If you’re planning a trip to the Big Pit National Coal Museum it makes sense to stay in Pontypool or the surrounding countryside. There are several hotel options ranging from four star luxury in the centre of town, a short walk away from the main attractions, self-catering cottages or a budget hotel. In the surrounding areas you have a wider choice of cosy country inns, historic hotels and farmhouses so you can really relax and get away from it all.
Torfaen County on the border of Monmouthshire in South Wales is centrally located for visiting some of the main historic attractions. Cardiff is just 20 minutes by car and there are excellent train links, so if you’re staying there Pontypool is an excellent day trip to learn more about industry and mining in the region. There are three towns in the Torfaen region - Pontypool, Cwmbran and Blaenavon, and they each have a distinct personality so have fun exploring each one!
Big Pit National Coal Museum
Big Pit is an award-winning major tourist attraction in Pontypool, an industrial heritage museum that was a working coal mine from 1860 to 1980. It opened to the public in 1980 and is now one of the country’s leading museums exploring the history of the Industrial Revolution and showing how people lived and worked 200 years ago.
It was redeveloped in 2003 and now works as an operational attraction - that is, the structures you see are working ones holding up the mine roof and not for show, as is the case with many so-called attractions. So when you go down the mines you need to wear a hard hat, safety lamp and a waist belt, which feels very much like real working conditions and adds to the intensity of the experience. You can do a 50-minute underground tour which goes 90 metres underground and imagine how daily working life would have been for thousands of men.
When you come up for air, go up to the heritage centre and learn more about the history of coal mining via a multimedia tour of a modern coal mine where you get to meet a real “miner”. This is one of the top visitor attractions in Wales and it’s easy to see why. Where else can you go underground and experience real-life dangerous mining hazards that once put the daily life of thousands of men at risk?
Nearby attractions include Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, Pontypool Park and Museum, the Blaenafon Cheddar Company, Folly Tower, Llandegfedd Visitor & Watersports Centre, and of course, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Blaenavon, which gained its status in 2000 in recognition of the importance of the area’s coal mining history.
Big Pit National Coal Museum is worthy of a day trip and if you want to stay longer in the area to find out what the other towns in the region have to offer you have an excellent selection of four star rural escapes, cosy country inns, elegant manor houses or self-catering cottages in the surrounding countryside. It’s not far from areas of outstanding natural beauty and the Brecon Beacons National Park, so can be the basis of an extended holiday taking in all the region has to offer.