Dan Yr Ogof was discovered in 1912 by two farmers the “Morgan Bros”. They found the caves by accident while trying to find the source of the river that has always flowed from the Dan Yr Ogof entrance. This water was vital to the farm for human drinking water, and also for watering all the animals they kept.
The Brothers first went in to the caves entrance in June 1912 equipped only with candles, and a rope. After a short period of exploring in the river entrance they suddenly entered large cave passageways. With no map to follow they simply drew arrows in the sand on the floor, pointing in the direction they had just come from.
Later on in their travels through the caves they encountered huge underground lakes, and to cross them they used a Welsh coracle. The first use of a coracle for cave exploration! On their explorations they crossed numerous lakes, even climbing waterfalls to further their exploration.
The Morgan Bros were keen photographers, and their black and white pictures were some of the first to be taken in Welsh caves.
Following their discovery they then started to take “tourists” underground.
Tourists in those days were expected to wade through icy cold water, and still keep their candle alight as they went round exploring the passageways. This new source of income was soon more important than the farming side, and the Morgan Bros were probably one of the first to diversify from farming in to tourism.
In 1937 the Morgan’s started to really develop the caves following a fact finding mission to Cheddar. Dan Yr Ogof was slowly transformed in to a traditional showcave with concrete pathways, safety rails, and was lit up by a hydro electric plant brought over from France. The first time a cave had been illuminated by water power in Britain.
However, in 1939 World War Two started and the army took over the caves for the entire war period. Thousands of tons of explosives were stored in the caves, along with art treasures from all over Britain. In fact two armed guards were on duty at the site for the entire war period.
After the war the original Morgan’s were elderly, and development stalled for many years. It was not until 1964 that the site took off again under the directorship of younger members of their family. In the following years, the necessary facilities to make a visitor centre were added – Coffee Shop and Souvenir Shop. Hand in hand with these developments came additions to the visitor experience –
• 2 new caves were opened to the public – Cathedral Cave and Bone Cave.
• The first life-sized dinosaur models arrived on site in 1977, today we have over 200 models on site making us on one of the largest dinosaur parks in the world!
• A caravan and tenting area has been added to the site.
• Self catering accommodation has been created, with 16 units situated on the hillside over-looking the Upper Swansea Valley. Activities associated with this development include a dry ski slope, heated indoor swimming pool, crazy golf course and tennis course.
• In the early 1990s the Shire Horse Centre was added to the list of attractions available to visitors, this area alone now includes 2 large indoor play areas, the magnificent Shire horses who we now breed, the amazingly friendly farmyard animals, and the tableau scenes showing how the Morgan Bros. farmed the land back in Victorian times.
• The magnificent Cathedral Cave also hosts weddings, over 200 couples have now said “I do” with us.
• Ancillary attractions such as our recreated Iron Age Farm, Fossil House, and Stone Circles add to the overall visitor experience.
• You can visit Father Christmas in Wales’ only natural underground grotto during the month of December – over 5,000 school children per annum have during the last 10 years!
• The site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve.
• Today the caves are the largest Showcaves complex in Northern Europe, and are still run by descendants of the original Morgan family. • Using modern technology we are updating our hydro-electric generating ability. On completion of this project (October 2011), we will be able to generate enough electricity on site to accommodate all of our needs – making us a carbon neutral visitor attraction, the only attraction in the UK able to claim this!
The site employs 60+ directly, all of whom are involved in the day to day running of the site.
Four of the full time staff are Directors of the company who have worked their way up from part time positions.
Currently the visitor attraction attracts 85,000 visitors per annum
12,000 school children visit the caves FREE of charge thanks to a sponsorship arrangement between the Countryside Council for Wales and the National Showcaves Centre for Wales.
Nearly 1,000 light bulbs are used to light the underground passageways.
The natural cave formations grow at the rate of 1 cubic millimetre every 10 years!
The entire length of the explored cave system is over 12 miles long.
Three students have gained doctorates from work related to the caves.