Located in Gwynedd, Wales, Llechwedd Slate Caverns is a tourist attraction preserving the historic Llechwedd quarry area, offering funicular railway rides, an interpretive center, a recreated miner’s village, and underground ride attractions. Though inquiries into the resources of the Llechwedd Farm area began as early as 1831, the Llechwedd slate quarry was opened for mining and production in 1846 under the supervision of mining entrepreneur John Whitehead Greaves.
Greaves had been a prominent figure in the operation of the Blaenau Ffestiniog slate quarries and had been influential in opening the Ffestiniog Railway, which connected the quarries’ resources to the nearby port of Porthmadog. Development of the Llechwedd quarry began in 1847, with the installation of an incline to connect the quarry with the Ffestiniog Railway at Dinas. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, the quarry grew to an operational peak of producing 23,788 tons of slate in 1884, with peak employment of more than 500 employees. Electrical power was introduced to the mines in 1890, making the quarry the first in the area to utilize hydroelectric power generation. While production at the quarry continued steadily throughout the First and Second World Wars, the demand for slate as a resource fell steeply in the 1960s and supplemental income became needed to continue operation of the quarry as a viable business model.
In 1972, Llechwedd Slate Caverns was opened to the public as a tourist attraction, showcasing the history of the quarry as a historic resource for the Llechwedd community. Originally operating under the name “Quarry Tours,” the attraction first offered funicular rides for tourists to travel underground and see the mines as part of guided tours. The original Miner’s Tramway ride was closed in 2014, but a Deep Mine funicular still operates today. Substantial renovations were made to the attraction in 2014, including the addition of an interpretive center, miner’s village, and underground ride attractions.
Permanent Attractions and Tours
Today, the Llechwedd slate quarry is still operated on a limited mining-operations basis, owned and operated in conjunction with the nearby Votty and Bowydd, Maenofferen, and Rhiwbach quarries. Open cast mining techniques are utilized at all four of the quarries, though the tourist attraction serves as the primary means of income for the company. As a family-friendly entertainment park and living history museum, Llechwedd Slate Caverns has been named as one of the top ten visitor attractions in the North Wales area by the North Wales Tourism board and is the winner of a number of major regional tourism awards.
Several guided tours of the mining quarry areas are offered for visitors, including a Deep Mine Tour, which takes participants 500 feet down into the mine’s underground area on a funicular car railway traveling at a gradient slope of 30 degrees, the steepest passenger railway of its kind anywhere within the United Kingdom. Light projection technology and enhanced-reality multmedia designed by Eurodisney is featured throughout the ride, showcasing the history of the quarry, its founder, and the stories of its workers. A half-hour walkthrough tour is offered at the end of the ride’s descent, traveling through a number of the mines’ chambers and tunnels. Tours are offered every half hour throughout the day during park operating days and are available in Welsh and English. Other tour opportunities include a Quarry Explorer off-roading guided tour in a 4x4 military vehicle, a Slate Workshops Tour, which allows participants to try their hand at slate splitting, and a Walk In The Footsteps Tour, which takes participants on a walking excursion through mine areas. Specialized curriculum-incorporated tours are also available for primary and secondary school student groups.
Other attractions at the facility include an interpretive center, which documents the history of slate mining in Wales and the operation of the Llechwedd quarry through a variety of interactive exhibits and multimedia experiences, and a recreation of the original miner’s village at Llechwedd, which allows visitors to explore traditional building replicas and experience the daily lives of miners in the 19th century. Several underground ride attractions were added to the park in 2014, including a Bounce Below underground trampoline, the largest of its kind in the world, a Zip World Caverns underground wire course, and a mountain biking track area. An onsite cafe area offers traditional Welsh dishes using locally-sourced ingredients, including slate-cavern aged cheddar from South Caernarfon Creameries, while a recreated quarryman’s pub serves adult beverages from Great Orme and Purple Moose Breweries. An onsite gift shop also sells a variety of products using slate sourced from the quarry’s mines, including wine racks, coasters, tea lights, and key rings.
A470, Blaenau Ffestiniog LL41 3NB, UK, Phone: +44-17-66-83-03-06