The North West Wales slate landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of four prestigious awards in Wales given by the United Nations recognising its cultural attraction. We have put together places for your clients to visit which can be included in itineraries.

There are six areas within the North West Wales slate landscape which provided much employment to communities in the region from as early as the 18th century. They mined and produced slate which was used to construct palaces, buildings and roofs around the world.

Penrhyn Slate Quarry and Bethesda and the Ogwen Valley to Port Penrhyn

Zip World Penrhyn Quarry is home to the fastest zip line in the world. Clients will travel over 100 miles per hour (161 km per hour) through the world’s largest slate quarry and above a blue reservoir on Velocity 2. The Quarry Tour will take visitors on a journey around the quarry in a former army truck where they will learn the history of the industry. Other options include travelling down the quarry through twisty bends and tunnels in a three-wheeled Quarry Kart or gliding around a 400m track with views of the quarry on Aero Explorer.

People ziplining through a disused slate quarry.
A red touring truck driving through a quarry.
A go cart travelling down a slalom obstacle course of tyres and tunnels at a former slate quarry.

Velocity 2, Quarry Tour and Quarry Karts

The neo-Norman Penrhyn Castle was built between 1820 and 1837. The luxurious rooms in the vast castle are elaborately decorated and include a large art collection and gothic carved stairways, which suited the opulent living of the Pennant family, who also owned Penrhyn Slate Quarry. One of the main features to see is a one ton slate bed. The stable block is now a railway museum for industrial steam trains (which once operated at Penrhyn Quarry) and model railways. Amongst the 60 acres of ground is a Victorian walled garden and an exotic tree and shrub collection. A short welcome introduction for coach groups is available on or off the coach.  

There are many walking routes in the area. Lon Las Ogwen is an 11 mile (17.7 km) route which passes Penrhyn Quarry. Part of the walk is on a purpose built path which was once a railway line, where narrow gauge engines would bring slate to Bethesda over the Glasinfryn viaduct from the quarries.

A castle tower surrounded by trees in winter.
The village of Bethesda overlooked by Penrhyn Slate Quarry.

Penrhyn Castle and, the village of Bethesda overlooked by Penrhyn Slate Quarry

Dinorwig Slate Quarry Mountain Landscape

There are 800 acres to explore at Llyn Padarn Country Park. The four main walking routes makes the most of the slate quarry landscape and attractions. The Lake Walk is 5 miles (8 km) and takes around 2hrs 30mins. The Nature Trail is 1.2 miles (2km) and would take 1hr 30mins. There are two options for the  Woodland Walk – the short trail - 1.8 miles (3 km) (1hr 30mins) and the long trail - 2.5 miles (4 km) (2hrs 30mins). The Vivian Trail also has two options – the lower trail - 1 mile (1.5km) (1hr) and top trail - 3.1 miles (5km) (2hrs 30mins). There is suitable parking for coach and minibuses. The National Slate Museum, Dolbadarn Castle and Llanberis Lake Railway are accessible from the start of all walks.

Discover how slate was crafted by the quarrymen and the history of the slate industry at the National Slate Museum. There are talks and demonstrations and guided tours for groups.

A lake surrounded by mountains.
An aerial view of a slate museum.

Llyn Padarn Country Park and, National Slate Museum

The 5 mile (8 km) round trip on the Llanberis Lake Railway steam train takes just under 1hr. The journey provides panoramic views of the slate landscape, lake and mountains, including Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). Discounts are available for groups of 15+.

Admission to the ruins of Dolbadarn Castle is free. The main feature is the solitary tower which offer fantastic views once clients have climbed the narrow steps to the top.

Travel to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) with Snowdon Mountain Railway. Clients will start their journey at Llanberis station. The journey takes 1hr each way with a 30min stop-over Hafod Eryri visitor centre. Pre-booking is essential and there is a discount rate for groups of 25+.

A steam train travelling past a lake and mountains.
A castle tower on a sunny day.
A steam train climbing a mountain.

Llanberis Lake Railway, Dolbadarn Castle, and Snowdon Mountain Railway

Nantlle Valley Slate Quarry Landscape

Clients can discover the slate valleys, quarries and small villages of Nantlle and Cilgwyn on five walking routes. The Bro Nantlle Slate Walks range from 3.3 miles (5.3 km) to 5 miles (8 km) and take from 1 to 1.5hrs.

An aerial shot of a slate quarry valley, fields and reservoirs.

Nantlle Valley Slate Quarry Landscape

Gorseddau and Bwlch y Ddwy Elor (Gorseddau and Prince of Wales Slate Quarries, Railways and Mill)

For two decades in the mid 19th century, Gorseddau Slate Quarry was mined until it was abandoned due to poor slate production. The stepped remains of the quarry are still visible on the hillside next to the reservoir. Ynysypandy Slate Mill was built to turn the slates into slabs such as gravestones, and the imposing abbey like structure is worth a visit. The mill is accessible through narrow roads (not recommended for a minibus or coach) or by foot (4.7 miles (7.5 km) from Porthmadog - 1hr 42mins). Remains of the tramway, which transported slate to the mill and Porthmadog harbour, can still be found.

Aerial shot of an abandonded quarry.
Ruins of a former slate mill.

Gorseddau Slate Quarry in Cwm Ystradllyn; and Ynysypandy Slate Mill

Ffestiniog: its Slate Mines and Quarries, ‘city of slates’ and Railway to Porthmadog

There are many attractions in this region for clients, which has capitalised on the slate landscape that surrounds them.

Visit Porthmadog Maritime Museum in the harbour town of Porthmadog (open Easter to Autumn only). It is located in the last remaining slate shed on the harbour. The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are also located in the town. The harbour and railway were both important to the exportation of slate from the quarries. Disembark from the Ffestiniog Railway at Blaenau Ffestiniog, known as the slate capital of the world, home to Zip World Llechwedd and Antur Stiniog. The beautiful landscape of the town is surrounded by screes of broken slate on the hills. There is a range of walks available including a 2.5 mile (4 km) circular town walk.

Zip World Llechwedd offers six adventures. Titan 2 will see clients race down travel down high above the industrial landscape on four seated parallel zip lines. Former army trucks take clients through the slate quarry to the height of 1,400 ft before descending. Underground Golf an 18-hole golf course over four floors and Bounce Below, an adventure offering six trampoline nets are deep in the underground slate cavern centred around the history of the mine. Caverns is also underground and is a challenging course of rope bridges, zip lines and tightropes. The Deep Mine Tour will give clients the full history of the 19th century slate mining industry after travelling on the steepest cable railway in Europe. Big Red offers clients an introduction to zip lines, 30 ft above the ground.

There are 14 bike trails for mountain bike enthusiasts at Antur Stiniog. The slate landscape offers a spectacular backdrop as clients cycle down the twists and turns of the tracks. The bike park offers an uplift service only and bike and equipment hire is available.

Plas Tan y Bwlch is a 1.3 mile (2.1 km) walk from Tan-y-bwlch station on the Ffestiniog Railway line. The estate was owned by the Oakley family from 1789 over two centuries, who were important quarry and land owners. The gardens offer walks around the estate and Llyn (Lake) Mair.

For clients who wish to go caving in the largest and deepest slate mine in the world, Go Below run a range of adventures which last from between 5-7hrs. No previous experience is necessary although clients should be actively fit. The Hero and Ultimate Xtreme challenge which starts at the Tanygrisiau base travels deep into Cwmorthin Slate Mine where they will navigate, climb and  traverse over chasms, ledges and chamber walls. Private trips are offered for groups of up to 10 for Hero Xtreme and up to 12 for Ultimate Xtreme. For the half day Challenge adventure from the Conwy Falls base, groups of up to 35 are accepted. Contact Go Below for more information and booking information.

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Visitors in safety gear climbing steps in an underground mine.

Exploring Cwmorthin slate mine with Go Below

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A steam train passing through a snowy slate quarry.

Ffestiniog Railway travelling through the slate landscape

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Four adventurers travelling down zip liners by a quarry.

Titan 2, Zip World Llechwedd

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exterior view of cavern with visitors stood looking down

Europe's steepest cable railway at Zip World Llechwedd

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People on bouncing nets in a cavern.

Bounce Below at Zip World Llechwedd

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People in an underground cavern.

Deep Mine Tour, Zip World Llechwedd

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Mountain bikers about to start their downhill descent in a former quarry.

Antur Stiniog

Bryneglwys Slate Quarry, Abergynolwyn Village and the Talyllyn Railway

Opening in 1865, Talyllyn Railway is the world’s first preserved railway and had a significant role to play in the slate industry. It was owned by the quarry and would not only run a freight service but would also carry passengers, which did not always produce happy customers. Clients can travel the 55min journey from Tywyn Wharf to Nant Gwernol, with the option of stopping at the stations along the route. Leaflets about walks from the stations can be downloaded from the website or picked up at the station including a walk from Nant Gwernol exploring the industrial heritage landscape of Bryneglwys Quarry and Abergynolwyn village. Group tour options and discounts for 15+ are available with advanced bookings including free travel for tour guides.

The Slate Way to Adventure. ☀️ #SummerSteam 📷 Nathan Spence

Posted by Talyllyn Railway on Thursday, August 25, 2022

Useful links

Go North Wales - Three day itinerary discovering the slate landscape of North West Wales

Gwynedd Council - maps of the six regions

Llechi Cymru Slate Wales

Snowdonia Slate Trail – a recognised, and well signposted walking route

UNESCO WHS - the slate landscape of North West Wales

Be safe!

Exploring the outdoors is fantastic fun, but please ensure that your clients read up on the risks and make sure they are prepared.

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