Sygun Copper Mine is a Victorian copper mine that was closed in 1903, but was renovated and reopened by the Amies family as a tourist attraction in 1986, focusing on audio-visual tours of the underground workings. It is located about 2 kilometres outside of the village of Beddgelert in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. The Sygun complex also includes an art museum and art gallery. The Sygun Museum of Wales also includes a Welsh mythology and Welsh history section, the Red Dragon Heritage Centre. The museum has one of the largest art collections of any privately controlled museum in Great Britain, small portions being exhibited at various times throughout the year. The collection is split into two main departments, antique and 20th century. The copper mine's original buildings, some of which still exist, were shown in the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.
The Sygun mine is one mile from the village of Beddgelert in the glorious Gwynant Valley in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. The mines and run up the hillside overlooking Llyn Dinas, to Llwyn-Ddu, from which there is an excellent view across to the southern side of the Snowdon Massif. It is representative of a typical metalliferous mine and has been restored and preserved to allow visitors to explore the underground workings in complete safety. Guided tours now take visitors through the old workings to see copper ore veins and large chambers with magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations richly coloured by iron oxide brought in solution by water seeping through the rocks. Audio presentations are available in English Welsh, French and German, while special lighting effects contribute in providing a realistic glimpse into the past. The route rises nearly 45 metres via stairways, winding tunnels and colourful caverns to emerge at the Victoria level for a breathtaking view of the Gwynant Valley and surrounding Snowdonia mountain range. There are pleasant, well marked riverside walks upstream to the lake, Llyn Dinas, and downstream to Beddgelert.
Within this hillside, several lodes - steeply inclined (or often vertical) veins or seams of minerals, have been mined for the copper-ore that they contain. Sygun mines may have had Roman origins because there are remains of a Roman fort close by. Unfortunately there is little documentary evidence before 1825 but his is due to lack of records rather than activity. It is, however, known that in the 18th century more than seventy inhabitants of Beddgellert were employed in nearby copper mines. At the start Sygun was reasonably productive because by 1836 ore taken from the mine had been sold for £2,800 and a crushing mill was subsequently built adjacent to the Afon Glaslyn. The mine changed hands a number of times until Henry McKeller owned it from 1839 until he died in 1862, during which time between 2,000 and 3,000 tonnes of ore had been removed. Again the mine changed hands until it finally closed in 1903. All the plant and machinery was recovered and moved to another mine at Glasdir near Dolgellau. Mining for most of Sygun's history was achieved by miners hand-drilling holes with a hammer and chisel that were subsequently packed with gunpowder and ignited. As they removed the ore and waste rock they left pillars of rock to support the roof and hammered metal pegs into the walls to support wooden ledges or floors to stand on. Waste rock from these higher workings was piled on the timber so the floor rose with the miner. The ore was carried in large buckets called Kibbles to where it could be loaded into metal tubs to be taken out of the mine on tramways. It was then taken to the crushing mill before being transported by horse and cart to Beddgelert and Portmaddog where it was shipped to Swansea for refining into copper metal. The construction of the railway made the transportation of the ore considerably easier. Then in the 1890s a revolutionary new process of ore separation was invented by the Elmore brothers, Frank and Stanley who owned the mine with their father, which enabled higher percentages of concentrate than had ever been achieved before. This was achieved in a floatation house where the valuable ore was trapped in a layer of oil floating on tanks of water while most of the waste sank into the water. The oil and water were separated on the next level down. To increase efficiency a horse drawn tramway was constructed from the Victoria level to the floatation house.
After the mine was abandoned Stalactites and Stalagmites were formed as water trickled through the old tunnels. Today it's cheaper to recycle copper than to extract it! The underground caverns of the Copper Mine are cool with a year round temperature of about 9°C so please wrap up warm whatever the temperature above ground. Please also wear sensible footwear as the floor is wet and uneven in places with some loose stones. Caverns and tunnels have quite dim lighting and there are a few tunnels where you need to duck to walk through, each visitor is issued with a safety helmet to protect your head from any contact with the roof. Sygun Coppermine is a self guided walking tour in which you visit three levels of the the old workings. These levels are reached via a series of staircases which take you up through the mountain. The tour concludes at the Victoria Level of the mine where you will follow the mountain path back to the visitor centre. The total distance is approximately 500 metres. Unfortunately due to the nature of the tour it is not suitable for Pushchairs or Wheelchairs. Assistance dogs are welcome. Beddgelert is a beautiful place to visit with a number of attractions.
Location : Sygun Copper Mine, Beddgelert, Gwynedd LL55 4NE
Transport : Betws-y-Coed (National Rail) then bus (S2 then S4, S97). Bus Routes : S4 and S97 stop close by.
Opening Times : 10th February - 10th November, Daily BST 09:30 to 17:00; Winter 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £8.95; Children (3 - 15) £6.95; Seniors/ Students £7.95
Tel : 01766 890595