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The Great Orme Mines (Llandudno)

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City: Llandudno

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      17.02.2005 17:32
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      I have already done opinions about the Great Orme here in Llandudno and the Tramway that runs up to the sunmmit so I thought I'd tell you all about the Bronze Age Copper Mines that are next to the half way tram station.

      For those of you who haven't read about the Great Orme it is the headland that separates the two beaches of Llandudno, The North Shore and The West Shore (where we live).

      The Bronze Age Mines are about half way up and can be reached by road (there’s a decent sized car park), by means of The Great Orme Tramway (the mines are right by the halfway stop) or by good old-fashioned Shanks’ Pony – that’s walking for the uninitiated amongst you!

      When you get there, the first building you enter is the visitor centre, which contains a shop selling crystals, fool’s gold, fossils, Celtic jewellery, etc., as well as the usual pencils, erasers, notebooks etc. that we all associate with tourist attractions these days. There is also a good range of second hand books on sale – I got a Jilly Cooper for £1 – and there’s a tearoom where you can enjoy a cuppa whilst you’re browsing through the books.

      To take the tour of the mines you must first pay – there had to be a catch didn’t there? The costs currently are as follows:

      Adults £4.50
      Children £3.00
      Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children) £12.50
      Under Fives go free
      10% discount for groups of more than ten people

      When you pay for your ticket you will be given a brochure telling you a bit about the mines and the 6 points of the tour. You can also buy a tour guide for £1, but we didn’t bother with this.

      Come with me and I will take you on the tour…..

      AUDIO VISUAL

      The first stop is a room with church pews and a TV and video recorder where you are invited to sit and watch two short films of about 2 minutes each. One tells a bit about the history of the Orme site itself and the other tells a bit about the process of copper smelting.

      UNDERGROUND TOUR

      On your way out of the Audio Visual presentation you have to don a hard hat. It was here that I was reminded of visiting a similar mine in Cornwall a few years ago and putting my hard hat on the back of my head. My friend announced ‘You’re going down a flipping mine not going to Ascot!’ and promptly pulled it on to the top of my head where it should be. Lucky for me that he did or I would have injured myself quite badly, but I digress.

      Dave and I both wore yellow hats (there was a wide range of colours to choose from you know!) and set off towards the mine entrance. The underground tour just takes you into levels one and two of the mine, travelling down to a depth of about 60 feet although the mines do go down to at least 240 feet. There is no official guided tour, we just made our own way along the tunnels reading the signs, which were placed at strategic intervals and illuminated for ease of reading! The tunnels were damp and could have been quite slippery in places had we not been wearing sensible footwear, so that’s recommended. The tunnel also sloped down and back up quite sharply in places and the lighting was a bit hit and miss too. There were a couple of sets of proper metal stairs where the tunnels were a bit too steep to negotiate though.

      The tunnel was fairly narrow and got very narrow in places so it’s a bit of a sizist tour I’m afraid, so it's no good going if you're claustrophobic! I got though OK and I am a size 18/20 but I was touching the walls on both sides in one or two places. There is obviously no wheelchair access to this part of the tour.

      SURFACE ARCHAEOLOGY

      This is just the view of the prehistoric landscape as we walked from the underground tour to the great opencast above.

      THE GREAT OPENCAST

      This is the oldest part of the complex and was mined over 4,000 years ago.

      THE BRIDGE AND VIVIAN’S SHAFT

      We then walked over a wooden footbridge upon which there was a button, which we pressed and heard a voice telling us about the surrounding area and Vivian’s Shaft. This is a shaft which is 470 feet deep reaching down to sea level.

      SMELTING SITE

      This is a small shed with various items showing how the copper was smelted and turned into bronze. This one has about half a dozen numbered boards for you to read so that you can follow what is going on.

      Around the site there are numerous large boards with maps, diagrams and information for you to look at and there is always an archaeologist on site to answer any questions you might have.

      Work began on excavating the mines back in the 1980’s when they were first discovered, as the area was being landscaped. The mines are still ebing excavated and it is intended to extend the current underground tour into more of the caves once they have been made safe.

      On your way out you return back through the visitor centre and shop – no surprise there then! I did buy a lovely piece of agate for 50p, which will apparently help with my courage and strength.

      The mines are open every day from the beginning of February until the end of October each year from 10am until 5pm.

      The address of the mines is:

      Great Orme Mines Ltd
      Great Orme
      Llandudno
      North Wales
      LL30 2XG
      Tel/Fax (01492) 870447

      And there is also a website at www.greatorme.freeserve.co.uk

      There is also a very nice tea rooms a couple of minutes walk from the mines where they sell tea, coffee, cakes and a few light lunches. We have been in there a couple fo times and the food is very good.



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