Alice's Wonderland in Llandudno

Alice Liddell the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland spent many summer holidays in Llandudno. A new exploratory tour of the town with statues of characters from the tale and an app that provides narrations brings the sensory world of Alice to life for journalist Linn Martinussen, who is blind.

My name is Linn Martinussen and I am a freelance journalist and writer. I was born blind. When it comes to choosing a holiday I don't let my blindness influence the decision too much. I often travel with sighted friends and we usually choose activities that are as enjoyable for me as for someone who can see. Attractions that cater for more than just the one sense, are particularly good. The Alice in Wonderland tour in Llandudno is a great example of an experience which is equally fun whether you have 20/20 vision, or you’re blind as a bat - like yours truly.

Appealing to the senses

Linn Martinussen exploring the statues.

Linn Martinussen exploring the statues, Llandudno by Kiesha Meikle

Smell and sensation are particularly important for me, and I could feel the sea air caressing my senses as soon as we got off the train in Llandudno. I breathed it in and savoured every bit of it. I love the smell of the sea, it reminds me of childhood summers playing on the beach.

And that was rather appropriate as my trip to Llandudno was all about childhood memories. I was on the hunt for a little girl called Alice who had some remarkable adventures.

Her full name was Alice Liddell. She was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland and she used to spend many of her childhood summer holidays in Llandudno. Her descriptions of the fun she had on holiday here may have even given Carroll ideas for some of Alice's adventures. 

Alice-like adventures through app

So, how best to have some Alice-like adventures of my own? Well, to celebrate the town's connection with the story they're introducing a clever new smartphone app to guide people around the various sites associated with Alice. We met Simon Burrows one of the team behind the app to learn a little more. The app will combine GPS positioning, augmented reality and digital animation. It allows you to retrace Alice Liddell’s steps past landmarks from the novel. Quick response (QR) codes can also be used to learn more about Llandudno as the characters (which appear in 3D and have character voices) are brought to life.

For someone without any sight, the most enjoyable part of the app, is the story telling and how the characters are brought to life through this medium. Great care has been taken to find good actors to do these voices, which is as imperative as a good picture. The statues are also very interesting. Though they themselves are felt through touch rather than the app, the app is describing what the statues are, which is helpful for those statues that are too big to feel in their entirety.

Oak sculptures

Linn Martinussen with the white rabbit in Llandudno.

Linn Martinussen with the white rabbit, Llandudno by Kiesha Meikle
When we arrive at the first stop - the White Rabbit, Simon explains that all of the sculptures are made of oak. The rabbit feels soft and smooth to the touch. Luckily, I can feel most of the rabbit’s features with my hands, except for the ears which are too high up. I am amazed by the detail and excited that I can even read the numbers on the rabbit’s pocket watch and make out the hairs on his bushy tail. The oak material is much nicer to touch than say marble or granite because of its warmth. It feels somehow more alive.

Next, we head off down to Llandudno's famous Victorian pier where the Mad Hatter is waiting for us with a door mouse at his feet and a teapot in his hand. He feels equally soft and smooth and you can tell that he is very well made. I feel transported right back to my childhood and White Rabbit’s “I’m late, I’m late” song repeats over and over in my head.

Something for everybody

Linn Martinussen feeling the writing on the back of Alice's chair.

Linn Martinussen feeling the writing on the back of Alice's chair, Llandudno by Kiesha Meikle
The tour finishes with me hugging the Cheshire cat statue and sitting in a teacher’s chair near the pier - the back is shaped like a book and Alice in Wonderland is written on the back in letters that I can read through touch.

The Alice in Wonderland app tour, which includes both audio and pictures is a great experience - with something for everybody. Being a writer and as such a storyteller too, I really enjoyed it. The magic of the tour for me, had a lot to do with the fact that I could re-enter a long lost memory of an adventure world I sometimes fled into as a child. The statues, the characters' voices in the app and the atmosphere brought to life what I had found captured between two book covers. But perhaps the most amazing thing for me, is that the story of Alice is real. Ok, not entirely real. There is no wonderland like the one Lewis Carroll portrayed, but there once was a little girl, named Alice who inspired this magical tale.