Wales has lots to offer in terms of its industrial heritage, with many treasures which are well worth a visit — including a site of such industrial importance it has been granted World Heritage status.
The World Heritage landscape of Blaenavon, in the heart of the south Wales valleys, offers numerous attractions including the opportunity to experience life as a miner at Big Pit National Coal Museum, and as a worker at the Blaenavon Ironworks, a site which had a significant impact on the world as we know it today. Further west is home to the National Wool Museum, located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, and in the heart of the Snowdonia mountains in north Wales is the National Slate Museum.
All four corners of Wales have an industrial story to tell…
What? Museum housed in original quarry workshops
Where? Llanberis, Snowdonia
The National Slate Museum tells the story of life in Wales’s slate communities when the Welsh slate industry ‘roofed the world’.
As well as opportunities to see the foundry, forges, sheds and the largest working waterwheel in the UK, skilled craftsmen also give live demonstrations of the art of splitting and dressing slate by hand.
Did you know..? The National Slate Museum is twinned with the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, NY, USA, reinforcing the links between Welsh communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
What? Museum located within the historic former Cambrian Mills
Located in the heart of west Wales’s countryside, the National Wool Museum tells the story of the once thriving woollen industry in Teifi Valley.
This gem of a museum is housed in an original mill building, where industrial machinery and live weaving displays can be seen which bring to life the process of 'fleece to fabric'.
This once mighty industry produced clothing, shawls and blankets for the workers of Wales and the rest of the world.
Did you know..? The wool industry dominated the Teifi area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
What? Industrial heritage museum
At the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage landscape of Blaenavon, lies Big Pit - a former working coal mine. This award-winning museum offers an experience unparalleled in the country, and one of only two sites in the UK where visitors can go underground in an original coal mine.
Guided by ex-miners, visitors descend to the very depths of the mine and get a taste of what life was like for those who made their living at the coal face.
There are further facilities to educate and entertain all ages above ground, including a multi-media virtual tour in the Mining Galleries and exhibitions in the Pithead Baths and historic colliery buildings.
Did you know..? The currently accessible mines at Big Pit lie over 90 metres below the surface of the ground.
What? Former 18th century industrial site
Just under an hour’s drive from the capital city of Cardiff, in the famous south Wales Valleys stand Blaenavon Ironworks. The ironworks were a milestone in the history of the Industrial Revolution, and at the time were at the cutting-edge of new technology.
The power of steam was harnessed and a way of making steel using iron-ore was developed, which led to a worldwide boom in the steel industry, taking Wales’s industrial might to a new height. Visitors to the site can see the refurbished Stack Square cottages, to experience how the workers lived through the ages, and the recreated company truck shop. New, cutting-edge audio-post technology helps bring the story of the Ironworks to life like never before.
The landscape of Blaenavon has gained World Heritage status as a result of its revolutionary form and function. From mines to train lines, you can still trace the routes in and routes out, from raw material to finished product.
Did you know..? Originally built in 1790, people lived in Blaenavon Ironworks’s Engine Row cottages until the 1960s.
What? 19th century aqueduct
Where? Near Llangollen
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham County Borough.
Built by Thomas Telford and completed in 1805, it's no exaggeration to say that the techniques and ideas developed at Pontcysyllte helped shape the world through their impact on engineering. Taking over 10 years to build and costing £38,499 — the equivalent of £38 million today — the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was truly one of the engineering marvels of the Industrial age.
UNESCO made this masterpiece of civil engineering a World Heritage Site in 2009 – along with 11 miles of canal including Chirk Aqueduct and the Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio, near Llangollen.
Did you know..? When Thomas Telford finished the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, it was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world.