About Dan yr Ogof Showcaves Waterfalls
The Dan yr Ogof Showcaves Waterfalls pertain to a few waterfalls that we just so happened to see during our visit to this cave system in the Brecon Beacons National Park. From our pre-trip research, we were well aware that the caves would have waterfalls so that was something we anticipated. We also knew that there was quite a bit of development to essentially make the caves feel more like a theme park instead of a natural wonder to tour through, but we were willing to look past those things to see the underground waterfalls. Yet even with that said, it turned out that what we didn’t realize was that the showcaves were really a system of three caves called Dan yr Ogof (pronounced “DAHN ehr OH-gov”; literally “under the cave” in Welsh), Cathedral Cave, and Bone Cave. Plus the mix of Jurassic Park-like dinosaur themes with the archaeology and history of the cave delighted our three-year-old daughter as well as Julie, but I had some mixed feelings about how genuine the education value of it all was. And, of course, with the kitschy themes also comes the inevitable unashamed commercialism as well. Yet even despite all this, as was often the case in our travels, sometimes you just have to go there and experience the place for yourself before you can give into prejudgement.
So when we pulled up to the long car park for the Dan yr Ogof complex and made our way in, the first thing that greeted us a big fake dinosaur as we walked through its legs to a recorded sound of a roar. The moment we did this, I knew we were going to witness one of the ultimate clashes of a natural attraction against a theme park. In the quad area that we were in, there were more fake dinosaurs and wooly mammoths surrounding picnic tables as well as a cafe, and a gift shop near a gold mining display (where you could pretend like you’re panning for gold). Further on, we then paid to get into the showcaves area, which was a painfully hefty 13.75 pounds per adult plus another 9 pounds for Tahia since she was within the 3-16 age window (for a grand total of 36.5 pounds).The walkway took us through to an overlook of the River Llynfell where there were some fake crocodiles on its banks. There was also an interesting model of the cave system and how the water literally cut through the porous limestone. Then, we went into the first cave itself, where it was like a classical cave involving the usual stalactites and stalagmite formations as we were self-touring our way through the various corridors of artificially-lit chambers, corridors, and formations. There was a loud speaker at each of the rooms providing narration on the go as we were making our exploration. The first waterfall of our visit turned out to be deep inside this cave, where a thin stream of water splashed onto a slope before making its way alongside the walkway further down. It was merely an introduction to the other waterfalls we’d see later on in a different cave though its modest splash reverberated through the cave making it sound more significant than what it actually was.
When we left this cave, we then followed the signs towards a narrow path behind the admission window. Then, we had to go up a series of ramps as we made our way uphill past some re-created villages as well as other dinosaur displays. In one spot near the re-created village, there was an intriguing spring where we could see water bubbling up from the ground and actually flowing further down the hill. Further along the way, there was a branch leading left to the Bone Caves, but the signs and speakers urged us to continue further up the hill to the Cathedral Cave, and that was where we went next. Right in front of the entrance, there were some pretty heavy light boxes to carry around if we worried about the cave being too dark, but we decided not to use them (too many things to carry), and it would turn out that we wouldn’t need them anyways.As soon as we went into the Cathedral Cave, there were some fake cave art, and the self-guided narration didn’t continue for much longer as it gave way to the echoing wedding music that permeated the rest of this intriguing cave system. After passing through a long corridor where there was a stream alongside the walkway, we then saw another waterfall, which was a wide series of drops against the curved limestone walls as the path bent towards a dark ramp ascending to the next major chamber. This was a very attractive waterfall but it wasn’t easy to photograph as the water tended to blend into the yellow lighting of the walls. I did bring our tripod to help with the low lighting, but even despite this, I would learn that photographing these falls weren’t that easy.
After ascending the dark ramp (which wasn’t as slippery as I had anticipated), we then overlooked an area where with some pools in the middle of a grand room, and a pair of loud waterfalls plunging into these pools with the walkway weaving behind then in between these falls on its way towards what appeared to be an altar area. The altar area was the end of the walkway, and that was where we were able to get the picture you see at the top of this page. The lighting tended to alternate between going out (making the room dark) then re-lit again with the soft yellow lighting that tended to make the waterfall blend in with the walls under very long exposures (say more than 10″ or so). The wedding music was the loudest at this spot, and I guess it all kind of made sense why they chose this music once we were standing by the locked altar-like ceremony area.
We spent quite a bit of time taking pictures here, but eventually, we would have to leave this very scenic spot on our self-tour, then go out the Cathedral Cave and back into the daylight. Then, we would go right into the last unexplored section of the showcaves area, which was another dinosaur garden area where the path went up some steps towards the top of a fake waterfall before leading further under some low hanging canopies forcing most people to have to bend over to keep walking towards the Bone Cave. There were hard hats to wear so protect from banging the noggin too many times, but I often thought of this part of the tour as the recipe for lower back pain. Anyways, the Bone Cave was the smallest of the three main caves at Dan yr Ogof Showcaves, and it was basically a single room where the narrative and coordinated lighting highlighted specific parts of the cave to show specific aspects of the cave’s history. We didn’t linger for too long in this cave, and we ultimately ended off our tour after being done with this cave.
On the way out, we then passed through a museum displaying a few more things about dinosaurs and the like before entering a gift shop that ultimately deposited us back out by the gold panning display near the cafe. Our visit took 3 hours, but I can totally envision how one could easily spend much longer than we did if they went with kids as well as how one could spend less time if they were adults not terribly into the themed developments here. It was totally one of these love-em or hate-em experiences, where I thought they really defaced the natural beauty of the place, but at the same time, you can’t really value enough the smile on Tahia’s face as she was digging the dinosaurs and the caves.
The Dan yr Ogof Showcaves were part of the Brecon Beacons National Park (strange considering all the man-made things they did were quite contrary to what I’d normally think of what a national park should be). Nonetheless, we drove up here from Cardiff Bay (via the Four Falls Trail) so we’ll describe our driving route as if we skipped the Four Falls Trail.
From Cardiff Bay, we drove the A4232 motorway for about 9 miles towards the M4 motorway. Then, we drove east on the M4 for about 3.3 miles to the A470 exit. Then, we continued north on the A470 for about 20 miles to the Heads of the Valleys Road (A465), which we continued on for about 10 miles to the exit at Glynneath. After the off-ramp, we followed the road to an intersection at High Street, where we then kept going straight onto the Heol-y-Glyn Road, which eventually became the Inter Valley Road. We’d follow this road for nearly 7 miles to the A4067 Road, where we then turned right. Then, we followed the A4067 road for another 3.4 miles north to the well-signed turnoff on our left for the Dan yr Ogof Showcaves. Once on the turnoff, we followed the private road then veered left to go to the long car park before the complex entrance for the showcaves.
Overall, this drive would take about 75 minutes from Cardiff Bay.
Since we actually came from the Brecon Beacons Four Falls Trail, we can say that it took us aboug 30 minutes to get from there to the Dan yr Ogof Showcaves.
Finally, to give you some context, our base of Cardiff Bay was 192 miles (4 hours drive) south of Conwy, 57 miles (over an hour drive) west of Bath, England, and 151 miles (3 hours drive) west of London.
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