The very first time we visited North Wales on holiday, 8 years ago, we were hit with a day of pretty heavy rain. When it’s sunny and dry, there are so many things you can do – the beaches, the mountains, Greenwood Forest Park, Bodnant Gardens etc, but when it’s raining, it’s all a bit miserable. We poured over the mountain of leaflets for various attractions when we fell on one for Llechwedd Slate Caverns. We figured that when you’re heading 500ft underground, it probably doesn’t matter what the weather is like above ground. I remember having a really good day there, and when we moved here, I vowed that we would go again, this time with three children in tow.
Typically, we chose to go on a weekend where we were blessed with beautiful warm sunshine and blue skies, but this may have worked in our favour – we were the only ones on the tour! It proves that the attraction really is an all-weather one – go in the rain and you stay (mostly) dry. Go in the sunshine and enjoy it when it’s not quite so busy. Win all round!
Our Llechwedd Slate Caverns Deep Mine Tour tour was booked for 12.30, and you’re advised to get there around half an hour before to get our helmet sorted and have the pre-tour briefing. We got there a bit earlier and went to the restaurant for a coffee and a huge slice of cake. Whilst we were in there, we could hear a strange sort of ‘zooming’ noise coming from outside, like an aeroplane flying over. When we went outside to head towards the entrance to the mine, we realised it was coming from the zip wires that share the same site. Every so often, you see bodies flying at a fair speed over your head – that looks rather terrifying but awesome!
We got to the waiting area at the mine entrance and got our helmets ready. These are really important and you can’t take them off at all down there – you really wouldn’t want to either. In places, the tunnels you walk through are very low and if you cracked your head on the rock, you would know about it, that’s for sure. You can also wear some overalls, which we chose not too. It is pretty damp and chilly down there, staying at a pretty constant 6 or 7 degrees, whatever the weather is outside, so a jacket is an absolute must.
Once our tour guide (I forget his name, but he was great!) briefed us on what was going to happen, we climbed into the yellow mine train that takes you deep underground. It’s quite scary actually – it gets very dark and very enclosed and gives you a real feel for what life was like for the miners, who didn’t have the electric lights we have.
The tour guide takes you on a journey through the mines and talks you through the way the miners would have lived and how young they could have been. The fact that back then, children as young as 8 would have been working down there was astonishing. The tour is really child-friendly, without being patronising, and all of us learned a lot from it.
As you move through the chambers, the story of the miners is really brought to life with projected images. The kids especially loved one of the miners sitting and eating their lunch in a tiny hut in the caves and singing Welsh songs. My photos at this point aren’t very good because I haven’t quite got to taking photos in the dark – and it was very dark!
It was also really hands on. The boys were able to hold one of the drills that the miners would have used – my god, they’re heavy, and to have a go at climbing the wall. They also had the chance to press the button on a detonator to cause an ‘explosion’.
Our favourite part of the tour, or mine anyway, was towards the end, when a beautiful light show to represent the many lives lost down in the mines was projected on the walls of the vast cavern we were in. There’s water in that particular cavern (behind the fences), and with it reflecting off the water, it was absolutely stunning and very moving.
After the tour, which lasted about an hour, we got back into the lift and headed back to the surface – back to bright sunlight and warmth! Our tour guide then gave us a short demonstration of how slate is split and turned into something useful and gave the children a slate coaster each to bring home. In the workshop, you can purchase offcuts of slate, coasters, or have all sorts of house signs and numbers made up for you whilst you wait.
Some tips for enjoying the Llechwedd Slate Caverns Deep Mine Tour
- It’s very dark down there and some of the tunnels are very tight and low. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s probably not one for you. Younger children might find it a little unnerving as well.
- It’s cold and damp down there, so take along a jacket, even if it’s glorious sunshine above the surface!
- Wear sensible shoes. You walk about a mile or so but the floor is a little rocky (obviously) and there can be puddles of water. You also need to go down 61 quite steep but grippy steps.
We really enjoyed the Llechwedd Slate Caverns Deep Mine Tour and came away knowing a little bit more about something the area we live in is famous for. We have slate tablemats at home, and knowing that a couple of hundred years ago, lives would have been put at massive risk to create them is quite humbling. To book your tickets for the Llechwedd Slate Caverns Deep Mine Tour, visit the website.
*We were provided with free tickets for the tour for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are our own and have not been influenced in any way.