The Big Pit in Blaenavon is one of Wales' best days out. Extremely popular with kids and grown-ups alike, it allows visitors to see what coal mining in the Valleys was really like in the most effective way possible- by letting them descend 300ft down into a real mine, in the company of a former coal miner.
The underground tour is undoubtedly the main attraction but there is plenty to see on the surface as well. As befits the National Coal Museum, the Big Pit is home to an impressive collection of mining machinery and memorabilia. It's not just about what coal mining was like for the workers (although the conditions they faced were sometimes shocking) but about the dignity and pride of local people and the wider background of why the coal boom happened when it did, and how what came out of the Valleys changed the world. There are exhibits designed to educate visitors about the role of children in the mines, about the conflicts between unions and authorities, about the mine management, and about the lives of those who didn't work there but noneless depended on the coal industry.
It's also more than just a tourist attraction. The cool, dark, mine is the perfect place to mature cheese- a fact not missed by the excellent and creative staff of a local cheddar company. Visitors can buy excellent cheese matured deep in the mines and take them home to sample.
Few people leave the Big Pit without a deeper understanding of the daily perils faced by the coal miners of Wales, and a real respect for their courage and fortitude. As an exciting but though-provoking day out, it's hard to find anywhere better.