Is It Worth Visiting Big Pit Mining Museum, Wales?

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Experiences of visiting Wales and Big Pit Mining Museum, as an adult and with kids. My kids were pretty small the first time we toured the UK and we had a wonderful time, taking them to Wales, my birth country, in particular. We enjoyed it so much that we returned recently, to take them again as teens. This post will explain what Big Pit Mining Museum is like. We think it’s a great place to take kids, but maybe not for small children and not for the elderly or anyone with mobility issues. I am fairly claustrophobic, and I was OK at Big Pit. We’ll also talk about costs, admission, opening times and parking to help you plan your visit. It was free for us when we visited and was a real highlight of Wales with kids.

Big Pit
Big Pit Mining Museum, Wales

My first tour of Wales and the UK with my kids, was my first as a tourist. I lived in Wales and London for almost my whole life, now I had four weeks to show the children the bits I had always loved and maybe find some new bits, too. Touring the UK with the children, just the three of us, was brilliant. We had loads of fun. Wales or even the whole of the UK is relatively small so we covered a lot of ground.

Big Pit Wales pithead baths
Big Pit gives you the feeling that the miners left just yesterday. They actually left on the 2nd February 1980, when one of the last coal mines in Blaenavon closed for good. The miners’ lockers, shower rooms and canteen stand the same today as when the mine closed.

We had a lot of miles to cover, from Heathrow, to Cambridge and Manchester, to my parents in Wales. Hiring a car at a good rate was the only way to go, cheaper and more convenient than trains. Having your own car gives you the freedom to go anywhere whenever you like, and to turn up the radio and sing as loudly as you can. Some days we drove from Wales to London and back again to see some amazing attractions like London Zoo or The Doctor Who Experience. It’s only a 2 hour drive.

Mining history at big pit mining museum
Signs at the Mining Museum are in Welsh and English. You’ll learn a lot.

We have a post with more ideas on things to do in London with kids. It’s more economical to drive there and back than to pay for overnight accommodation in London. Sure, it cost us a bit in petrol, but a return flight from Australia to see the things we’d missed in our precious few weeks just wasn’t going to happen.

So let’s get on to Big Pit, and what makes it such a must-see place in Wales and in the UK.

Big Pit Wales

Big Pit Was an Unexpected Gem

I’m Welsh, I’ve lived in Wales for 33 years, but I’d never been to Big Pit. I drove around the Welsh Valleys, showing the boys the sheep and the mountains.

Welsh countryside dry stone walls and sheep
The drive to Big Pit, up The Valleys, will take you through some beautiful Welsh countryside.

“What are all those lines and squares Mum?”

“They’re fields love”

Yes, Really!

We happened across the Big Pit Mining Museum and stopped to check it out.

Big Pit Mining Museum is one of The Best Educational Field Trips!

As field trips go, Big Pit is right up there with The Kennedy Space Centre.

One of the most fantastic things about Big Pit, and there are many, is that it’s FREE! I’m a cheapskate  budget traveller, so anything free, particularly if it’s great for the kids, is a winner, but this place was outstanding, fantastic and excellent. Want to see more?

Taking kids to Big Pit Mining Museum
My younger son was 6 years old the first time he went down the mine at Big Pit. The kids thought it was great fun.

Anyone should enjoy Big Pit, so long as you don’t suffer from claustrophobia or any fear of being deep underground in a disused mine, for that is what it is, an actual coal mine turned tourist attraction. Doesn’t sound much does it? But it’s brilliant!

We were all equipped with helmets and headlights and told to leave anything electrical at the surface. Including cameras and car keys. It’s a REAL mine, they’re worried about gas and sparks and all that stuff. This means I’ve no photos from down the pit, unfortunately.

Cafe at Big Pit, refreshments and washrooms available
There is quite a lot to see above ground at Big Pit, including this cafe, formerly the miners’ canteen. If some of your party don’t want to go underground there’s plenty to look at.

The men helping us get kitted out and guiding us were all real ex-miners and they were gorgeous, had beautiful accents and so much to tell us.

They talked about the history of the mine, how the little children used to sit in the dark and the cold opening and closing doors all day, took us to the underground stables where the pit ponies lived and showed us the cramped coal faces where men would work by hand, bent double under the low roof.

When we came back to the surface, again, in the cage, we explored the pit head baths and discovered that the miners’ wives were the real heroes in those days.

Pit head and winch for the cage
At the pit head, these huge weels pull the cages up and down. You mustn’t call it a lift, it’s always a cage. The cage at Big Pit is pretty big and I didn’t find it scary.

Before those baths opened their men would return black, in body and in clothes, everything would be scrubbed to get the coal dust out, every night, by hand with water boiled in a kettle. They were tough in those days. Once the baths opened they only had the miners’ clothes to keep clean.

There were re-creations of miners’ homes and a mine simulation with modern mining technology. The boys adored it and learned loads. Fossil fuels and non-renewable resources are very much on the Australian curriculum, we had the best lesson possible at Big Pit that day.

Where to Stay Near Big Pit

You could easily visit Big Pit for the day if you were staying in Cardiff, or even close to the Welsh border in England. For apartment rentals or holiday lets nearby, try Stayz/VRBO Wales.

So if you’re in the UK and you have a car, maybe head over to the South Wales valleys and give Big Pit a go. There is loads more to do around there, my home. We were really pleased we went. Hope you can get there.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

8 thoughts on “Is It Worth Visiting Big Pit Mining Museum, Wales?”

  1. Wow, that looks like an incredible trip! I have learned about mining history here in the US, but there’s nothing like seeing a place first hand to understand what people really went through. Thanks for sharing at the Culture Swapper!

  2. My secondary school took us here, it was great! Still remember at least 15 years ago. Although I have to say you’re lucky to get to London in 2 hours, depending on where you go in London it can take 3 hours from Bristol! I suppose if the road’s clear and you’re heading to West London then you can manage it (from the Welsh border anyway).
    Pwll Mawr – great place!

    • Isn’t it just Andrew! It was such a great surprise. Yep, 2 hours, door to door, from my Mum’s in Newport to Twickenham or Richmond, where we used to live. We’d take the train in from there. No point in paying for parking AND the congestion charge.

  3. Have been to the pit museum in wakefield but not in Wales. Will check it out if we go nearby. Free is my favourite too 😉

  4. I think they were 5 and 7 Suzi, I don’t think there was a minimum age. I had to keep a close eye on them and hold onto them a bit, but the ex-miners were so great with them that they hung around and listened to what they were saying.

    • I was loving how you had two kids in the car, solo, driving all over. 🙂 I have a 5.5 yr old and a 14 mos old — so I’m ready for the smaller to get a little older before attempting. But, honestly, I just love that you did that.


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