Action & Adrenaline: Top Adventure Attractions in North Wales
North Wales has changed. Along with the coach-loads of cagoule clad tourists heading to Betws-y-Coed and Swallow Falls, there are people in search of something a little more thrilling. And they are finding it. Underground, overground, and, in the case of the Bear Grylls survival experience, with their nose to the ground. Old slate caverns are alive again. The hills are alive with the sound of mountain bikers. And overhead you don’t just need to watch out for rain, you need to watch out for zipliners….
In recent years there’s been massive investment in the idea of Adventure Wales and also in building adrenaline inducing attractions that are helping turn #yearofadventure and #findyourepic hype into a kind of reality. If you like your thrills packaged and even if you want to take the family, you can now find all sorts of adventure experiences on offer, most of which you can do without any prior skills, experience or training. All you need is guts. And a bit of money. Here’s our pick of eight exciting family adventure attractions we’ve checked out around North Wales in the past year or so….
1 ZipWorld Caverns
What is it? An underground zip-lining adventure that will have you believing you are Indiana Jones. Set underground, deep inside the old Llechwedd Slate Mines, Zip World Caverns turns zip-lining from a quick thrill ride into a journey of exploration. After safety briefing and training in the use of equipment you set off alone to explore the colourfully lit mines on a journey that will have you not just zip lining across slate caverns but traversing ledges, crossing rope bridges, tackling via ferrata and crawling through tunnels on a giant subterranean obstacle course.
Where to do it? At the Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Snowdonia.
Who can do it? Minimum age is 10, minimum weight 30kg, minimum height 1.2m and must be able reach to 1.8m. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Open all weathers and all year round.
How much? £60 per person for 2-3 hours of adventure. £220 for a group of 4. Pre-booking recommended. You need to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled booking time. It’s not cheap but we’d say it’s worth it for the unique experience.
Why invest? Is there a more exciting way to explore the underworld?
For more information: Check the ZipWorld Caverns website
2 Fforest Skyride and Plummet Pole
What is it? Skyride is the biggest swing you’ve ever seen while Plummet Tower is the world’s highest powerfan tree parachute simulator. When hoisted 80 feet up into the air on Skyride you’ll know you’re on Europe’s highest 5 seater swing and you’d better hope someone in your team will have the guts needed to pull the release or you’ll be stuck up there a long time. If you want to go higher then climbing the 100 foot Fforest tower will give you great views over the forest and Conwy valley, but your mind will be on the descent for which you’ll have to stand on the jump platform and leap off. You can relax though because the powerfan brake will arrest your descent and ensure a gentle landing. Although that’s easier said than done.
Where to do it? In Fforest Caffi, along the A470 Conwy Valley, near Betwys-y-Coed.
Who can do it? No age restriction on the Skyride or Plummet but a minimum height of 1.3m
How much? £10 per person for either Skyride or Plummet.
There’s no quicker way to get your stomach churning than climbing up a plummet pole knowing you’ll have to jump off. And no greater feeling than knowing you did it and no-one had to push you.
3 Bounce Below
What is it? In a word? Bouncy. Very, very bouncy. Imagine a giant, colourfully lit cave with enormous net trampolines strung high above the ground. Where miners once hacked slate out of the earth to create a giant cavern twice the size of St Pauls you can now jump, bounce and fly down tubes, run through tunnels and up spiral staircases into the dark. Bounce to your heart’s content but just don’t look down. Bounce Below is due to reopen in June 2016 after some expansion into new areas of the caverns with more, bouncier new nets and bigger, faster slides.
Where to do it? Bounce Below is in the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, in Blaenau Ffestiniog in Snowdonia.
Who can do it? Perfect for families although not for anyone who fears the dark or confined underground spaces. Minimum age is 7. Kids 7-12 must be accompanied by a participating adult. Over 12’s must have an adult spectating. If you have really small children (age 3-6) they can do their own version in the aptly named Junior Bounce Below.
How much? £25 for a 1 hour session. Pre-booking recommended. You need to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled booking time.
Why invest? Come on, how often do you get to have a go on a trampoline under the earth? It’s Lord of the Rings, with springs and the new nets and slides will add extra bounce.
For more information: Visit the Bounce Below website.
4 Rib Ride
What is it? A zen mix of fast, furious power boating and floating on the tide while listening to stories about the marine environment, history and wildlife around Anglesey and the Menai Straits. You can follow your interests on themed rides to explore bridges and swellies, puffins and seals, castles and islands, rent a boat for the day and go around the islands or take the adventurous option on a Bear Grylls rib ride to the Skerries.
Where to do it? There are a number of rib ride operators on Anglesey. Rib Ride are one of the longest established and are based in Menai Bridge.
Who can do it? Minimum age is 4. Beyond that anyone is welcome.
How much? Prices depend on the trip and duration. The shorter (1 hour) trips are £16 for children and £24 for adults. You can book the whole boat for up to 8 people from £150, with prices up to £675 for a custom itinerary with guide for the whole day.
Why invest? No hairdresser can style your hair the way a rib does when cornering at 50 miles per hour. You’ll be able to impress your friends with tall tales of speed boat adventures and interesting facts about Anglesey.
5 Zip World Velocity
What is it? Simply put, the fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe. Set in old Penrhyn slate quarry in Bethesda you work up to riding the Big Zipper by riding the Little Zipper. Consider it a kind of training run for the big one. Then, you ride in big red dumper trucks up to what seems like the top of the world for stunning views out over Anglesey. But that’s not what you’re here for. No you here to fly, at speeds that can reach over 100 miles per hour, over water and across the old quarry. Be Superman. Or Superwoman.
Where to do it? Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda.
Who can do it? Minimum age 10, minimum weight 30kg, minimum height 1.2m. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a participating adult. Younger riders may be able to ride tandem.
How much? £60 per person for what is a 2 hour experience. £220 for a family ticket of 2 adults and 2 kids (under 16) and £260 for family group of 2 adults and 3 kids (under 16). Pre-booking recommended. You need to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled booking time.
Why invest? Bragging rights and a zipline hairdo.
For more information: Watch the video below and check out the ZipWorld Velocity pages.
6 Skiing and toboganning
What is it? The longest toboggan run in Britain and atouch of Alpine sports action. You can ski, snowboard or even snow tube on perma-snow slopes at Plas y Brenin or the Llandudno Ski and Snowboard Centre. Plas y Brenin lies in the heart of Snowdonia and as the National Mountain Sports Centre offers all kinds of other courses in mountain activities. The Llandudno Ski Centre on the Great Orme boasts fabulous views across Llandudno, an Alpine Lodge for that added getaway feeling and a chance to test your need for speed on its 750m Cresta toboggan run.
Where to do it? The Great Orme, Llandudno and Plas y Brenin, Capel Curig
Who can do it? Minimum age for toboggan run is 4. Children 4-7 years must ride with an adult. Children over 8 must ride alone.
How much? It’s complicated depending on what you want and whether you need equipment or tuition. Best to enquire directly with the centres or check their websites. To give an idea, a toboggan run costs £5. Open ski practice is about £11-£15 per session. Individual one hour lessons work out £25-£30. For a private family ski lesson budget around £75.
Why invest? It’s cheaper than the Alps, you can do it all year round, there’s great views from the Great Orme and you can have fish and chips and ice cream afterwards down on the prom. It’s also a great way to build skills and enthusiasm for that proper ski holiday.
7 Bear Grylls Survival Academy
What is it? A bootcamp for bushcraft enthusiasts, learning skills you will need should you ever get stranded in the wilderness. A mix of practical survival training, outdoor fun and family bonding, you’ll learn to make fire, build shelters, forage for food and eat worms. Family groups can do a half day taster session or an overnight wild camp survival adventure. Like all the best adventures, both come with a health warning; ‘It may hurt a little…’
Where to do it? You can take part in a Bear Grylls Survival Academy with Dragon Raiders who are based on the Lleyn Peninsula, an area very close to Bear Gryll’s heart.
Who can do it? It is important you have a certain level of fitness and determination as there is some running, ducking and commando style crawling involved. Minimum age is 8 for the half day session and kids aged 8-10 must be accompanied. For overnight adventure, minimum age is 10 and kids 10-16 must be accompanied.
How much? Half day academy sessions cost £55 per person. Overnight adventures are £155 per person. This includes all instruction, food and loans of equipment as required.
Why invest? You learn some useful, practical survival skills. You get a free mud pack with every booking. But you have to wear it home!
For more information: Check out this post: Bear Gryll’s Survival Academy in Wales. Or for a taster have a look at this video.
8 Breath of the Dragon
What is it? A challenge of a different kind. A chance to test your mettle and your taste buds to see if you can handle tasting the hottest chilli sauce in the world.
Where to do it? The Little Chilli shop in Beaumaris, the only chilli shop in Wales.
Who can do it? Chilli Sue, the owner advises that those with heart problems or asthma should have an ice cream or something instead.
How much? You pay the price on your tongue and in your throat. For about half an hour. And then you’ll feel great.
Why invest? If you make it through the ultimate test you could get yourself featured on the Little Chilli Shop’s Wall of Flame.
For more information: Check out the Little Chilli Shop, Beaumaris
Disclosure Note: We’ve tried every one of these activities, including eating the hottest chillis and enjoyed them all. No-one paid us to write or publish this article. We wrote it because we thought you’d like to know about these things. All the experience, opinions, words, photography and videography are entirely our own. Thanks for reading, especially if you got this far!