Underground mine exploration in North and Mid Wales
Slate mining and quarrying was a huge industry in North and Mid Wales, and the effects on our landscape can still be seen today. There are plenty of mining attractions for people who love a bit of industrial archaeology to visit safely, either for fascinating history tours or for an exhilarating explore underground.
Find out more about the UNESCO Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales.
Great Orme Mines, Llandudno
Craggy, echoey and about as atmospheric as they come, the Great Orme Mines site was uncovered in 1987 and features a Bronze Age Cavern dug by miners with stone and tool bones 3,500 years ago. Don a hard hat and witness the latest discoveries in one of the world’s largest prehistoric mines. Check out the Great Orme Mines website for visitor info.
Zip World Llechwedd, Blaenau Ffestiniog
Blaenau Ffestiniog was once home to several huge slate quarries. The effect of the industry is still clear to see, with huge slate waste tips forming a unique landscape. The town is now a thriving hub for outdoor enthusiasts well as industrial archaeology fans.
History and adventure combine to brilliant effect at Zip World Llechwedd with the Deep Mine Tour. This tour is a family friendly interactive experience with new technology; the first to use augmented reality in an underground setting with iPads providing a window on the past. You access the caverns using Britain’s steepest cable railway to levels of 500ft underground. Find out how the slate was mined and hear the stories of the people who worked there.
Then there’s ‘Caverns’, an exhilarating 3-hour course of underground zip lines, rope bridges and tightropes - a perfect option for adventurous families and a fantastic reimagining of the hidden crevices and winding passageways found beneath the surface of the earth. Bounce Below is home to no less than six huge trampoline-style nets stretched out across a subterranean cavern said to be twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral. If that weren’t enough, the highest trampoline hangs a mighty 180ft above the cave floor! Or try the Underground Golf, following a course through the caverns which, as well as being immense fun, integrates the history of the mine.
Go Below, Eryri
For those keen on pushing themselves even further, the team at Go Below Underground Adventures let you pick between three nerve-jangling packages. The 7-hour ‘Ultimate Extreme’ package includes not only the longest and steepest underground zip line in the world (aptly nicknamed ‘Goliath’) but also the world’s first - and only - 70ft underground free fall. Each trip offers hours of mine exploration combined with zip lines, cave climbing, traversing and abseiling, all underground! Head to the Go Below website for the latest information, including their new Mine to Mountain experience.
Sygun Copper Mine, Beddgelert
More than a century after being abandoned in 1903, Sygun tells the story of Victorian copper miners in colourful fashion. This is the place to trace copper ore veins, silver and gold within the confines of illuminated caves, then relax within its beautiful natural surroundings in the hills of Snowdonia. Please check the Sygun Copper Mine's website for opening hours and visitor information.
Llanfair Slate Caverns, Harlech
Explore the nine caverns at Llanfair Slate Caverns, a virtually untouched slate mine. Find out what the conditions were like for the workers. The tour is self-led - perfect for taking your time to absorb the atmosphere. You are provided with a hard hat and a torch and dogs are welcome to go along as well. There's more info in the Llanfair Slate Caverns website.
Corris Mine Explorers, Corris
Get kitted up and embark on an intrepid tour with Corris Mine Explorers. You'll explore Braich Goch, a Mid Wales mine first used in 1836. Chambers, disused machinery and even personal items left behind by the workers give this place a real sense of history. The tours are led by expert guides and they'll tailor the tour for the audience. You can even spend the night underground! They were also awarded the 'Best Activity / Experience in Mid Wales' at the 2019 Mid Wales Tourism Awards. Head to the Corris Mine Explorers website for booking details.
King Arthur's Labyrinth, Corris
For a more sedate, family-friendly experience, step aboard a boat and wind through a labyrinth of tunnels and caverns in historic southern Eryri (Snowdonia), at King Arthur's Labyrinth, Corris. Based in another part of the Braich Goch mines, this time your guide is a hooded boatman on this voyage with a difference, with a litany of Dark Age tales told against the backdrop of luminous expanses of water. Book via the King Arthur's Labyrinth website for the best prices.
Underground mining experiences in South and West Wales
Down in South and West Wales, the deep coal mines produced millions of tons of black gold to fuel our industries. While the mines are no longer operational, you can still visit several, now open as brilliant museums.
A Welsh Coal Mining Experience, Trehafod
A Welsh Coal Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park stands on the site of the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery, which was once one of more than 50 collieries in the surrounding valleys, only closing during the 1980s. Taking a cage underground, you’ll be looked after by the people who wore hard hats for real. The tour guides are all former miners, so you can be sure they’ll have a few good stories to tell. The Welsh Coal Mining Experience website has more info on planning your visit and booking tours.
Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon
Another great mining attraction not to be missed is Big Pit, our National Coal Museum. Located in the World Heritage Site of Blaenavon, this former working mine opened as a museum in 1980. Led by former miners you can discover what the mine was like as you descend 100 metres underground into it’s dark depths. Entry is free. Visit the National Coal Museum website for more details.
South Wales Miners' Museum, Afan Forest Park
Take a trip back in time and discover the industrial heritage of the South Wales Miners Museum in the Afan Valley. Exhibits include an extensive collection of photographs and mining artefacts, a replica miner’s tunnel, a Blacksmith Shop, Lamp Room and an Engine House. Please contact the South Wales Miners Museum before visiting for up to date information on opening hours and tour bookings.
The Winding House, Caerphilly
Housed in a striking glass-walled building on the site of the former Elliot Colliery, the Winding House details the industrial history of the Rhymney Valley. The centrepiece is the massive winding engine that once carried workers and coal between the surface and the mine below. This incredible piece of engineering is kept in working order by a team of devoted volunteers and you can even see it in action on the final Saturday of each month. As well as the engine, the Winding House is home to a collection of documents, photographs and objects which illustrate day to day life here in South Wales at the height of the Industrial Revolution.
Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Llanwrda
Set in the shadow of the glorious Cothi Valley, Dolaucothi Gold Mines provide a unique insight into Roman gold and copper mining methods 2,000 years ago. Guided tours will tell you the story of the 20th century workers in these caverns and there’s even a chance to try gold panning for yourself. Find out more on the Dolaucothi website.