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Big Pit National Coal Museum: A Visitor's Guide

Since opening its doors in 1983, the Big Pit has become one of South Wales’ most visited attractions. Telling the story of coal mining in Wales, former miners will greet you and take you 300ft underground to experience what life was like during the operational years of the Big Pit.

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The Gliffaes Hotel Guide To Big Pit National Coal Museum

Frequently asked questions

Where is Big Pit National Coal Museum?

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is located in Blaenavon, Torfaen, NP4 9XP. It is around 15 miles from Gliffaes Country House Hotel and takes approximately 30 minutes to reach by car

When is Big Pit National Coal Museum open?

February-October

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is open daily from 9:30am-5pm

November-January

If you are planning a trip between November-January, it is best to check opening times with the Big Pit National Coal Museum before travelling

How long should I spend at Big Pit National Coal Museum?

To appreciate everything that the Big Pit National Coal Museum has to offer, allow a minimum of 3 hours for your visit

How much does entry cost to Big Pit National Coal Museum?

Entry to the Big Pit National Coal Museum and the Underground Tour are both free of charge for all age groups

Can I park at Big Pit National Coal Museum?

Parking is available at the Big Pit National Coal Museum and is charged at £5 per car. Parking is free for disabled badge holders and motorbikes

Is Big Pit National Coal Museum wheelchair-accessible?

Yes. The site is very accessible for wheelchairs, including going down into the pit

Are toilet facilities available at Big Pit National Coal Museum?

There are toilet facilities on each of the three levels. Toilets with disabled access are also available

What’s the best time to visit Big Pit National Coal Museum?

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is open daily between February-October, so any time is a good time. The summer months and school holidays do tend to be busier

Is Big Pit National Coal Museum dog-friendly?

Yes. Dogs are welcome on the condition that they are kept on a lead at all times. They are not allowed in the Pithead Baths Exhibition or in any of the other open buildings

Is there WiFi at Big Pit National Coal Museum?

WiFi is not available at the Big Pit National Coal Museum

Big Pit National Coal Museum: A Piece Of Welsh History

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is one the UK’s finest mining museums and is a popular day out with guests staying at Gliffaes Country House Hotel.

Visitors will gain an insight into the life of a miner during its operational years, the importance of health & safety and how the Big Pit National Coal Museum has grown into one of Wales’ most popular tourist attractions.

A Brief History Of The Big Pit

The exact date that the Big Pit was operational is disputed by many historians, but we can say with confidence that it was used consistently from 1880 onwards.

Although it was originally an iron mine, the Big Pit is known as being part of a network of coal mines in the Blaenavon area which was developed by Blaenavon Iron and Coal Company in the early-19th century.

For the first thirty years of production, every task in the Big Pit was done manually, including coal cutting. In 1908, a conveyor was installed, which lightened the load of the workers. Two years later, in 1910, the Big Pit became one of the first mines to have electricity, allowing the addition of pumps, fans and hauling systems.

One of the most important developments at the Big Pit was the installation of the pithead baths in 1939. Prior to this, the miners would walk home in wet clothes, with many of them becoming ill as a result. The pithead baths allowed them to wash and dry themselves prior to leaving the mine, proving to be beneficial in multiple ways.

At its peak, the Big Pit produced in excess of 250,000 tons of coal per year, some of which was shipped as far afield as South America.

From Local Employer To Global Tourist Attraction

The Big Pit, which once employed more than 1,300 people, saw its workforce decrease to just under 500 by 1970. It finally closed just 10 years later, in February 1980, causing a loss of more 250 jobs.

The Big Pit opened its doors as a tourist attraction in 1983 and, for the first decade, visitor numbers slowly increased. The following eight years wasn’t so kind, before a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund guaranteed the survival of the Big Pit.

The visitor facilities were upgraded and entry fees to the Big Pit were removed in 2001, when it was incorporated into the National Museum Wales portfolio. Now offering free entry and an upgraded visitor experience, the Big Pit was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize in 2005.

The Big Pit now welcomes visitors from all over the world every year, all eager to learn more about the history of the Big Pit.

The Underground Tour At The Big Pit

The underground tour has to be highlight of a visit to the Big Pit National Coal Museum.

Kitted out with the same equipment that miners would have worn when on duty, visitors sit in the miners waiting rooms, awaiting their opportunity to explore the underground.  Then, accompanied by a tour guide, they descend 300ft into the old colliery to get a feel of what working life was like for the employees at The Big Pit.

All tour guides are former miners, so the authenticity and enthusiasm that they have comes from first-hand experience of working in the mines. The underground tour lasts for approximately 1 hour, which is enough time for all visitors to learn about the history and workings of the mines, before ascending with the memories of this wonderful, unique experience.

When embarking on the underground tour, all visitors must carry a safety lamp and wear a hard hat and safety belt. Attached to the safety belt will be a battery pack and a piece of breathing apparatus called a rebreather.

Health & Safety At The Big Pit National Coal Museum

In addition to the safety items listed above, visitors to the Big Pit must relinquish any forbidden items before descending for the underground tour. All tobacco products (as well as matches & lighters), mobile phones, watches, music players and all cameras must be securely locked away at ground level and retrieved once the underground tour is complete.

The reason for this is that the Big Pit is still classed as a working mine, therefore it must comply with the rules and regulations set out by HM Inspectorate of Mines.

Accidents At The Big Pit

When it was fully operational, there were several accidents at the Big Pit. Many of these accidents resulted in injury, while some also resulted in a loss of life.

As safety procedures became more consistent, the number of accidents reduced significantly. From 1913 until the Big Pit closed, there were no more recorded fatalities.

Big Pit National Coal Museum Fun Facts

1)      The Big Pit National Coal Museum welcomes more than 150,000 visitors each year

2)      At its peak, the Big Pit had more than 1,300 employees

3)      The Blaenavon Cheese Company still ages its “Big Pit Cheddar” at the bottom of the Big Pit mine shaft

How To Find The Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is approximately 30 minutes drive from Gliffaes Country House Hotel.

When leaving the hotel, head east before turning right onto the A40. Continue on the A40 for approximately 2.5 miles and then turn right onto New Road (A4077).

When reaching the roundabout at Heads of the Valleys Road, take the 3rd exit and continue onto the B4246 for around 5 miles.

When you see the signpost for Blaenavon, you must turn right and proceed for around 1 mile and you will see the Big Pit on your right hand side.

Other Attractions Near The Big Pit National Coal Museum

Well-known for being the location of the award-winning “Coal House” which aired on the BBC, Blaenavon Ironworks is located just a few hundred metres from the Big Pit National Coal Museum. With the sites being situated so close to each other, visiting both on the same day is a popular choice among our guests.

The steepest and highest train line in the country, the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway is located in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site and offers a direct connection to the Big Pit.

If the thought of the aged cheddar at the bottom of the Big Pit piqued your interest, then a visit to the Blaenafon Cheddar Company would be worth your while. A family-run business that produces everything on site, you can select your favourites from their flavoured cheeses.

Book Your Brecon Beacons Escape

Gliffaes Country House Hotel is nestled in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

We’ve created a useful guide of local attractions and activities in the Brecon Beacons, containing information on walks, things to do, local shopping, and places to visit, which you can use to help map out your visit to the Brecon Beacons.

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a fresh, locally sourced lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, or somewhere comfortable to stay the night, our friendly country house hotel is the perfect base for your Brecon Beacons break.

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