Whilst there are slate mines aplenty open to the public, Health and Safety considerations alone mean that there very few of the far more dangerous coal mines operating as visitor attractions.
The Big Pit National Coal Museum at Blaenavon is one of the few, and offers the added thrill of a ride in the winding cages some 300ft (90m) underground.
Suitably kitted out in helmet, cap lamp, belt, battery and the self rescuer used by miners, you are taken on a 50 minute walk around the coal faces, engine houses and stables guided by a former coal miner. All electronic equipment is banned underground due to the risk of fire damp, thus making photography virtually impossible.
The Tippler and the Creeper
The area around the top of the shaft, known as the pit bank is well preserved. The the route taken by the filled drams (the tram circuit) from the shaft through the tippler where they were emptied, up the creeper and then round under gravity to the top of the shaft on the far side of the cages is still in place. It could have been better explained, however.
Further up the hill are the Mining Galleries, an audio-visual display of mining equipment, and the old Pit Head Baths which contain further museum items.
For information on opening times, etc. please see the official site detailed below.
The Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway run heritage steam trains from here down a short branch to their main line at Furnace Sidings.