The National Showcaves Wales are three cavernous limestone caves which date back to around 350 million years ago. The caves are a 17-kilometre-long cave system which is claimed to be the largest in the UK. Collectively the caves are referred to as Dan Yr Ogof. They are situated in the Welsh valleys between Neath and the Brecon Beacons and they are well worth a visit.
If you are taking the kids, then there is lots to do to make it a fun family day out. With a loose tie in to the ancient caves, it links back to the pre-historic times with over 220 life sized dinosaur models to spot. Making it an awesome adventure for any dino obsessed kids. Visiting the National Showcaves Wales is on our list of 101 awesome things to do with kids in Wales
The lower section of the park has a farm area to explore, the shire horse centre, a small crazy golf course, a soft play area and a park. The kids had a fantastic day out there when we visited. Read on for our full review of what to expect.
The National Show Caves, Wales
There are three limescale caves to explore, which are all very different and all worthy of seeing.
On your visit to the caves you will spot lots of stalagmites and stalactites which are mineral formations produced by precipitation. The difference between them is that stalactites hang from the ceiling of a cave, very much like an icicle. While a stalagmite is upward growing, formed by precipitated water dropping onto the floor of the cave.
An easy way to remember is that he c in stalactites refers to ceiling and the g in stalagmites refers to the ground. Although my husband remembers the difference by the tights (tites) in stalactites that can fall-down, so there you go.
Look out for some impressive formations including the “Rasher of Bacon”, (which really does look like a rasher of streaky bacon), the heavenly “Angel” and the “Alabaster Pillar”.
Dan Yr Ogof Cave
Dan yr Ogof is the first cave that you come to, and this is the biggest of the three to explore. As with all the caves, it is well lit and walking around the cave is easily done. There are audio points within the cave where you learn about the Morgan brothers and how they came to find the caves in 1912.
This is a small cave reached by a low man made covered overhead section and is the only cave which requires you to wear a hard hat. It was given its name as the bones of 42 humans were found here, along with animal bones. They also found fragments of roman pottery and bronze jewellery all dating back to the Bronze Age.
Inside the cave are statutes and exhibits depicting man’s use of the caves in the past with hyenas, wolves and bears.
Of the caves, this is the least impressive to see and is more protected with cages to see through. Saying that, it is still worth visiting as accessing the cave is part of the fun and it also provides you with the best view over the dinosaur park.
This cave is often cited as people’s favourites and is the more romantic of the caves, most notably so because weddings can take place here. When you first walk in the lighting and the playing of Vivaldi certainly sets it apart.
At the end of this cave experience is the thrill of walking beneath the 40 feet high waterfalls that cascade around you in the Dome of St Paul.
Also, at the National Showcaves Wales for the kids…
The Main Centre
From the first moment you enter the park you are greeted by some towering dinosaurs.
There is an area near the café where you can mine for gold. I couldn’t drag ours away from this for ages. There is also a dinosaur explorer hut where you can use your tools to brush away sand to discover dinosaur fossils.
Around the park are lots of different dinosaur types to spot with information given on each for any that you aren’t familiar with. And with over 200 to find there are bound to be some ones you won’t know. Some of the dinosaurs move and make sounds too. Don’t forget to head down to the waterfall area where there are more to spot.
The main section with its explosive volcano and interactive film is also worth seeing. This is just down from the Bone Cave.
The last part of the main park has a small reconstructed iron age villahe and a small museum with more information on the caves and some nice interactive exhibits for the kids. My youngest particularly liked colouring in a dinosaur on the computer screen.
The Farm and Shire Horses Centre
At the lower section of the park, at the bottom of the hill (which you will pass on your right when you first enter) is a farm area, play areas and the Shire Horse Centre.
The park area has some obstacles to climb and a zip wire. Then there is the indoor play area which has soft play and some small cars to ride around in which my little one loved.
The farm is set around Mr Morgan’s Victorian farm where you can see pigs, alpacas and geese and have a look at what it was like in a farming industry all those years ago.
The Shire Horse Centre is also interesting and tells of the history of the shire horses as working horses with an opportunity to say hello to the horses.
It was our first visit to the lower area (which is included in your ticket price). The area itself is quite rustic but makes a nice addition to the main park. It also means that you’re more likely to make your visit last a full day.
Our Verdict of a Family Day Out at The National Showcaves Wales
We had a great day at the National Showcaves Wales, helped by the fact that my family are dino obsessed. The caves are fascinating to explore and we didn’t tire of exploring them. We also enjoyed a couple of hours at the farm and the shire horse centre.
Some areas of the park felt a little dated and rustic. In places there were overgrown shrubs preventing the view of some of the dinosaurs, but it didn’t impact on our overall enjoyment. You just need to make sure you get there early enough to make the most of your ticket price as there’s lots to squeeze in.
Additional Information on visiting The National Showcaves Wales
Prices: £15.00 per adult, children ages 3 – 16 £12.00 with under 2’s free
Hints and tips before you visit:
Apps: A free app with maps and “treasure hunt” is available. Download it beforehand because the signal is not great when you are there.
Buggies: Prams are not allowed in the caves and so a baby carrier is your best option. The main part of the park is also hilly.
Food: There is a nice café there where you can have a full meal or just a snack. The sandwiches we had were good. There are also picnic tables near the main entrance so you could always take a picnic.
Tips: The caves are well lit and are spacious. There aren’t any tight squeezes or pot hole type experiences to be had. But the caves can get cold so take a jumper even if it is a sunny day. Best to wear sturdy shoes as there is a lot of walking
Some of the activities in the lower centre finish early. When we were there the last entry to the golf was 3:00 p.m. and so we missed it. Our advice is to get there early enough so you can fit everything in.
In the area: If coming from the M4 South (from Swansea direction), look out for the sleeping man. It is a mountain that looks like a man sleeping on the A4067 road.
The Abercrave Inn is a lovely local pub nearby which serves up pub grub and has a childrens menu. It also has a small beer garden and is around 10 minutes drive from the Caves.
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