Not many people realise how important the slate industry was to Wales - it gave thousands of people jobs and made a handful of people a lot of money. Like so many of these industries which relied upon the physical labour of men, it was also a dangerous and often tragic industry. The Llechwedd Slate Caverns are amazing to explore and provide a fascinating insight into the slate quarrying industry and specifically the Llechwedd quarry. We thought it would be great to highlight this often overlooked visitor attraction and give you some tips to get the most out of your visit, let's get into the guide:
What are the Llechwedd slate caverns?
The slate caverns at Llechwedd are the chambers formed by slate extraction. Miners would create these caverns (typically 15-21m long and 18-24m high) using hand boring and precise gunpowder blasting (dynamite was too destructive and dangerous) Each cavern took up to 15 years to mine so it was a seriously tiresome and expensive process, but it certainly paid off for the owners in the end when they found high-quality slate.
This site is 2,000 acres in size and includes, the quarries of Maenofferen and Diffwys Casson, but also includes stunning views of Snowdon, so it really is a very unique place to visit.
Opened in 1972, the quarry is known for having the steepest narrow gauge railway in the UK which takes you more than 500 feet underground - definitely not one for people with claustrophobia!
Who owns the Llechwedd slate caverns?
The caverns are owned by JW Greaves and Sons Ltd. The company was founded in 1836 by John Whitehead Greaves. To this day, it is still owned and operated by his descendants, which is seriously impressive! Obviously the main activities of the location have changed quite a bit, but it is still as impressive as ever.
What can you do at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns?
- Quarry Explorer Tour - This is a tour you can take in an ex-military truck across the quarry. It is seriously fun and provides you with some super inspiring views of the landscape from the top of the man-made slate mountains
- Deep Mine Tour - this tour takes you more than 500 feet into the heart of the Llechwedd mountain. The tour is well-lit and includes an exhibition showing you what life was like more than 100 years ago for the workers.
- Mountain biking - yes, you can take your mountain bike to Llechwedd! There is a downhill mountain biking centre there which is really great, but does require some skill to tackle.
- Ziplining - there is a zip world at Llechwedd which includes 3 different zip courses that you can tackle - Titan, Bounce Below, and World Caverns. Titan is especially impressive as it includes a 1890m long zip, half the height of Snowdon!
- Trampolining - yep, there are giant trampolines underground. A really surreal experience!
Things to be aware of before visiting Llechwedd Slate Caverns
We've mentioned it already but let us reiterate, if you don't like small spaces and the idea of being underground then probably skip the deep mine tour! Everything is really safe and well done, but we know how debilitating phobias can be. Luckily the other activities at Llechwedd don't require you to go underground.
The Deep Mine Tour will cost £20 per adult which is pretty reasonable. Ziplining is a bit more expensive and varies from around £25 per ticket for bounce below to £60 for Titan.
You'll definitely want to dress appropriately for a trip to Llechwedd, something comfortable and shoes with good grip in case you have to walk across any slate.