Tuesday 28 August 2012

North Wales Part 2: Industrial Heritage

Finally got time to follow on from Part 1 of what we got up to in Wales. That was all about castles this time we its about the parts of the Welsh Industrial Heritage we visited on our holiday.

Ffestiniog Railway

This was a day out for all 3 generations as the Ffestiniog Railway takes you on a steam journey up through Snowdonia from Porthmadog on the coast to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the heart of slate country. There are some lovely views on the way including a distant view of Snowdon itself:

The journey took about an hour and 3/4 and has a few stops at little stations on the way. Many of them looked tempting to get off and explore the wonderful woods and walks in the National Park but we were on a mission to visit the slate caverns at Llechwedd outside Blaenau. 

When we got off the train in the pouring rain and used a mini bus taxi to get to the slate caverns.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Llechwedd is a working slate operation but they have opened up the old underground workings as a tourist attraction. You can wander around the surface for free but to go underground you have to buy a ticket. We opted to do both the tramway and the deep mine tours.

The tramway took us into the old workings so we could see the conditions that the Victorian miners had to cope with for 12 hours a day 5 days a week (only 6 on a Saturday!). They gave us a talk on how they extracted the slate and the lives of the quarrymen who generally died by their early 40s due to the lung diseases caused by stone particles. It was cold and damp in the mines and it must have been a very tough job.

We then explored the restored little village on the surface and had lunch in a pub made out of 2 former miner's cottages. There was a little quiz for the children that needed answers from many of the buildings in this area including a sweet shop:

Then we queued for nearly an hour to take our Deep Mine tour, luckily my daughter made friends with the children behind us and my son played games on the iPhone. It was well worth the wait though as we descended deep down approximately 500 feet below the ground. It was even colder and damper down here and they keep the lighting to a minimum to show you what it was like:

Down here there were more factual displays about miners lives and events. It all made for an interesting tour and there were also some lovely water filled areas. 

It was then back to the station for a return train ride:

This time we had a good chance to look at the steam locomotive which pulled our train as it needed to re-fill with water after a fast ascent up from Porthmadog:

They are double ended as they needed the extra power to pull the loads of slate down to the coast from the slate works. It was a drier journey back down to Porthmadog with more lovely views of woods, mountains and even Harlech castle in the distance. A lovely journey back in time and the railway and the stations have been wonderfully restored by the volunteers:

All in all a wonderful family day out for all the generations and a peek at the industrial heritage of North Wales.

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