Many people on holiday would prefer a relaxing, fun-under-the-sun vacation. However, when in Wales, one particular activity to participate in is anything but that.
Caving was an experience I’ll never forget. We (our own group of 10) were led by our tour guide to the foot of a huge hill, in the middle of a beautiful slate mine (which I admit is not the description you’d immediately think of).
In the Victorian era, the demand for slate was extremely high, so the great mountain that once stood there was taken apart for extraction. It was a very wasteful process, which left unused slate piled up in large masses. As our guide said, everything we were walking on had been put there by human hand.
Our enthusiastic tour guide led us up one of the rolling hills, through a beautiful moss-covered forest with sparkling streams until we arrived at a small hole in an almost boarded-up entrance to a mine. The walk had been steep, long and sweaty but the views from the top made it so worth it.
The mine was just as the miners had left it. There were no main lights, safety barriers, or concrete floors. The only safety gear we had were hard hats with head torches and a harness which we could hook onto guide ropes in certain places. It was chilly (about 10 degrees Celsius) so we were advised to wear layers, waterproofs and wellington boots.
The caves were stunning, with glittering glowstone on the walls. We came up to an underground lake which had two boats – using the oars provided, we had to cross this dark, cold pool. On the other side we met our next challenge – a dark, 30-metre-deep lake and a zip wire. In turns, we crossed this which was not for the fainthearted.
There were no more traversing-across-water activities but more excitement (and water) was yet to come. The paths became steeper and everyone began to duck their heads until we had to climb almost vertically through tunnels. Our guide explained that this cave had been the first in the world to use the core-mining technique; a way to find out what type of rocks were underneath it and how far down they were. At one point we had to scale a vertical wall, finding natural footholds to help ourselves up.
The end of our underground experience required us to climb up another small tunnel, but this time our tour guide diverted water from above to drench us as we made our way up the slippery wall towards the light. The exhilarating 5 hour adventure had made us (a party of adults and kids from age 10 upwards with varying levels of fitness) happy, soaking, cold and exhausted but no one regretted it. If you do go to the north of Wales this is a must-do activity! Go below Wales.