May 9th, 2019
North Wales has been recently dubbed the “zip-line capital of Europe” – all thanks to an incredible attraction set in the heart of historical industrial North Wales. But this is not just any old zip-line……This is not some adventure playground affair where you hold onto an old tractor tyre for dear life, getting cramps in your legs as you skim a few centimetres above the damp decorative bark. Oh no, this is Zip-line royalty. The creators of Zip World started in 2013 with the construction of a mile long zip-line that “flies” participants over an abandoned quarry in North Wales, reaching speeds of up to 100mph! It is the longest zip-line in Europe and the fastest in the world. It was a huge hit, and so the Zip World team turned their attention to another site at a different quarry, a few miles from the original. And in the summer of 2014, Zip World Titan opened its wires to the world, this time creating the largest “Zip-Zone” in Europe and the only 4 person zip-line too.
Zip World Titan is at the Llechwedd Slate mines in the mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This little town was once a major hub for slate mining, and at its peak the Llechwedd mine produced almost 24,000 tonnes of slate a year and employed over 500 people. This grey-gold from the mountains was once the backbone of Welsh industry and now the story is being re-written with a modern twist.
The Zip World attractions have bought a new lease of life to an area that was facing many economical challenges. The Zip World at Llechwedd site (called the Titan, whereas the Zip World at nearby Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda is known as Velocity) is also home to another world first. Deep in the belly of a 176 year old disused slate mining cavern, which is double the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, is a bouncer’s paradise. No, not a doorman kind of bouncer, a trampoline kind of bounce…. This subterranean playground features trampolines suspended in the air at different levels, the highest at 180 feet, all connected by slides and walkways.
Sounds pretty awesome huh? So off we went to explore for a brilliant day out at Zip World. Suitably booted, suited and safety-goggled up, the adventure starts with the longest zip-line (there are three in total), and at almost a kilometre long, this is the most sedate. Heart in my mouth (and regretting eating a big breakfast, although I was assured that the breaking point of the line was something in the region of 30 tonnes, and not even I can eat that much breakfast), I stepped off a platform and headed out over the wild moorland with the views of the quarry below, and the stunning hills of Snowdonia in the distance. The speed is fairly slow here, apparently about 30mph, but that feels pretty fast when you’re flying through the air attached to a zip-line!
There’s a short walk to the second platform, and although this line is shorter, it’s much faster. There’s barely time to let out a scream as I zoom over the open belly of the quarry, and even less time to appreciate the views on this one. And there’s no let up on the third zip-line. Called “Chaos”, this one is the shortest and the fastest. On good weather days, the staff tell me, you can reach speeds of 70mph on this line! And I’ve no idea how fast I sped down it, but it felt pretty breakneck to me! I wondered if this is how Superman felt when the wind was behind him? I stepped onto the platform at the other end with wobbly legs, but the butterflies in my stomach had been replaced with pure euphoria.
But the fun wasn’t over yet. It was time to head “downstairs” to the awesome underground cavern adventure that is Bounce Below. It’s quite difficult to describe the view that greets you – a series of bouncy nets look as though they’re suspended in mid air, and all joined together by rope bridges and slides, lit up by atmospheric blue and red lighting. I found it impossible to contain my inner four year old and ran shrieking, laughing and bouncing onto the nets. What a great way to burn off the big breakfast, and the lunchtime cake, not to mention staying warm and dry whilst the heavens opened above ground.
Rain aside, (which is really rather common in this part of the world) what an incredible day it turned out to be. A whole day at Zip-World isn’t cheap, but then it’s not an experience that’ll be repeated too often, and I thought it was well worth the money, for big and little kids alike. I wonder what the ghosts of quarrymen past make of it all, as idle tourists scream and zoom their way over their landscape? But as well as thrills, euphoria and safe kicks, Zip-World has given an ageing, industrial wasteland a new lease of life, and an economic boom to an area in need of it. And that, I’m certain, can only be a good thing.