Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Exploring Snowdonia with Attractions of Snowdonia

Snowdonia scenery

This week we've been enjoying a short family holiday in Snowdonia. For one day of our holiday, we were invited by Attractions of Snowdonia to spend a day exploring some of the local places to visit. Attractions of Snowdonia is a group of 27 different attractions in the heart of North Wales, and they have recently enlisted Deri the Roaming Welsh Dragon as a mascot. We were sent our very own Deri Dragon cuddly toy to take with us on our day out.

These are the places that we chose to visit:

Sygun Copper Mine

Sygun Copper Mine entrance

Visiting Sygun Copper Mine gives you the opportunity to explore the workings of the old mine on a self-guided audiovisual tour. The mine was abandoned in 1903, and the tour gives you a glimpse into the life of a Victorian copper miner.

You enter the mine through a long tunnel cut into the hillside, and at various points on the tour you can stop and listen to information about what you are seeing, with a few dressed mannequins along the way to help bring it to life. The main tour has quite a few steps, which you can avoid, although this will considerably shorten your visit.

It was pretty dark and cold inside the mine and I wasn't sure how the children would take it, but luckily they were both fine, and we were all able to climb up the stairs with no problems. I enjoyed the flexibility of a self-guided tour, as we could move at our own pace through the different areas if something wasn't holding Mia's attention. Inside the mines you can see some of the equipment and learn about the mining process. There are also caves that you can look into where you can see stalactites and stalagmites that have formed.

At the end of the tour you emerge blinking from the hillside to some beautiful views and a lovely little walk back down to the entrance. There's also a small museum with various interesting fossils and other historical artifacts.

Sygun Copper Mine review

If you are visiting with young children, do be aware that there are several long flights of steep steps and that the ground inside the mine is uneven. Children really need to be old enough to walk through the mine themselves, and it's quite cold inside with lots of puddles. Also make sure that you wear the hard hats which are provided, because it's very easy to bump your head! But I'd definitely recommend a visit for curious children.

Llanberis Lake Railway

Llanberis Lake Railway review

If you want to see Snowdonia by rail you have several different options, even including a train ride to the actual top of Snowdon. For our visit we chose the Llanberis Lake Railway, because we liked the sound of the route around the lake and because the journey time - about an hour round trip - looked perfectly suited to our small children.

Gilfach Ddu station

From Sygun Copper Mine it was about a half hour drive to the railway. Because we were combining our visit with a trip to the National Slate Museum we parked in the large Gwynedd Council car park (£4 for the day) and began our journey at Gilfach Ddu station. From Gilfach Ddu the train takes you into Llanberis, where passengers can also board the train, and then you backtrack for the main part of your journey alongside the beautiful Padarn Lake. You travel to the end of the line before turning back. The train track runs right along the edge of the lake, and the scenery really is lovely. It was a rather grey day, but we still saw people out canoeing on the lake, and walking alongside the train track.

Lake Padarn Snodonia

On the return journey the train stops for a few minutes at Cei Llydan station, a pretty little stop where you can stay for longer if you like and catch a later train back. We visited on a rainy day and so we didn't stop for long, but because it was Bank Holiday week there was a Teddy Bear's Picnic activity taking place which was a lovely touch. Some of the staff were dressed up as bears, and all the children were given a voucher for a free picnic box filled with picnic food, which they very much enjoyed! The station was also decorated with bears, and a group of teddies enjoying a picnic on a bench.

If you have young children I'd definitely recommend a ride, the journey is a nice length for little ones and there is also plenty of opportunity to see the train in action as it moves from end to end of the train when it changes direction! If the weather had been nicer then we would definitely have stopped at Cei Llydan to eat a picnic, and enjoy the play area and the lovely setting.

National Slate Museum

National Slate Museum review

We finished our day with a visit to the National Slate Museum, located right next to Gilfach Ddu station and free to visit. Housed in the industrial engineering workshops for the former Dinorwig slate quarry, the museum tells the story of the Welsh slate industry, and is well worth a visit.

National Slate Museum Snowdonia

There was plenty to see. The children particularly enjoyed climbing up to see the huge Water Wheel - the largest on the British mainland - which was used to power a great number of machines including drills and lathes that operated in the different workshops. Harry was also fascinated to watch a huge chainsaw cutting through a large block of slate, and I liked visiting the reconstructed Quarrymen's Houses - four houses which have been rebuilt at the museum, with each furnished in a style that reflects a different period significant to the slate industry.

National Slate Museum playground

The rain held off for a quick trip to the playground at the museum, and then we ended our visit in the children's craft area where we paid £1 for Harry to decorate a piece of slate with pens and glittery stickers. It looks really good, and will make a lovely souvenir! There was also lots of colouring that children could do for free, and so Mia decorated a Welsh flag.

National Slate Museum crafting decorating slate

We had a great day exploring these family attractions in Snowdonia! Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as I will be writing about some of the other places that we have visited on our holiday in Wales.

In exchange for this review we received a Deri cuddly toy, and complimentary admission to the Sygun Copper Mine and the Llanberis Lake Railway. The National Slate Museum is free to visit.

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