Why the Great Orme is Great

God knows how many times I’ve ridden up, down and round this outcrop of rock that sits next to Llandudno town on the North coast of Wales. It should be on every cyclists bucket list. Great by name, great by nature, here is why I make an effort to ride it every time I visit.

For a cyclist the Orme has a lot to offer. Its not big enough to spend a day riding but bag it as part of a ride and you’ll be rewarded. It has plenty to offer. A range of climbs, a summit finish, hairpins, mental descents, pro-race pedigree and a one way system so almost traffic-free

Excluding residential streets, the road network is very simple. Two ways to the top. Steep and Mega steep and a road all the way around. Each road has a decent climb which are hard on their own. Do 2 or 3 at once and you have a serious challenge.

Marine Drive

This is a 4.5 mile toll road (cycling is free) that runs anti-clockwise around the rock. It only goes one-way and traffic is very light. It starts from just outside Llandudno town centre and starts with a gradual climb which then drops and passes the ‘Alpine’ ascent start before a steady but stiff climb up to the Lighthouse where you can rest at the cafe and admire the views before a steep descent around some nice twisty bends where you can use all the road without fear of oncoming traffic until you reach the West Shore.

FACT: The Cambrian Rally has regularly used this road for a special stage

FACT: The Tour of Britain ended a stage into Llandudno with a ride around Marine Drive in the opposite direction. The descent was classed as a 2nd cat climb for the stage

The start of Marine Drive
Top of Marine Drive with Cafe waiting for you
The Tour of Britain on Marine Drive

‘Alpine’ Ascent

This is one of two ways to the summit. I call it the Alpine Ascent because it starts with a couple of ‘proper’ hairpins which are very tight and then the road grinds its way up past, ironically, a graveyard and then levels off as it crosses the tram track. Here it merges with the last km to the summit that both routes share which is a real kicker to be honest.

Couple of things to know. To get to it you have to ride the first mile of Marine Drive then bear left. The climb isn’t one-way so oncoming traffic is possible

The Alpine Ascent
The Alpine Ascent

The Milk Race tackles the hairpins in 1976

Ty-Gwyn Road

This is by far the toughest route to the top. The first half is mega steep with a section of 25%+. Access it from the west end of the High Street. The climb begins with a very steep left hand hairpin and then shoots straight up 18-20% through a residential street where it joins and crosses the summit tramway. Steeper still the road grinds up around to the right where a 1 in 4 stretch (see below) tops out with a cattle grid. The road eases off for a short section where it merges with the Alpine Ascent with the last km kicker to the Summit station car park. Its a beast.

its tough at 25%
Summit Complex: A bit like Mt Ventoux?

And the rest….

There is some offroad riding possible on the Orme. Its mainly tracks and grassy paths but be careful if you attempt to go off-piste.

Cycling aside you should go and enjoy the Great Orme as a tourist. Its home to a taboggan run, crazy golf, a dry ski-slope, a cable-car and a tram up and down to the Summit station where there is more crazy golf, play areas, tourist shops, a bar and some fantastic views across the Irish sea and Llandudno bay to the Little Orme. There are Bronze Age mines, walks, its popular with rock climbers and if you stay at the Lighthouse B&B lamp room, it has possibly the best view in the world.

You can find out more info here


I love the Great Orme. Even when I’ve been up there without my bike I often drive to the summit for a hot chocolate. Ther are times its been so windy I could barely stand up and other times the view has been so stunning you sit and stare at it for hours. I never get bored of riding up and down it. Every way you go is a challenge and is satisfying when you get back and look at it on Strava for example.

Highly recommended. If you are ever up there, try it. There are loads of coffee shops in Llandudno for a well earned rest before you attempt or to recover after.

Thanks for reading


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s