The largest prehistoric mine in the world

By now you’ve probably realised that Wales has three things aplenty: sheep, castles and mines.
Wales was famous for it’s coal mining throughout the 19th and early 20th century and had substantial slate mines but there had been small-scale mining in the country since the British Iron Age. Gold, copper and lead were mined in substantial quantities, zinc and silver not quite as much, until it wasn’t profitable any more.

I finally got to visit the Great Orme Copper Mines properly this year (with my parents in tow). Located half way up the Great Orme in Llandudno, it is the largest Bronze Age mine in the world and was uncovered in 1987 during a scheme to landscape an area of the Great Orme. Since then it has been an ongoing archaeological project of slowly uncovering bit by bit.

On the surface you can tour parts of the opencast mine which is over 4,000 years old and take a look down a deep Victorian mine shaft.

Walking through the 3,500 year old tunnels you get a feel for the harsh conditions copper mining involved in those days and it always dazzles me what the people of that age were able to accomplish using only stone hammers and bone.

The tunnels take you down to the second level which is approximately 60ft below the surface and it gets really cold and damp down there. If you feel claustrophobic easily this might not be the right place fore you. Only 3% of the tunnels are open to the public at the moment so some follow up visits might be required in the future.

And if you feel like you need some open air afterwards just make your way up to the top of the Great Orme with its stunning view.


More hills to climb – Clwydian Range

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

Well, I don’t think he was referring to geographical features but in the Clwydian Range you can take this quite literally.


Moel Famau and the Jubilee Tower

The range of hill lies on the border between Denbighshire and Flintshire in Wales and has been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1985. The highest hill is Moel Famau (555m) with the Jubilee Tower on its summit. And even though the tower marked a joyous occasion it’s kind of a sad story really.


Only the base is left of the tower

The Jubilee Tower was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of King George III in 1810. Designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester it was supposed to look like an Egyptian obelisk with three tiers. Supposed to – due to a lack of funds it was never completed and a major storm brought down the incomplete tower in 1862. The remaining upper part of the tower was demolished for safety reasons, leaving just the base. Rubble and smaller stonework was reused by local farmers for dry stone walls.


Even what little remains of the Jubilee Tower can be seen from far away.


Love those carvings, the top one dates from 1850

So instead of finding a magnificent structure, you are rewarded with spectacular views across the Wirral and Merseyside to the east and across to the coast, Snowdonia and the Dee Valley to the west and south.


Looking towards the Dee Estuary, you can just make out Flintshire Bridge


The views are fantastic.


The path I came up is visible on the left. Ruthin can be seen in the background.

You can also see the chain of Iron Age Hillforts that follow the range on the other hill tops. About 2500 years ago these peaks were occupied and defended and had huge earth ramparts constructed around them.


Moel Arthur. You can clearly see the earthen banks and ditches.

You might think, that being on the highest hill already it would be quite easy to visit these. Not quite. It goes down. And up. A lot.


And down and up the hill again…

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

All the while during my hike I didn’t quite know where to look because the views were so beautiful all the time. And once I had left Moel Famau it was so quiet. No man-made noise, just me and nature.