Exploring deep, dark underground caves, and walking surrounded by dinosaurs – the Dan r Ogof National Showcaves Centre for Wales has it all!
I hadn’t been to Dan yr Ogof since a school trip more years ago than I’d like to admit (or even remember), and Stew didn’t think he’d ever been. So when we pulled up in the car park with our two boys – aged four and two – last weekend, we didn’t really know what to expect. It was busier than we anticipated, and we ended up at the bottom of the hill with a bit of a trek to the entrance.
When we got to the top, we were greeted by a huge dinosaur that we had to walk under to get in, and spotted a land train going back down the hill. Our youngest asked when we were going to go on the train at least every five minutes until we came back out. Before we’d even paid, we realised the dinosaurs were a big part of the park, with quite a few to see before the ticket booth. We seem to be having a dinosaur-themed couple of weeks after visiting Jurassic Kingdom in Cardiff last week! (You can read that review here).
On the way to the first cave there was a man holding a couple of iPads, which he was handing out for people to try an interactive app. We held it up to a yellow board on the wall, and a dinosaur came roaring through it! It’s really good that they’re using technology to add extra bits to the park. As we walked on, we could hear some children screaming when they saw the dinosaur popping out!
The first cave was Dan yr Ogof, which the boys really enjoyed. There’s a footpath going through, so you follow a route, but some parts were bumpy or slippery and there were quite a few steps. Our eldest was fine at the age of four, but our two-year-old alternated between walking and being carried on Stew’s shoulders.
There was lots to see in the cave – stalagmites and stalactites, pools of water and little waterfalls, which of course our boys insisted on putting their heads in. They soon realised the water wasn’t exactly shower temperature!
From there, we wandered up the hill past the iron age village and a host of dinosaurs. and followed the signs for Bone Cave. We came to a steep staircase which led to the cave, but stopped at the bottom to watch some mini volcanoes erupting in water. There were so many things to see along the way that you can really take your time.
At the top of the steps was a container full of hard hats so you don’t hit your head on the metal canopy over the path to the cave, or on the entrance to the cave itself. This was the trickiest walkway of all, as I had to crouch to walk up the hill (I’m 5ft 6in), and was carrying our two-year-old at the same time … nothing like an unexpected leg workout! I managed to hit my head at least five times, and also ended up carrying the littlest’s hard hat.
To be honest, I don’t think this cave was worth the climb. It was quite interesting to learn about the bones that were found in there, but it was tough on little legs (and not so little legs), and we were only in there for a few minutes. I wouldn’t even attempt to get a buggy up there!
The third cave – Cathedral Cave – was the highlight for me. It was up another hill, so we stopped for some sandwiches and a rest when we got to the top. Our boys were so sweet sitting next to each other and sharing a packet of crisps (in reality, the eldest had finished his and was scrounging from his little brother, but it made for some lovely photos!).
The entrance to the cave was huge, and led to a wide passageway where classical music was playing out. It was amazing to see how small the original entrance was – there’s no way I’d be brave enough to squeeze myself through such a small gap in the rocks! It made me think about those poor boys in Thailand who were stuck in a cave for two weeks – I can’t imagine what they went through.
We eventually came to an underwater lake, with waterfalls flowing down the rocks. It was quite a sight, and not surprising that you can get married in the “cathedral” – do you remember that episode of Don’t Tell the Bride?! It was a bit dark and loud for me, but you’d get some amazing photos in there!
You’d think the day ended there – but do you remember the little land train we’d passed? Well, we hopped on (after a trip to the shop for some dinosaur toys, of course – fairly reasonably priced though, thankfully, and headed down the hill to the shire horse centre. I had no idea it even existed, but your ticket to the showcaves includes entry there. It was actually lovely. There were sheep and llamas (or alpacas – I don’t know the difference!) wandering around, and little activities for the boys. We spent ages on the zip wire before even checking what else was there!
When we eventually moved on, we had a go on the mini pedal tractors, and the boys cycled around an indoor race track. For older children (over 6) there was a separate indoor play area, which looked pretty good. There was also crazy golf for a £2 deposit. We probably extended our visit by about an hour there, and if it had been a nice day we wouldn’t have rushed off.
All-in-all, we had a fab time at Dan yr Ogof National Showcaves Centre for Wales – even better than I’d expected. The boys loved the combination of dinosaurs and caves – can you ask for more?! – and I really liked being somewhere we could have an adventure outdoors without the pressure of any added costs once we were in.
We paid £42 for two adults and one child (children aged two and under go free). It’s quite pricey, but Folly Farm would cost us £51, the Dinosaur Park in Tenby would cost £36, and Jurassic Kingdom, which is currently in Cardiff would cost £37, so it’s not too much more. I’ve also since been told you can use Tesco Clubcard points for tickets, which is worth looking into.
If you’re looking for a day out somewhere a bit different, and where your little ones can learn something while having fun then I’d definitely recommend it!