Llechwedd Slate Caverns near Blaenau Ffestiniog.
For an interesting day trip why not visit the Llechwedd Slate Caverns near Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Explore the heritage of the Victorian slate era.
There is a tramway which dates back to 1846 and you can visit the deep caverns where slate was first discovered.
Boarding a train in a corner of the original slate slabbing mill of 1852, visitors now ride into an 1846 tunnel, hauled by battery-electric locomotive. Entering through the side of the mountain this journey into the early Victorian past remains on the level, and traverses some spectacular caverns.
Visitors descend on Britain’s steepest passenger railway, with a gradient of 1:1.8, to make the Deep Mine tour. They travel in a specially made 24-seat car, on a track with a gauge of 3ft (0.914m).
Pentre Llechwedd, meaning Llechwedd Village, was one of two residential communities which grew amid the surface workings of the mine. At its peak, in 1904, Llechwedd employed 639 men, and Pentre Llechwedd was the hub of the operation, with offices in what is now the Slates to the Sea exhibition.
The rear extension is still known as the “Lloyd George office” – added for the extra administration arising out of his health insurance legislation of 1911, which introduced sick pay of 10s (50p) a week, reduced by half after 13 weeks.
The most prominent building on Y Maes (the local Welsh name for the village Square) is Crimea House, bearing the date 1854 – the year of the Crimean War, when the first turnpike road was laid from Beaver Pool toll house, near Betws-y-coed, to Penrhyndeudraeth, through what is now known as the Crimea Pass. J.W.Greaves, founder of Llechwedd, paid the turnpike trustees £75 to bridge their road over his new incline connecting his mills to the Ffestiniog Railway.
Beside Crimea House is Siop y Gomel (i.e. Corner Shop) of Angharad Ellis. Both sell a variety of confectionery made to Victorian recipes.
Remember how sweet shops used to be years ago? Well go ahead, indulge yourself – for you may never see such a variety elsewhere.
Behind the, shops is Victoria Street, beside which the Victorian river-flushed privies are preserved as an exhibit.
Steps by Siop y Gomel lead to Tavern Row where there are two small workshops, one labelled Swyddfa’r Herald, meaning Herald Office, to remind us that Llechwedd was the editorial agency for the Caernarvon & Denbigh Herald during 1858-1908.