Address: Abercraf, Swansea SA9 1GJ

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Phone: +44 (0) 1639 730284

 

Dan-Yr-Ogof Caves History

The caves were discovered by the Morgan brothers when they were investigating the water that was coming out of a cave and flooding the fields at their sheep farm.

The Morgan brothers were Edwin, Tommy and Jeff and when they decided to investigate, they took with them candles and rope as well as the precaution of a revolver! They went 300 metres into the cave before travelling through a tiny passage and into a huge show cave.

Water prevented further exploration, but they returned again, this time with a small boat, and crossed four underground lakes.

Once word got out, the brothers took visitors through the caves and charged a small fee. Whilst spectacular, it wasn’t a pleasant experience as they had to wade and swim through the cold water, but the commercial aspect was born. The brothers named it ‘Dan-yr-Ogof’ which means ‘beneath the cave’.

It wasn’t until 1937 that they decided to fully commercialise the project, hiring miners to transform the caves into a clean, dry, visitable attraction with concrete walkways. The project was finished in 1939, but sadly the Second World War started weeks after opening. Not only did the caves have to close, but they were now used for storing art treasures, documents as well as ammunition.

The war finished in 1945 and, in theory, the caves could simply have been re-opened. But such was the state of the country’s economy that the caves, as a commercial venture, remained closed until 1964.

The caves are extensive and have been explored to a distance of 11miles, with only the easy first part open to tourists. Further exploration is continually undertaken by experts. According to some, the cave system could be as long as 100 miles.

Today, the caves are owned by a family trust and run by descendants of the Morgan brothers.

 

Dan-Yr-Ogof Caves Visit

It’s a great story – two brothers stumbling across the main cave, which is now of such magnitude that it’s part of the place that was voted the UK’s top natural landmark, ahead of the Cheddar gorge and caves. But the people who run the caves have the task of providing an attraction that draws visitors and with this in mind, it helps to add a few more elements to satisfy all, especially children. They would get bored simply looking at rock formations.

So what else is there? They’ve converted the great hillside slopes outside the caves into a dinosaur valley with models of dinosaurs. Now this sounds really tacky and we’ve all seen the odd dinosaur model over the years, but this display is actually quite good, and if you’re into dinosaurs, it’s really very good, being one of the world’s largest collections of life-sized dinosaurs. There are dozens of them dotted around the site, on the paths, on banks, by the river, all pretty lifelike and all with a board nearby giving the name, type and a description. I think the type of person who would have no interest in them is probably the type of person who would be fascinated by the caves – so something for all!

There are three caves. The first one you enter, the main cave, seems very long. It’s shaped like a lasso – it’s about a 200 metre walk to the end loop part, which is then about another 300 metres around, and then the 200 metre walk back. It’s around half a mile in total, but appears much longer. And whilst it has a good few formations of stalagmites etc., it’s not overly spectacular, unless you notice all the detail that you can easily walk past.

The second one is the Cathedral cave and is spectacular. This is so named because of the huge ceilings. This cave is a lot shorter, which is a blessing, as walking on and on as you do through the first cave can get a bit tedious at times. The Cathedral cave comes to an end in pretty spectacular fashion as there are two great forty foot waterfalls and you walk on a platform between them, getting the odd bit of fine spray. This area is named ‘The Dome of St Pauls’ and as you walk to the end and look back, you can see the cathedral effect.

The third cave is the ‘Bone Cave’. This is where 42 human skeletons were found – some being Roman soldiers found with their weapons. This is a very small cave and the entrance is so low that safety helmets are provided – it’s probably about five feet high, but once inside there’s plenty of headroom. It seems about twenty yards long and is filled with model figures and scenes from the past.

Elsewhere on the site is the model of an old Iron Age village and near the entrance by the road (to the right when you drive in) is the Shire Horse Centre that has a collection of animals around and inside farm buildings. They include, apart from the horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chipmunks and there are farm displays featuring all manner of tools and machinery. There’s also a kiddies indoor race track.

It’s a good day out, certainly for kids and with ski lessons advertised in the shop, the place must be well used all year round.