I thought my camping days were over. Actually, scrap that, my camping days are over. Camping as part of a holiday has never really appealed to me, but I did camp at festivals for many years. One too many muddy Glastonburys got the better of me, and I finally retired in 2011. Glamping though – that’s another matter, or so I thought. I was sucked back in to festival life in 2019, and decided to give glamping a shot at Deer Shed Festival. A lovely Bell Tent, already set up for us, with blow up beds. Perfect. Turns out this didn’t really work out for me either, with the rain hammering down during my overnight trips to the porta-loo’s across the field. So I was as surprised as anyone to find myself considering glamping again recently, to spend a night under canvas at Llechwedd Slate Mines in North Wales.
Why would you put yourself through it again, I hear you ask? And you’d be right in doing so. Well, readers, this was a different kind of glamping. This was a night in a Safari Tent – practically a hotel room as far as I was concerned. Did I mention the en-suite? That was the deal breaker, and after seeing some fabulous promo shots of the Safari Tents and the surrounding location, I was intrigued and wanted to give it a go. Llechwedd is home to an old slate quarry which dates back to the mid 1800’s, located in Bleanau Ffestiniog, North Wales. Since the 1970’s, the site has operated as a tourist attraction with tours of the slate caverns, and more recently is home to one of the Zip World sites and a mountain bike park.
The slate landscape of Llechwedd
I remember passing through Bleanau Ffestiniog as a child – my memories are predominantly of the walls of grey slate on the mountain side. Not helped by a memory of grey skies and / or rain. Nothing particularly appealing to a child on their way to Butlins! Apparently not particularly appealing to the creators of the Snowdonia National Park either. The area is bang in the middle of the National Park, yet was omitted from it when created as it ‘did not satisfy the criteria of exceptional natural beauty’ the park desired. Harsh. The adult me has grown to love these landscapes though – the large heaps of grey blue slate carpeting the mountainside, with a scattering of industrial buildings from the slate mining operations.
Arriving at Llechwedd, we had a glimpse of the Safari Tents on the hillside overlooking the site and surrounding area. Check in was carried out at the main reception area for Llechwedd, where we were directed to a car parking area close to the accommodation. We were greeted by a member of staff at this car park, where our luggage was collected and driven up to the Safari Tent. We took a walk up the hill from this point, due to social distancing measures. Where the host would normally show us around the Safari Tent at this point, all the information was provided within the tent.
There are six Safari Tents in total, spread out over the hillside, each with a private decked area and brick barbeque. The elevated location provides fantastic views of the old slate quarry, the surrounding mountains and offers perfect views of the Zip World ziplines (which were sadly not in operation during our stay). The dramatic and rugged scenery is quite spectacular from this vantage point.
Inside the Llechwedd Safari Tents
Stepping onto the outdoor deck, a set of patio doors led into a lovely open plan living area. My first thoughts of the decor were that it was reminiscent of a cosy Scandinavian log cabin, with a real hygge feel to it. Wooden clad walls, complemented by wooden furniture and a wood burner in the corner, which would definitely get some use. The main living area featured a kitchenette to the right with sink, microwave oven and fridge. Cutlery and crockery were provided and there was plently of storage space. Opposite the kitchenette was a dining table with benches.
A curtain separates the living area from the sleeping area beyond. The sleeping area sleeps up to four people, with a double bed to one side and a set of bunks to the other. A door to the rear leads to a small en-suite shower room. The bed and bunks were comfortable, but the double bed filled the space to the right, so with two people sleeping in the bed, there would be some climbing over required to use the bathroom over night.
Settling in for the evening
The Safari Tents at Llechwedd are designed as a self catering accommodation, mainly due to the fact that there are no facilities on site in the evening and overnight. Prepped for this, we came armed with a homemade chilli, snacks and some alcohol for the fridge. As evening set in, with a chill in the air, we fired up the log burner and settled in for the night. There’s nothing like the sound and smell of a crackling log fire to warm you up is there, so that was the first job of the evening. Some wood was provided in the tent, but it’s worth making sure you have some more. Additional wood is available from the onsite shop.
Fire roaring, chilli and rice microwaved and a couple of beers cracked open, we settled down to our evening as the wind picked up outside and the rain started to fall. At this point, you remember that you aren’t in the log cabin, but definitely in a tent. The sound of rain on canvas, along with the flapping sounds in the wind very much reminded us that we were in a tent. But it was warm and dry, so we needed for nothing. For any potential visitors, I’d recommend bringing some board games or a pack of playing cards to while away the evening. I’m sure on a balmy summer evening (yes, we do get them in Wales) we’d spend most of the evening outside at the barbeque or sipping drinks on the outdoor deck. On a cold, rainy evening, it wasn’t really an option.
A comfortable night?
So, how did I sleep in the glamping accommodation? Well, as mentioned above, given that it was a bit of a rainy, blustery night, the tent was quite noisy. Being a tent, albeit a very fancy one, it did get a bit chilly overnight too. There was an electric oil filled radiator available but we chose not to leave it on all night. There were also hot water bottles provided, which we made use of, so with these and pair of pyjamas, it was actually quote cosy getting into bed.
Morning arrived, and with the accommodation being on a ‘room only’ basis, we had stocked up on some pre-breakfast cereal bars. We’re early birds and the on-site cafe serving breakfast didn’t open until about 9am, so having something available before then was really useful. A rather gloomy but atmospheric morning, we had some time to hang out on the deck area watching the clouds roll across the mountains. We packed up, headed to the car and drove down to the main complex and grabbed a good breakfast before heading home.
Things to do in Llechwedd
As previously mentioned, the complex is home to several attractions which attract families and thrill seekers alike. There are three companies which operate on the site – Llechwedd, Zip World and Antur Stiniog.
Llechwedd operate two attractions on site – the Llechwedd Deep Mine Tour and the Quarry Explorer (these can be combined in the Slate Mountain Adventure tour). We took part in the Deep Mine Tour, which started with a 500ft journey on the steepest cable railway in Britain. The tour, which lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes, takes you on a journey through several caverns and tunnels deep underground where you can learn about the mining that took place, as well as getting an understanding of what life was like for the miners in these dark and damp caverns. It was a fascinating insight and a really enjoyable experience.
The Quarry Explorer Tour is an off road adventure on an ex-military truck which takes you through the surrounding quarries and to the summit of the slate mountain. Not only do you learn about the history of the site, but the tour provides fantastic views of Snowdonia.
Home to Zip World Caverns, one of three Zip World sites in North Wales, there are three attractions to try out at Llechwedd – Titan, Bounce Below and Caverns. Titan is a zip line experience which takes you on three separate lines on a speedy journey from the top of the mountain with amazing views over the quarry. Bounce Below is an underground adventure where you jump and slide your way through a series of underground nets (giant trampolines) all within a large cavern. Finally, Caverns provides the opportunity to traverse through an underground assault course featuring zip lines, tightropes, Via Ferrata and rope bridges.
Antur Stiniog operate the mountain bike park and offer 14 downhill MTB trails ranging from green grade to black grade. They also offer mountain bike hire options as well as an ‘uplift’ service.
Llechwedd is open seven days a week from 09.00 until 17.00. There are plenty of facilities on site including a cafe, pub (open during the day) and a gift shop which also sells a limited range of groceries. All tours and accommodation can be booked directly via their website.
Quarry Tours Ltd
Tel: 01766 830306
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