The Little Orme

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The Little Orme

The Little Orme headland, or Rhiwledyn, was extensively quarried from the late 1880s, as you can read on this page. When a deep natural fissure was uncovered in 1891, inside were found the skeletal remains of a woman dating from c.5,570 years ago. Bronze Age finds included a bronze spearhead and the bones of animals now extinct in Britain such as the rhinoceros and bear.

Photo of Devil's Cave, Little OrmeAbove the cliffs of the Little Orme is a cave where the first book to be published in Wales was printed, during the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics in Britain. In 1585 Robert Pugh, assisted by a group of priests, produced a small volume entitled Y Drych Cristionogawl (The Christian Monitor). His house, now known as Penrhyn Old Hall, has a "priest hole" where Catholic priests could hide.

The cave is small, with a low entrance. The printing press was discovered in 1587, after someone on a boat saw smoke coming from the cave. Sir Thomas Mostyn of Gloddaeth Hall dispatched a posse of 40 men. They decided it was too dangerous to enter through the 60cm-high hole, and stood guard all night. In the morning the people responsible for the press had gone. The guards discovered there was a chimney out of the main chamber through which the priests had escaped. There have been many different stories about this cave, but in 1962 archaeologists found evidence which seems to authenticate the story.

The old photo shows another Little Orme cave, known as Devil’s Cave, a large chamber accessible only by sea. The natural and man-made cliffs are ideal nesting areas for birds including fulmars, ravens and little owls. Grey seals use Porth Dyniewaid, north of the quarry remains, as a nursery in autumn. Rhiwledyn nature reserve, consisting mainly of limestone grassland, covers the south-western part of the Little Orme. This land was given to North Wales Wildlife Trust in a will in 1994.

About the place-names:
Little Orme’s Head: Orme comes from a Scandinavian word, referring to the headland resembling the head of a serpent.
Rhiwledyn: Written as Rwledyn in 1349. Rhiw = slope or hill. Lledin may have been one of the maidens buried at Morfa Rhiannedd (Deganwy), according to legend.
Trwyn y Fuwch: The north-eastern promontory’s name means ‘The Cow’s Nose’, which it may have resembled to sailors.
Porth Dyniewaid or Angel Bay: Dyniewaid y môr is an old Welsh phrase for seals. According to local historians, Angel Bay (which may or may not have referred to a ship) was more commonly known as White Chapel Bay an equally puzzling name.

With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society, and to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: LL30 3AY    View Location Map

Rhiwledyn nature reserve - North Wales Wildlife Trust website

Other PREHISTORIC HiPoints in this area:
Prehistoric view over Llandudno from Little Orme – no sea in sight
Coed y Gopa, Abergele

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