In a sense the most interesting thing about the Dolaucothi Gold Mines (Mwynfeydd Aur Dolaucothi) is what is not there.
Standing in the middle of the site, it took a while before I realised that this was a vast open-cast mine, called the Ogofau Pit, dug by the Romans using nothing much more than picks and hammers. The scale of the operation is astounding.
Leading out of the pit and in the surrounding area are various tunnels accessing narrower veins of gold ore. There are guided tours to two of these systems, one of which is believed to be of Roman origin, the other to the nineteenth century operations under James Mitchell.
The buildings we see today for the most part came from the Olwyn Goch lead-zinc mine at Halkyn in North Wales which closed in 1986. They were moved here two years later. However, they give a good feel for what the site might have been like during its later days, and are interesting in their own right.
For opening times, ticket prices, etc. please see the National Trust's official site.
The Romans arrived in this area soon after 70CE, and appear to have left, or at least substantially scaled back their operation, in around 125.
After the fall of the Roman Empire the gold mines were completely forgotten, and it wasn't until 1844 that gold was rediscovered by the splendidly named Sir Warrington Smyth of the Geological Survey.
During the nineteenth century various, largely unsuccessful attempts, were made to re-open the mines. Then 1912 the shaft which James Mitchell was digging where the current headframe stands, struck the remains of the Roman workings 100 ft (30 m) down. The mine was flooded and forced to close.
In the 1930s the shaft was reopened by the newly formed Roman Deep Ltd and was sunk to 480 ft (146 m) to locate new seams.
Initially successful, they built a new Processing Plant on the hills behind the pit, the remains of which can be seen today. At its peak in 1937, the mine employed between 150 and 200 people. However despite extracting several hundred tons of ore each week, it proved impossible to cover the costs. The mine closed the following year and all the buildings and equipment were removed.