s hard to come by in Sussex.
It wasn’t long before we remembered we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and, after a browse of the menus from local restaurants, we made the short walk to the promenade and Osbourne House. The door was locked. I pressed the buzzer, thinking this must be a very exclusive place indeed, but a little old lady appeared telling us that they had had a slow Sunday night and had decided to close early. Do they ever have a fast Sunday in Llandudno?
Fortunately, the trusty local Indian restaurant, the Bengal Dynasty, came to the rescue with a tasty curry. What’s more, its vivid carpeting banished any last thoughts of grey London. (and has furnished me with souvenir wallpaper for my camera-phone.) Shortly after, we were submerged in our best night’s sleep in a long time, bathed in crisp white sheets in our oversized leather bed.
We woke to mountain views, fabulous blue sky and the feeling we had slept for a week. After a relaxing spa bath, we made our way to the breakfast room, where Gaynor and Sam served us lattes and a hearty breakfast. The delicious Welsh sausages gave us the strength for a romantic walk along the beach, taking in the beauty and elegance of this old Victorian holiday town. As we sat with our feet on the sand, London seemed a million miles away.
On the way back, we decided to give Osbourne House another try. This time there was no little old lady to turn us away. We were led through the black beachfront door into a romantic Victorian bistro with opulent drapes and chandeliers. Quickly brushing the sand off our clothes, we were seated in a candlelit dining room that wouldn’t be out of place in Knightsbridge. We tried to conceal our excitement as we ordered cod in crispy batter, salt and vinegar mushy peas with fresh chipped potatoes – times two – which we washed down with a bottle of Chablis Premier Cru. We were in heaven.
We had to eventually accept that it was time to make our way east, back to the grey Hertz office in Victoria. We said our goodbyes to our new friends Sam and Gaynor and then retraced our route back through the mountains towards the motorway and London. We’d found our perfect escape from the city and, before we’d even left Snowdonia, we were already planning which room we wanted to book next time.
Images taken by Ben Anders for a feature in Sunday Times Style magazine.