Having failed miserably to organise a visit to Dungeness Power Station during our summer break, when I read about Electric Mountain I found a way to redeem myself. I knew this would be right up Son’s street so got my planning cap on and sorted a trip there. We booked our tour on-line through their website about a week in advance, I had learned my lesson – this drive to Snowdonia would not be in vain. On a rainy Saturday off we set.
Electric Mountain is a hydroelectric power plant with a difference. To avoid spoiling the great natural beauty of this little corner of North Wales, they decided to build it deep inside a mountain. The result is a cavernous chamber and vast tunnels carved deep underground. This is Europe’s largest man-made cave, big enough to house St Paul’s Cathedral and reason enough surely to visit, even if hydro-electric power stations are not your thing.
We parked up and went inside the free to enter visitor centre in Llanberis. A café, shop and some information about the power station, we arrived half an hour before our tour was scheduled to leave. That was plenty of time, a few hands-on science exhibits kept Son occupied but we didn’t need any longer.
Our tour started with a short film about the plant and how it came about. The group was ushered downstairs, given fetching hairnets to don and told to put all bags, cameras, phones etc. in a locker to await our return. You are not allowed to wear open-toed shoes either – lots of health and safety going on here – we were in walking boots so all was well.
Onto a bus for the short journey, our guide told us a bit about the power station. We left the main road, passed through a series of security barriers and started our journey into the bowels of the mountain. A bit spooky and a weird feeling, Son remarked it was like we were entering the world of James Bond.
The plant’s primary purpose is to cater for surges in the UK National Grid. At peak output it can power the whole of Wales. They can power up to full capacity in four seconds here, a conventional power station needs four hours. These kind of statistics appealed to my inner nerd, Husband and Son had their own fascination with the machinery and mechanics. We got up close to much of it, super noisy but they were enthralled.
One final film inside the mountain, then we boarded our little bus to return to the visitor centre. Husband and Son adored the whole experience. I enjoyed it, maybe a bit less than them…. What I did love though was the setting – right on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, surrounded by mountains and gorgeous scenery, we walked and explored the area, quite an intriguing feeling looking at the mountain and knowing we’d been right inside.