Everybody knows Snowdonia’s full of mountains. But did you know that exploring the insides of our mountains is just as much fun as exploring the outsides?
When you think of Snowdonia, chances are the first thing that’ll come to mind is the mountains. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – we do have the odd mountain or two up here in Snowdonia – but have you ever considered what goes on inside them?
One of the most fun things you can do in Snowdonia is explore the vast expanse of caves, caverns and mine tunnels that hide within Snowdonia’s mountains and under the ground. One way to do that is with a caving specialist – Corris Mine Explorers and Go Below Underground Adventures are just two of many local adventure specialists that offer caving adventures to visitors – but if you don’t feel quite brave enough to give that a try, there are plenty of other ways to see what goes on underground in Snowdonia.
1. Sygun Copper Mine
Take a self-guided tour around Sygun Copper Mines, Beddgelert, where copper was mined until just over a hundred years ago. The colourful chambers still have threads of gold, silver and copper running through the walls, and there are some marvellous stalactites and stalagmites too. The winding tunnels are peppered with audio guides and sound effects, helping you unwind the history of the mines at your own pace.
Back above ground you can try your hand at panning for gold and pottery painting (extra charges apply), plus there’s a museum and gift shop, mountain walks and an adventure playground for the children.
2. Electric Mountain
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on inside a power station, you’ll love Electric Mountain, Llanberis. Here you’ll be taken by bus into the heart of the mountain for an hour-long tour deep inside the twisty tunnels of Elidir Mountain and see one of man’s greatest engineering achievements – the Dinorwig power station. You’ll see the massive pump and turbines in action, and view an underground film show which explains the commissioning and building of the power station.
Back above ground there’s a visitor centre, gift shop, cafe and soft play area for under-12s. Entry to the visitor centre is free, but there’s a reasonable charge for the underground tour, which includes special prices for families.
3. Llechwedd Slate Caverns
At Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, you’ll see what life was like for a Victorian slate miner via two spectacular underground tours. On the deep mine tour you’ll descend nearly 500ft on Europe’s steepest mining cable railway and be guided on your tour by the ghost of a 12 year old miner. On the miner’s tramway tour you’ll travel half a mile on the underground train to learn about the working conditions of the slate quarrymen and the tools they used.
Back above ground there’s a Victorian miner’s village with a bank that mints its own special coins for use in the shops on the site. The village has a pub serving light meals and snacks, an old-fashioned sweet shop, a traditional village store and much more.
4. King Arthur’s Labyrinth
At Corris, in Southern Snowdonia, is one of the region’s favourite family attractions – King Arthur’s Labyrinth. Here you’ll take an underground boat trip in ancient caverns, steered by a Dark Ages boatman towards a gushing waterfall, where you’ll be transported back in time by stories of King Arthur’s deeds and adventures. On other parts of the tour you’ll walk through vast underground caverns and winding tunnels, all the while learning about Arthur’s clashes with giants and dragons and his battles for the good of all Britain.
Back above ground you’ll learn more about Arthur in the Bard’s Quest attraction, plus there’s the Corris Craft Centre where you can watch craftsmen producing a range of gorgeous items that are available to buy as souvenirs of your visit.
5. Llanfair Slate Caverns
The slate at Chwarel Hen Llanfair – Llanfair Slate Caverns, Llanfair, near Harlech – is among the oldest in the world, and just going through the entrance is like entering another world. What’s really amazing about these caverns – once you get over the initial awe at their vast size – is that they were made by man, over a hundred years ago, by candlelight. As you emerge from the caverns at the end of the tour you’re faced with another awe-inspiring sight: the view of Cardigan Bay, from the Preseli Mountains in the south right up to Snowdonia’s very own Llyn Peninsula.
Back above ground there’s a separate attraction, for which there’s an additional charge: a children’s farm park, where your little ones can cuddle baby rabbits and feed lambs and baby goats, and enjoy a nature and woodland walk. There’s also souvenir shop and a cafe where you can refresh yourself after exploring the mines.