Saturday morning, up bright and early, full from our English (Welsh) breakfast we headed of to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, this was the first part of a very full day. Not only are the Llechwedd Slate Caverns here it is also the home to Zip World and Bounce Below.
Our tour of the slate mine was booked for 10am, so after a quick coffee we headed down to the mine entrance. Another hard hat fitted we climb into the car that will take us down to the mine. The ride down is on the steepest cable railway in Britain taking you 100’s of feet underground.
When we reach the bottom we are greeted by Rachel our tour guide. She was incredible with a history of her own relating to the mine, as her family worked and mined in these very caverns and amazingly the first woman ever to “work in the mines” albeit as tour guide, it is truly an amazing achievement. Women did not work in the mines, but they certainly supported their men folk in this hideously hard work.
The tour involves listening to tales of the miners’ family life before setting off on your tour. We listened to the voice of Sion Dolgarregddu as he goes down the mine to work aged only 12 and learns to dig for slate with his Father. The history behind each chamber was fascinating, how it was passed down from generation to generation and each family worked each individual chamber with their own family.
We saw a new chamber that has been unseen for nearly 50 years and enjoyed a demonstration of how the Victorian miners used their dangerous tools! We also saw the filled chamber with water, and if the pump stops fills up very quickly, which it did once and took over a week to empty out. A terrifying thought trying to keep the water at bay, as well as working in pitch blackness.
The tour finishes with a visit to the Mill where you can see the ancient skill of slate splitting or even have a go. The slate splitting was amazing as we watched slate tiles being made.
The mine is now closed, but tourism is clearly keeping the history alive and I was pleased to see a new venture that is taking advantage of the consistent temperature in the mine for maturing cheese.
The cheese is matured to a minimum of 11 months. It is then transported from the Creameries in Caernarfon to the Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog and left to age 500 feet underground. This traditional ageing process takes place in original mining caverns which have been converted into cheese caves. This process adds unique characteristics to the taste and texture of this unique cheese. in both 2014 & 2015 it has already won many Gold Awards within the Cheddar sector.
After our amazing tour we headed to the pub! Oh yes, what a welcoming place.
We bought ourselves a piece of slate that we plan to put our house number on, it was a great feeling buying a piece of this wonderful place. They say the slate from this mine lasts over 200 years so I think it will be OK on the front of the house.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns
Travel deep in the mine and back into the past on the spectacular NEW underground tour. Local guides take you through huge caverns to experience the life of a Victorian family at work. Visit here for more information www.llechwedd-slate-caverns.co.uk
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You’ll find plenty of great ideas for days out on our website at www.attractionsofsnowdonia.com/.