North Wales is home to some of the most beautiful caverns that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Upon my arrival in Blaenau Ffestiniog (which I sadly still can’t pronounce), I was blown away by how the landscapes looked too perfect to be real. It was another perfectly sunny day, with blue skies and crystal-clear air. Thus, the coastline was even visible in the distance from my bunkhouse – quite possibly the nicest place I’ve stayed in thus far, especially given the view. It was killer to walk the 0.7 miles partially uphill while lugging around my bags, but I lived. Sometimes it’s really nice to stay in a remote area, away from pubs and the hubbub of general areas.
Even on my walk in the evening was just so divine. Stars were out, and it was late, but not completely dark – so the skyline was a beautiful shade of marine blue with swirls of clouds everywhere. I’m so in love with Wales.
I ended up walking about 4 miles to the Zip World Caverns since the buses were pretty pointless (and infrequent) on a Sunday. I was a bit unsure if my impulsive £60 booking for this activity would be worth it, but oh, it by golly certainly was. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Zip World Caverns is home to a series of exhilarating underground zip lines, rope bridges, obstacles and tunnels. It has been built in vast caverns that were first excavated nearly 200 years ago and have remained largely unchanged since then. It’s the #1 tourist attraction for Blaeneau Ffestiniog on TripAdvisor, and it’s easy to see why.
I was told about it through several Welsh friends, all of whom had never been themselves (usually that’s how it goes when you live right near it, ha). I kinda brushed it off back in December when someone first brought it up, thinking that ziplining was last on my list for things to do in the UK. However, I’m so glad I decided to just book the caverns, since it’s an experience I won’t be able to get back home.
North Wales is also home to Europe’s longest (and highest) zipline, but I wasn’t able to squeeze that in yesterday since they were booked out (and I’m glad I was able to climb Snowdon instead). There are several activities and ziplines you can choose from, but I went with the caverns since it seemed like the most all-around encompassing activity that would feed my adrenaline-hungry soul.
The last 20 min of my walk led me into the gigantic slate quarry with huge “DANGER: PEDESTRIANS ENTER AT OWN RISK. BLASTING MAY OCCUR” signs everywhere. I felt like a tiny ant in this massive quarry of rocks of all different shapes and sizes, as well as (what looked like) remains of some type of castle or medieval wall. The further up I hiked, the more I felt like this definitely wasn’t the way that most visitors came – Google Maps just took me the scenic route, apparently. By the time I finished the caverns, I saw the parking lot and the highway located near the actual cavern entrance – clearly why no one had to walk up and down the huge quarry path that I did.
I ended up being in a group of 8 guys, the so-called “Man Club” of London. They made me swear not to mention that I was made an honourary member of their clan (not like anyone reads this anyway) – and I’m sorry to them for destroying their perfect lads outing, ha. It was great fun though, and I was lucky and held up the rear so could take my time with photos and videos. Gutted that my GoPro (and camera) haven’t been connecting to my phone lately, so I’m unable to upload or view any of my footage.
We started with two training modules of the ziplines, since we controlled the ziplining ourselves – we weren’t monitored by anyone except in the training. I loved that. It was very similar to Adrenaline Forest in Wellington (not as intense though), using the same U-clips, so I loved zipping through everything. Simple enough. The second module was incredible, since we got to climb this extremely skinny ladder and zip our way down zig-zag style to each level.
And then we got to the actual underground course with all the ziplines – apparently it has the longest underground ziplines in the world. The first sight of the caverns was breathtaking. The multicoloured lights reflecting off the rocks made it seem like a Disney attraction (think a mixture of Indiana Jones and Aladdin) – and really made photos pop.
It was a bit hilarious to me that there was nowhere in the description online or in the brochure that we’d be in extremely precarious situations suspended hundreds of feet above the the actual quarry floor. In other words, if you’re scared of heights and signed up for this obstacle course, you’re screwed.
It was a good mixture of clipping and unclipping our safety harnesses to the wires along each wall for 2.5 hours. Other than the 12 or so ziplines, we got to climb on extremely small diamond steps (the scary kind that looked like they were floating squares that could barely fit the width of one foot on), walk through several swinging bridges, climb underground tunnels, and tightrope walk. Basically an adrenaline junkie’s dream.
The last part was deemed an “extension.” we had to navigate an 8m long gap in the rock by opting to either ‘walk the line’ and scale the 25m drop using just a 12mm wide rope to stand on, or to inch your way, swing-by-swing, using the 14-widely-spaced monkey bars. After that, we faced the “Stairway to Heaven” with tiny diamond steps around a wall. That was the highest point on the caverns course – 30m. We then got to zip across the steepest zip wire in the UK, which was such a cool experience. Ziplining underground in historical caverns? I don’t think many other countries offer this.
Such an exciting day filled with lots of physical activity. Off to Harlech and Barmouth tomorrow – not sure if it can compare to the epicness of Blaeneau, but we shall see. Xx