Wednesday, 23 June 2010


The Sygun copper mine is a mile from Beddgelert in Snowdonia, within the Gwynant Valley and close to Snowdon itself.

The origins of the mine are unclear. Remains of a Roman fort have been discovered nearby, so it entirely possible that  minerals were extracted in their day. It is a matter of record that seventy inhabitants of Beddgelert were employed there in the eighteenth century, and in 1836, ore extracted from Sygun had been sold for £2,800, warrenting the building of a crushing mill at nearby Afon Glaslyn.

Most of the copper in Sygun was extracted by drilling bore holes, which were packed with gunpowder and ignited. Pillars of rock were left to support the roof and wooden floors and stairs were built for access. The blasted rock was loaded into large buckets called kibbles and then transported out of the mine on a metal tramway.

The mine changed hands several times and continued to be productive until its eventual closure in 1903. If you have seen the film 'The Inn of the Sixth Happiness', charting the life of Gladys Aylward, you may be interested to know that Sygun was briefly re-opened in 1958 to create the set of the Chinese village.

After that, it lay quiet until 1983, when it was restored in preparation for public opening as an attraction in 1986.

For me, the most attractive and interesting feature of the mine was the stalectites and stalegmites, caused by the dripping of iron ore filled water through the cracks and crevices in the rocks. They created beautiful orangy-brown curtains.

And the reward for having climbed the 45 metres of stairways, is the glorious view down the valley...

...perhaps a little more visible on a dry day :)

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