Step into the heart of iron and coal: an itinerary for time travel in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site
Ever wondered what it was like to live and work in Victorian Blaenavon?
If the answer is yes - then you’re in luck! Our brand-new ‘Time Travel in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site’ 360⁰ virtual reality experience, is a fantastic way to discover the sights and sounds of 19th and 20th century Blaenavon.
Featuring real characters from the town’s industrial past, our three immersive VR films allow you to watch in real-time as modern-day Blaenavon returns to a momentous time gone by.
To turn back the clocks, all you need to do is visit the Blaenavon Digital Passport and look out for our Time Travellers’ benches! Located across the World Heritage Site, they provide the perfect place to sit down, access the films and step back in time.
Here is a recommended itinerary to help you locate each bench - complete with a range of activities and must-see attractions to help you make the most of a day-out in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.
1. Enjoy a history lesson at Blaenavon World Heritage Centre
The perfect place to begin your visit.
Located inside a beautifully restored industrial school, Blaenavon World Heritage Centre is jam-packed with interactive displays and exhibitions about the town’s rich past and offers visitors extensive information about the area and surrounding landscape.
Formerly St Peter’s School, the Heritage Centre was once a place of hope and opportunity for the local children - who often worked alongside their elders in the local coal and mining industries. After recognising the need for free education in the town, Sarah Hopkins founded the School in 1815 in memory of her brother and famed Blaenavon Ironmaster, Samuel Hopkins.
At the front of the Centre you will find the first of our coveted Time Travellers’ benches - take a seat, meet Sarah Hopkins and experience first-hand what it was like to attend St Peter’s School all those years ago.
2. Venture underground at Big Pit National Coal Museum
After stepping back in time at Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, take a short drive or 20 minute walk to Big Pit - a real Welsh coal mine where hundreds of men, woman and children worked to extract the mineral that gave a burst of life to household fires across the globe.
The award-winning National Coal Mining Museum is one of the most evocative heritage venues in the world, paying tribute to the toil and grind of Welsh miners during the Industrial Revolution.
Prepare to be lowered 90 metres underground through an original mineshaft and imagine hard-hatters singing songs of labour as you discover what it was like to work in the Big Pit colliery.
And, if you want to experience the sights and sounds of Big Pit through the eyes of a Victorian miner, stop by the on-site Time Travellers’ bench where you can use the Blaenavon Digital Passport to discover the trials and tribulations of local miner, Henry Underwood.
3. Discover the taste of Blaenavon Ale at Rhymney Brewery
An activity for older time travellers: just a stone’s throw away from Big Pit.
Rhymney Brewery was once the largest brewery business in Wales and has a distinguished history spanning over 140 years of brewing.
During the early Industrial Revolution poor sanitation meant that beer was often safer to drink than water. Plus, the heat and strain of the heavy industries also gave workmen a great thirst so in a coal and iron-producing town like Blaenavon, beer was in high demand!
Pay Rhymney Brewery Visitor Centre a visit to find out how Real Ale is crafted in the heart of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.
4. Take a bite into the past with Blaenavon Cheddar Company
The World Heritage Site around Blaenavon not only boasts a historically important landscape and accredited museums, but it also offers up some tasty treats.
At the award-winning local cheese-makers, Blaenavon Cheddar Company - situated on Broad Street - take a bite into the past and try your hand at dipping your own cheese.
From Black Gold - a Pwll Mawr Cheddar variant, black by appearance and matured 300ft underground in the mine shaft at Big Pit, to Bara Brith Cheddar - a traditional Welsh bread recipe of plumped juicy raisins and mixed fruit infused with 'Black Mountain' liqueur - these distinct and unusually flavoured cheeses are unique to Blaenavon.
5. Wander the streets of Blaenavon Heritage Town
Walk off your cheesy treats and explore the internationally-recognised town of Blaenavon. Set in between historic chapels and churches, Blaenavon boasts a brilliant selection of traditional cafes and specialist independent shops - all of which offer visitors a friendly smile and warm Welsh welcome.
Plus, don’t forget to stop by the treasure trove that is Blaenavon Community Museum. With an extensive collection of local artefacts and community records, it’s a great way to learn more about Blaenavon’s story and its people.
Speaking of which, why not complete your visit by stopping by our third and final Time Travellers’ bench in Blaenavon Heritage Town - located at Broad Street Car Park - to gain an insight into the life of local shopkeeper, Mary Underwood and her family.
No VR headset? No problem. The brand-new Time Travel in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site experience can be accessed via standard smart devices. And for anyone who’s curious about VR but doesn’t have a headset - you can borrow one for free from Big Pit National Coal Museum or the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre.