Adventure Action Days Out Wales

Flying the Longest Zipwire in Europe

Is it a bird or is it a mum? Flying on the ziplina at ZipWorld Bethesda
Written by Kirstie

Zip World UK – where everyone is Superman

Kirstie Profile Small

It’s the closest you’ll get to feeling like Superman. It’s the nearest you’ll come to jumping from a plane. Yet you don’t need superpowers, gymnastic capabilities or training to fly at Zip World UK. On our #blogwales trip to Llandudno and Conwy, I shoot across a quarry at 70mph, I am SuperMum on a zip wire in Wales, followed closely by my three kids. We begin with a warm up on the Little Zipper… 

Becoming Superman

Clarke Kent had to make do with a phone box. We have a purpose built hut. Clarke Kent took off his glasses. We put on perspex specs. Clarke Kent had to save the world. We are here to have fun.

But then Clarke Kent just had to pop on a pair of underpants over his trousers and hold his arms above his head. Our preparations are more scientific, involving weight checks, extra weight, speed guns, wind checks, special suits, a truck, a harness and a full briefing on a moon-like mound that will be our launchpad. To be honest, if Superman ever had to do all this, the baddie would have taken over the planet by the time he’d got his harness on.

ZipWorld UK Bethesda

Getting ready to fly at ZipWorld Bethesda. Of course there’s going to be a bit of hanging around

Earth to Mars

Space to Mission control. Are you ready for the big one?

The instructors are. But am I? The countdown begins. Then blast off.

The route is always the same, but everyone experiences it differently. It begins fast, and gets faster; travelling straight down the rock face of a steep quarry at 70-80 mph, where in the distant past Welsh slate miners toiled in all weathers to harvest jagged slabs of slate. Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda is the oldest and largest slate quarry in the world and only opened as Zip World a few months ago. It takes me a few seconds to hurtle past a group of people on the hill below who look like moving Playmobile figures, and then, the world opens out. And I am flying.

ZipWorld UK Bethesda

Looking out over Penrhyn Quarry from the top of the Big Zipper. It takes just 60 seconds to get down.

The zip that everyone can wear

While you might feel like Superman, you don’t have to be a superhero to have a go at the longest zip wire in the northern hemisphere. Yes, it’s fast. And yes, it’s steep. But anyone can do it. You get a lift to the top in a truck so it’s suitable for the old. There are no skills involved so it’s suitable for the young. Unlike skydiving or other zip wires you don’t have to make a mental and physical leap from a platform or even a decision about when to launch. That’s all out of your hands. You don’t even have to go alone; Cameron and Hannah fly behind me on a tandem wire.

Instructor Briefs Tandem Zipwire Kids

Hannah and Cameron are briefed on how to fly before they are released on the Big Zipper

If you want to challenge yourself on a high thrill ride without scaring yourself to death, if you want to experience the thrill of a bungee jump without the freefall and if you want to experience the sensation of flying without having to wear a beak, then this attraction is for you. The staff are young and cheerful, the air is fresh, the view is superb, and soon there will be a second zip wire installed which will enable the centre to cater for over 300 thrill seekers a day.

On the downside; if you are used to adrenaline filled activity where you are in control, if you like to face you fears while making a physical leap, and you prefer to pull the cord yourself, then you may find there’s something missing from the experience for you. I liked Zip World, but not as much as I thought I was going to like it. I think it’s partly because I wasn’t frightened enough. And partly because it was all over so quickly. But then, that’s part of the point.

In Penrhyn Quarry ZipWorld UK

It’s maybe the longest zipwire, but it’s all over very quickly. The longest shortest biggest thrill in Wales?

Does anyone know how this thing stops?

On the wire, such thoughts are impossible. You’re too busy being a bullet. I blast over a stony blue lake and wonder if anyone ever told Clarke Kent how to stop on his first ever ride. The brakes still haven’t kicked in as I head straight for the finish line. In a moment I’m going to face plant a quarry lorry.

And then, with a hydraulic clatter and a jerk, it’s all over. In just over a minute. And I want to do it again.

But I can’t. My seven year old and eleven year old are loaded and ready to go.

Once loaded they come at me quickly, out of nowhere, in a blur of excitement and rock and heartbeat and air and speed. Followed by Stuart. In his underpants. No, not really.

Tandem team gets ready to zipwire

Brother and sister flying together. They’ll be no fighting for the next sixty seconds.

Satnav on normal again

Back in the car we set the family satnav back to normality. I look back at the dramatic slate-scape, with its direct line to the clouds, and I wonder if I even did it at all? And wish I could do it all again.

The Zip World Truck

Back at base we must swap Monster Truck for car. And give up the Superman suits

Practical information

Zip World is open from 10-4 and runs in hourly pre-booked sessions.

It costs £50 a head, £160 for a family of four or £200 for a family of five.

There are weight and age restrictions for kids so check yours are eligible for the big zipper when booking.

All clothing and equipment is provided, but bring a coat and warm clothing and wear sensible shoes; as Superman will tell you, flip flops won’t stay on at 70+ miles an hour. If you want to put your pants on outside your jumpsuit then that’s up to you.

Leave three hours for the experience and arrive half an hour before to kit up. In adverse weather conditions the attraction may not run, so if you’re coming far, it may be wise to phone ahead and check it’s open. If it’s cancelled you won’t get your money back, but you will get a voucher to use another time.

Group Briefing at Top of Big Zipper

Group Briefing at Top of Big Zipper, ZipWorld UK. Some look more nervous than others.

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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