Wales is home to incredible underground systems, where ancient wonders wait to be discovered by those with a taste for exploring the past.
This subterranean world is made up of mines and caves. Both fascinating to explore but distinctly different. Neither should be entered without a suitably qualified and experienced Guide.
Mines are man made and created for the extraction of rock, minerals, or metals. Through the copper miners of the Victorian era to the coal mines powering Wales’ industrial revolution - a good portion of Wales’ history was written by those willing to explore the depths. To get to the bottom of Wales' mining past, explore the underground mines of Wales and learn more about Welsh precious metal mines.
Caves are naturally formed by geological processes. Exploring Wales’ caves offers a unique experience of inspiration and adventure.
Cave attractions in Wales
At the western edge of the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking underground landscapes.
There are actually three caves here. At Dan-yr-Ogof you’ll follow underground trails for nearly 1km, marvelling at impressive natural formations with names like the ‘Rasher of Bacon’ and the ‘Alabaster Pillar’.
Then there’s the mighty Cathedral Cave, home to a towering underground cavern known as the ‘Dome of St Pauls’ where 40m high waterfalls surge out from the rock formations overhead. Bone Cave (‘Ogof-yr-Esgyrn’) is named after the 42 human skeletons that were discovered here, and which date back over 3,000 years.
There's also a huge park dedicated to dinosaurs, an Iron Age Village, a Shire Horse Centre and a museum to visit, making for an amazing day out.
Caving adventures in Wales
Wales is home to many expert caving providers. Based in Monmouth, Borderlands Outdoor organise guided caving adventures of the 350 million year old tunnels beneath the famous Wye gorge. For a fun introduction to the world of caving, Pro Active Adventure in North Wales and Hawk Adventures in South Wales, can both tailor their adventures to a range of experience levels.
Discover Wales’ amazing coastal caves
There are hundreds, if not thousands of sea caves tucked away along Wales’ incredible 1,680-mile coastline. Big, small, tall, short, wide or narrow - these secretive and other worldly spaces are a sight to behold. Visiting sea caves is inherently dangerous , most have difficult access routes which can become cut off by the tide, so be sure to enlist the help of an expert guide in order to encounter them safely.
There are a range of expert providers offering packages that include coasteering, kayaking, wild swimming and other means of getting near (or even inside) these amazing spaces.
Activity providers offering cave exploration on the Pembrokeshire coast include Wild Swim Wales, TYF Adventure and Coasteering, The Real Adventure Company, Morfa Bay Adventure and Celtic Quest Coasteering.
If you're looking to explore the coast further north, check out Seren Ventures or Anglesey Adventures and Coasteering, who organise coastal cave exploration activities throughout Eryri (Snowdonia) and North Wales.
That said, you don’t necessarily need to don your wetsuit, or even go underground to appreciate the beauty of Wales’ sea caves - many can be appreciated from dry land while walking along the Wales Coast Path, particularly in Pembrokeshire. For the best experience let local experts take the lead on a guided coastal walk.
Pwll y Wrach (otherwise known as ‘Witches Cauldron’) is a collapsed cave near Moylegrove, in North West Pembrokeshire. It is now home to an Instagram-ready crater filled with aquamarine waters. The best views of this natural phenomenon are from the Wales Coast Path Ceibwr to Pwll y Wrach walk. Park at Ceibwr Bay, then head south west along the Wales Coast Path that winds along the edges of the sea-neighbouring cliffs. Keep on this path for about 700m and you'll arrive above the dramatic cave formations.
Then there’s Church Doors Cove, located on the south coast of Pembrokeshire near Manorbier. It gets its name from the mighty door-shaped hole that has been carved into the sheer cliff face by the ocean over the centuries. Stick to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for the best vantage point.
Stackpole Nature Reserve is home to some of the finest wildlife habitats in Pembrokeshire - it won’t take long walking the trails that follow the limestone cliffs at the edge of Stackpole Warren before you spot the array of caves sculpted into the rocks below.