Dan yr Ogof (‘dan ear Roh-goff’ in case you were wondering) is the National Showcaves Centre for Wales. Located at the edge of the Brecon Beacons, and it’s a must-visit for any families visiting the Welsh National Park.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just a place where you go wander round some caves. No no no, silly. This is a whole day out for the family – and if you have younger kids you’ll want to start early and leave yourself a whole day to explore.
This is the main entrance to the Dan yr Ogof Showcaves. I know – not what you’d expect, right? There’s dinosaurs everywhere.
But that’s because as well as the three main cave systems, there’s a whole dinosaur park to explore – with over 200 life-size dinosaurs! – plus a Shire Horse Centre & Farm, and numerous smaller points worth checking out.
I’ll be honest – we were visiting with our teens (and one 11yr old practicing-teen), so some of the Dan yr Ogof park was a bit young for them.
But we still had a brilliant visit – we simply skimmed through the stuff that was a bit young for their cynical teenage minds, and really took our time to enjoy the other parts.
The caves themselves were the highlight of course. Three different systems to explore – and all with carefully prepared floors that are easily pushchair accessible. This is not a cave that you need a hard hat, head torch and experienced guide – you simply wander through at your own time.
In Dan Yr Ogof cave…
…you’re guided by an audio recording of Tommy and Jeff Morgan, the two brothers who found and explored the caves early last century. the information was perfectly pitched to be educational for younger visitors;
“Jeff? What are those long spikes of rock hanging from the ceiling?
“Well, Tommy, those are called ‘stalactites'”
“But how do they get there Jeff?”
“Well Tommy, stalactites are formed when…”
Brilliant for under-10’s, but soon ignored by the teenagers. Which was fine, actually – because you can move at your own pace, we were happy just exploring and looking at the formations which interested us the most.
It was a shame that some of the beautiful formations were protected behind perspex – I’m sure this isn’t by choice, more from necessity once you have thousands of not-so-respectful tourists walking through.
The cathedral cave…
…is home to an utterly deafening waterfall – even in the middle of one of the driest summers on record the noise was thunderous; I cannot imagine being able to hear anything in there after a wet Spring! It’s an exciting cave to walk through because of that, though – there was something oddly freeing about walking through so much natural NOISE.
Oddly, the kids favourite cave was the least glamorous (and the hardest to reach) the tiny Bone Cave way up high on the hillside.
Although small, it’s packed with living history, telling the story of all those whose remnants have been found there, from ancient man to the Romans. We all stood still and listened to every word of the automatic audio descriptions of each time period, watching with the fascination the tableau displays of life in each age.
Once we’d finished with the caves, we stepped into the small museum – which is actually a treasure, and we spent far more time than we expected exploring all of the exhibits, all of us being attracted by different displays. There were lots of interactive features, and it covered a hotch-potch of relevant knowledge from the dinosaurs through to current environmental issues.
With just one small frustration though. This is one of the displays within the museum, and you can just see up on the right there is a white plaque with quite a large amount of very interesting facts and information, along with some discovered artefacts which I was keen to look at. I was reading through when the light turned off, and turned on for the dark window on the left (which houses a different display). Thinking I’d just timed my arrival wrong, I stepped to my left and began to read that display – at which point the lights turned off, and the display on the right turned back on again. After dancing back and forth a few times, I gave up and just stood and waited when the lights dimmed, and then read the next paragraph swiftly before they went off again. Please Dan Yr Ogof – if you must alternate the display lighting, leave them on long enough to actually appreciate what you’re trying to tell us!
(it could, of course, just be that there was a fault with the lighting on that day!)
Finally we’d had enough of being indoors, so we headed off to find the Shire horses. Obviously we were still mid-heatwave, so weren’t expecting much horse activity; and we were correct, they were happy to be in the shade and snoozing peacefully. But the stroll out to the farm was lovely, and we throughly enjoyed viewing the effective ‘museum of Mr. Morgan’s Victorian Farm‘ (though we were amused by a mum with very young children who tried valiantly to engage her pre-schoolers with looking at an old-fashioned kitchen!).
The shire horses were their usual gentle, tolerant giant selves.
Expecting teen boys to look, grunt and move on, I was surprised at just how long they stood, gently stroking necks, and giant whiskery noses. It was quite a wrench to pull the them away, though inside the stables they liked the tiny snoring Shetland ponies in equal measure!
We had a really good day at Dan yr Ogof – and despite not really appreciating possibly half of the displays, the teenagers were beaming and happy when we got back to the car. There is a coffee shop which serves meals if you wish to use it, but of course you can take your own packed lunch if you prefer, and there’s plenty of spots provided for picnicking.
We actually missed out the fossil house as it was full of a school trip when we passed,
Dan yr Ogof Showcaves are open 7 days a week from Monday 26th March (2018) until Sunday 4th November (2018), and the entrance ticket coveres you for all of the attractions. Adults £15, Children £12.