When we were in Wales a few months ago, we decided to dedicate at least one day to an attraction outside of Bluestone. Primarily so we didn’t exhaust the resort, but also because we really enjoy Wales as a family location. Whether it’s Folly Farm or Tenby, there’s lots to see in the local area, and even more if you’re happy to travel further afield.
On this particular day, we decided to do just that and take a scenic drive to the National Showcaves; which is located between Swansea and Brecon, and around 90 minutes away from Bluestone.
In our opinion, and from previous visits, it’s well worth the drive. It’s incredibly scenic and the end result is just fantastic.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been as a family, we actually went when T was a lot younger (and before that when it was just Sharon and I), but because T had only just started walking it was quite a long day out – I often had to wear him (not ideal) – so we didn’t get to see all the caves on his first visit. Now that he’s older and quite the intrepid explorer we decided that now would be the perfect time to show him the caves again.
The site houses three main caves; the Dan-yr-Ogof cave, the Cathedral Cave, and the Bone Cave. Each one having it’s own history and story to tell.
Starting at the beginning (although not literally, the oldest cave is right at the top!), you’re taken to the first cave that the famous Morgan Brothers discovered in 1912 via a small entrance along the river Llynfell to the base of the mountain. Of course for us, the tour takes you into the cave via a much safer route these days!
This particular cave is probably the ‘flattest’ of all three caves, although the longest, and you don’t have any obstacles; like stairs, to navigate. That being said, as you would expect with a cave, there are some points where the passageways are quite narrow.
It also goes without saying that the caves are limited with lighting and at some points there is some uneven ground, but you can see – you’re never in complete darkness – and the terrain isn’t ‘rocky’. Plus, with all three caves you have the option to take lanterns into the cave with you. These are located at each entrance. Sharon is completely accident prone and even she’s safe in here – which is saying something! That being said, I recommend suitable walking shoes.
After the first cave, the route then takes you onto quite a sudden incline through an iron age village and past lots of dinosaurs (more on those later!). There’s handrails throughout the tour though, and lots of things to see and read if you need to take a break, but if you want to see the other caves (and you do) there is no other route to get to them.
The Cathedral Cave, whilst shorter and younger than the first cave, is probably the more impressive of all three caves; with caverns, waterfalls, and underground lakes to see. There’s a reason why people can get married here.
In comparison to the first cave, T probably came out of his shell in this cave as the passageways are a lot wider and it seemed a lot brighter too. He was much more confident to run ahead of us and look around.
As you can probably see from the photos, T wore a puddle suit during our visit and we wore raincoats. That’s not to say that you’re going to get soaked, but with any cave that has running water through it there is risk of splashing – especially in the Cathedral cave where you walk past a free flowing waterfall.
The last cave is the Bone Cave and is the oldest (and shortest cave), dating back over 3000 years. The trek up there is quite challenging in comparison to the others and it’s certainly not for those with mobility issues. When I was wearing T a few years back, I had to miss this cave out completely as it’s quite a climb and he was far too young to make it up there on foot.
To get there, you have to embark up several flights of stairs. You’re then advised to take one of the hard hats whilst at a checkpoint. This is a must as you then continue on your path along a long and narrow gangway that’s not very forgiving on the head (even if you’re Sharon’s height!).
That being said, the views when you reach the top are incredible.
The actual cave itself isn’t too deep and through the visual show that’s projected onto the walls you’re taken through the history of the cave, from the 42 human skeletons dating back to the Bronze Age to the variety of artefacts found throughout the years; including ancient pottery and roman coins.
As mentioned earlier on, the site is also home to over 200 species of Dinosaurs. Located throughout the tour, the life-sized Dinosaurs really break up your day. When we visited the first time many years ago, I felt this exhibition was quite tired looking and just out of place, however the models seemed to have really improved over the years and the Dino trail is actually quite interesting and fun to follow.
As well as the Dino Tour, on site is also a decent sized Museum that explores the different Dinosaurs further, with lots of interactive pieces and exhibits on Planet Earth. Once you’ve finished your tour there’s also a well stocked cafe with plenty of seating (picnics can be eaten outside either on the benches or undercover seating area), and an area to pan for some gold!
Shire Horse Centre & Farm
If you’re not tired from the caves, also included in your ticket is entry to the Shire Horse Centre and Farm located just a few minutes down the hill. Despite visiting the Show Caves a few times before, this was the first time we’d actually come to the farm.
Walking through a swing gate, it’s not long before you’re greeted by some rather friendly farm animals. From llamas to alpacas to goats, the majority of the animals roam free (and are cheeky with it too).
Once the animals let you go, you’re then invited to tour the old Shire Horse Centre, The Victorian Farm, as well as several indoor and outdoor play areas. Hidden behind large barn doors, these play areas were real gems.
In one barn there’s a small wooden play area / racing track for pedal trikes and in the other is a large climbing area! I had no idea that these areas were here so it was a pleasant surprise when we found them.
Although we were somewhat tired from exploring the caves, having the farm and play areas to explore gave T a nice change of scenery as well as some added exercise. It really seemed to give T a second wind, despite all the walking he had done. I loved watching T run around the open farm with the mountains in the background.
I absolutely love visiting the Show Caves and with the added extras included, it’s really good value for money in my opinion. We paid less than £50 for the three of us, however there are lots of brochures where you can find discount codes to reduce the cost.
We arrived here for opening and probably left an hour or two before closing. We took a picnic (that we were able to leave in the car) which saved further money – although the cafe isn’t actually that expensive. We spent all day here and without a doubt made the most out of our day. I would highly recommend visiting.
The National Show Caves are open 7 days a week from March until November (apart from a special Christmas event in December).
Please check the website for opening times to avoid disappointment!