The thin strip of land between the bridges at Conwy and the opposite bank of the estuary at Llandudno Junction is known as the Cob. Today it’s a transport artery for road vehicles, trains, pedestrians and cyclists on Route 5 of the National Cycle Network. The Cob is also part of the Wales Coast Path.
Before the 1820s, travellers crossed the estuary on ferryboats, which were unreliable and risky. The Conwy ferry disaster of 1806, in which 11 people died, was a catalyst for local road improvements. Among the victims was a Holyhead blacksmith who was buried in Conwy churchyard. You can read more about him and the disaster on this page in our mini-tour of the churchyard.
The renowned Scottish engineer Thomas Telford designed a suspension bridge between Conwy Castle and Yr Ynys, a small island nearby. To form the main length of the fixed crossing, work started in April 1822 to build an embankment across the estuary which eventually forced the tidal flows through the narrow gap beneath the bridge.
The Cob took three years to build. In the 1840s it was widened on its south side to accommodate the Chester & Holyhead Railway, on a steep gradient from Llandudno Junction to the eastern abutment of Robert Stephenson’s Tubular Bridge.
In 1888-89 a park was laid out on Yr Ynys, featuring benches and trees. This was obliterated in 1955 when construction started on another road bridge, designed for motorised traffic. This bridge was completed in December 1958. Telford’s bridge is now a National Trust property.
The Cob’s character was altered in the 1920s when a “promenade” was built over the slope down to the water on the north side. If you look along the Cob from the bridge, you’ll see that the parapet wall is far from straight! According to Conwy historian Llew Groom, whose grandfather Llew Parry was clerk of works, the promenade’s construction ran short of money and shingle from the estuary was used, instead of large rocks, to build up the ground at the Conwy end. When this material later settled, it pushed the retaining wall outwards. The parapet wall followed the same line when it was built in the 1950s by contractor Llew Hughes, known as “Llew Brics”.
The length of the Cob was effectively shortened in the early 1990s by construction of the approach to the A55 tunnel.
With thanks to Llew Groom, of the Aberconwy Historical Society