The landscape of Snowdonia may be lush and nature-rich, but that’s not to say man hasn’t had a hand in shaping it. Here are five great Snowdonia attractions with an emphasis on industrial heritage.
With its lush, wildlife-rich landscape of endless countryside it’s easy to forget that Snowdonia has a rich industrial heritage. Slate, wool, copper, gold – all have played their part in Snowdonia’s industrial heritage, and in many cases continue to do so.
If you’re interested in getting a feel for the role industry has played in Snowdonia’s history, there are several excellent industrial heritage attractions worth visiting. Here’s a handful of our favourites.
The National Slate Museum
The Dinorwic Quarry closed in 1969, but if you visit today it’s as if the workers have laid down their tools for a spot of lunch and will be back shortly.
A visit to the National Slate Museum is fascinating for all the family. You’ll get to explore the workers’ homes and workshops, and learn about their lives and the hardships they (and the slate industry) faced. This museum isn’t just about artefacts; it’s very much about real people.
Look out also for the talks and demonstrations, including slate splitting, blacksmithing and carpentry. There are special events throughout the year, so keep an eye on the National Slate Museum website before you visit, to see what’s on.
Trefriw Woollen Mills
Originally, Trefriw Woollen Mills was a ‘pandy’ (a fulling mill) and used the fast running waters of the River Crafnant to drive the waterwheels and wash the wool.
After operating for thirty years, the mill was bought in 1859 by Thomas Williams – and is still owned and operated by his descendants.
When you visit the mill you’ll be able to browse the shop and buy goods that have been made on-site, but the real fun starts when you visit the workshops and see the machinery in action. There are hydro-electric turbines and Dobcross looms, and at the right time of year you can see spinning demonstrations and even have a go at weaving on a hand loom. Entry is free but seasonal opening hours are in operation – see the Trefriw Woollen Mills website for details.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns
Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, is a fantastic attraction for all the family. Here you’ll learn about Snowdonia’s slate industry again – but this time, from the point of view of a twelve year old boy who worked at Llechwedd in Victorian times. There are two underground tours: the deep mine tour, which takes you on a train journey some 500ft underground, and the miners’ tramway tour, where you’ll ride a little yellow train called Dewi!
The underground tours are fantastic – they’re exciting as well as interesting – but what else is there to do at Llechwedd?
The workshops are worth a visit; you can even order a personalised slate house name plate in the morning before you start your tour, and collect it in the afternoon when your tour’s finished. There’s a children’s play area and mini-tour; and there are some excellent shops (including a Victorian sweetshop) and a cafe serving good home cooked food (including a local speciality, ‘lobscows’ – a hearty stew of meat and vegetables).
Inigo Jones Slate Works
Yes, slate again! This time it’s Inigo Jones Slate Works, just outside Caernarfon. What’s really great about this attraction is how interactive it all is. During your visit you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at calligraphy, and engrave a piece of slate that you’ll be able to take home with you.
The self-guided tours are fascinating and fun. There’s a video presentation to start you off, and then you can wander at your own pace through the workshops and see the machinery and crafters at work, and children can take part in a quiz and win a prize made of slate.
The shop at Inigo Jones is well-stocked with slate goods for the home and garden, as well as other Welsh and Celtic-themed gifts, books, music and much more. And there’s also an on-site cafe where as well as having a delicious lunch, you’ll learn about the history of Welsh music (well, it is the ‘Welsh Rock Cafe’ after all!)
Sygun Copper Mine
More underground digging – but this time it’s copper, not slate, that was mined. At Sygun Copper Mine, Beddgelert – a winner of the Prince of Wales Award for tourism – you’ll be amazed at the sight of the glittering veins of gold, silver and copper ore running through the rock.
This is another attraction where the tour is self-guided, and you’ll explore the old mine workings on foot in complete safety. Explore winding tunnels and large chambers, see stalactite and stalagmite formations, and get a fascinating glimpse into life as a Victorian copper miner.
Back above ground, additional activities include a museum, an adventure playground, lake and mountain walks, and for an additional charge gold panning, pottery painting and metal detecting.