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Snowdonia’s Industrial Heritage

Published on 14 Feb 2014 by Gwion Llwyd

Cwm Orddin | Abandoned slate village
Snowdonia is one of the most scenic and serene areas of the UK, attracting thousands of tourists each year to take in majestic views over the rolling countryside and tackle Wales’ tallest mountain. However, as well as being known for its beauty, Snowdonia has a strong industrial heritage dating back hundreds of years, with both farming and mining playing a valuable part in shaping the landscape we see today.

North Wales is known for in beautiful natural scenery, but it was once and industrial heartland, abundant in materials such as slate, copper and gold. While these supplies may largely have dried up and made way for other industries, strong indicators of Snowdonia’s industrial heritage remain to educate later generations about the way people used to live in this part of the world.

We naturally like to think that visitors to the area often find that basing themselves in a self-catering holiday cottage for the duration of their stay is the ideal way to explore some of Snowdonia’s most interesting and historical sites. There is a multitude of different experiences to both educate and entertain.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns, for example, used to employ hundreds of workers to shift slate from underground to the surface using a series of tunnels which often stretched more than a mile below the surface. Today, it is one of the prime tourist attractions near historic mining town Blaenau Ffestiniog and truly allows visitors to travel into the past by taking Dewi the little yellow train into the depths. A valuable learning experience, guides will also teach visitors about the tools and mining methods which once made the town one of the most affluent slate mining communities in the UK.

Snowdonia's Industrial Heritage

If you choose a self-catering holiday cottage in Porthmadog on your visit to North Wales, you can travel to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns using another piece of history – The Ffestiniog Railway. Originally created to transport slate mined in the caverns to the coast, it now provides a scenic route through Snowdonia National Park whilst remaining true to its steam-powered roots.

In keeping with the slate theme, Llanberis National Slate Museum will expand upon information and educational materials provided by the guides at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Taking a day to go back through history and view the struggles faced by miners through first-hand accounts and photography from the time is invaluable, and we also recommend taking a picnic lunch to enjoy gazing across the expanse of the picturesque Llyn Padarn.

Yet slate is by no means the only industrial aspect of Snowdonia, as copper also played it’s part in shaping the North Wales we know today. This becomes apparent as soon as you set foot in the Sygun Copper Mine. Having won the Prince of Wales award for tourism, this outstanding attraction offers visitors the chance to explore the mine in their own time and at their own pace via a self-guided audio visual tour, and even offers the opportunity to view silver, gold and other precious metals still embedded in its walls.

Conversely, Trefriw Woollen Mills demonstrate exactly how Snowdonia’s industrial heritage lives on in the present day, blending traditional weaving techniques with modern technologies in order to persevere in creating beautiful blankets, travelling rugs and tweeds. As well as witnessing the manufacturing process first hand, visitors can learn a little more about how this art has transformed through the ages – and, of course, can take advantage of the incredibly well stocked shop to purchase their winter woollies at the same time!


If you are looking for something a little more adrenaline-fuelled in your discovery of North Wales, nothing gets the blood pumping faster than Zip World Bethesda’s 500 foot high, 100 mile per hour thrill ride over a mountain lake. Having received much media coverage since opening and earning the accolade of “longest and fastest zip wire in Europe”, any adrenaline junkie worth their salt will be desperate to experience the nearest thing to flying over North Wales for themselves!

After speeding through the air, a great way to simmer down and explore Snowdonia at a more leisurely pace is by taking to Drovers Roads for a nice relaxing hike in the countryside. If we step a little further back in history, these roads were used for centuries to drive cattle and sheep from remote farms to the local market – after all, in the days before refrigerated trucks, the best way to guarantee meat would be fresh upon arrival was to walk it into town! While these tracks are much quieter these days, expect to meet a few inquisitive cows and sheep along the way.

In order to make the most of your visit to North Wales, it is important to ensure you have the space and freedom to explore as well as a home base to return to at the end of the day. Our self-catering holiday cottages are ideal in allowing you to come and go as you please, and are comfortable refuges for the whole family to enjoy. In fact, the only problem you will find is the inability to tear yourself away at the end of your stay!

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