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Saluting the slate

Peter Barnes, an artist from Llanbedr y Cennin, has become obsessed with the blue slate that is synonymous with Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda. He recently spent two months creating a statue from waste slate to pay tribute to the ‘wonderful material that slate is’.

The statue shows the figure of a man raising his fist in the air and is entitled ‘Celebrating Blue Slate’. Penrhyn Quarry was the world’s largest slate quarry at the end of the nineteenth century employing around three thousand men. The quarry was first developed in the 1770’s by Richard Pennant, later Baron Penrhyn, who used his wealth to rebuild Penrhyn Castle (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/penrhyn-castle). The harsh conditions at the quarry provoked many labour disputes culminating in ‘The Great Strike of Penrhyn’ which lasted for three years from November 1900. Penrhyn remains Britain’s largest slate quarry although now it employs only two hundred under the name of Welsh Slate Ltd.

From being the biggest slate quarry in the world, Penrhyn Quarry has now become the home of ‘the fastest zip wire in the world’ when Zip World Velocity opened at Bethesda in March 2013. It includes a pair of zip lines, over a mile long, where riders can exceed one hundred miles an hour, five hundred feet high and ‘experience the nearest thin to flying’ (www.zipworld.co.uk)

Titan, the world’s first four person zip line, was opened at Blaenau Ffestiniog in June 2014. Rather than being the world leader in slate it could now be said that the combination of Velocity and Titan makes Snowdonia the zip line capital of the world. Llechwedd Slate Caverns at Blaenau Ffestiniog are also home to Bounce Below (www.bouncebelow.net).

The forty five minute drive between Bethesda and Blaenau Ffestiniog encompasses some of the most breathtaking scenery in Snowdonia. You could go via Llanberis and take in the National Slate Museum (www.museumwales.ac.uk/slate) which (with free entry) promises ‘a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn’. The museum is set in the Victorian workshops of Dinorwig Quarry. This former rival of Penrhyn Quarry closed in 1969, although the workshops look as though the quarrymen have simply left them at the end of their shift. There are talks and demonstrations of slate splitting in an environment which transports you back in time and gives you an overwhelming sense of place.

There is so much to see and do in Anglesey and Snowdonia that it makes sense to book a cottage for a weekend or a short break. You can enjoy the majesty of the mountains and the timeless rhythm of the sea in this wonderful land where mountains and sea coincide.

Go to www.coastalholidays.net to view our extensive range of cottages in Anglesey, Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula which can cater for couples, families and groups (large and small) – most are pet friendly – and all at low season rates. You can book online, ring us on 01248 430190 or email us on info@coastalholidays.net  and we will be glad to help.

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