WELSH DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
Eight narrow-gauge railway networks have gathered together under the banner of "The Great Little Trains of Wales". A Wanderer ticket, valid for unlimited travel on any eight days out of 15, costs pounds 32.

Regional Railways, still part of British Rail, operates most of the standard-gauge trains in Wales. It has a number of rail pass deals, such as the Mid Wales Day Ranger (pounds 15.50), covering the lines from Wolverhampton to Pwllheli and Chester to Shrewsbury.

For many, the phrase Mountain and Water Outdoor Pursuits sums up Welsh national parks such as the Brecon Beacons. It is also the name of a field studies centre based beside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in Crickhowell. The centre operates a range of courses covering everything from canoeing to climbing, with durations from half a day upwards. Call 01873 811887 for details and bookings.

Plas Menai is the name of the National Watersports Centre between Caenarfon and Bangor. The centre (01248 67094) is run by the Sports Council for Wales. Courses range from a day of diesel engine maintenance for boat owners to a five-day Around Anglesey kayak expedition.

All manner of mines are open to visitors to Wales. In Rhondda Valley, the Big Pit Mining Museum in Blaenavon (01495 790311) describes the story of the coal industry in Wales in the days when the country actually had one. It opens daily at 10am, with the last complete tour at 3.30pm, and costs pounds 5.50 for adults (pounds 3.50 for children, who need to be at least five years old to take the tour).

As well as the Great Orme copper mine described in the article on Llandudno (see below), the Sygun Copper Mine in Beddgelert (01766 890595) describes the history and geology of mining the metal. It is located beside the A498 in Snowdonia, and opens daily from 10am.

The Gloddfa Ganol, located beside the Crimea Pass in Blaenau Ffestiniog calls itself "the world's largest slate mine". It opens 10am-5.30pm from Monday to Friday until October, and on Saturdays during the school summer holidays. Call 01766 830664.

Close to Dolgellau, the Gwynfynydd Gold Mine (01341 423332) is the main source of Welsh gold at present. The attraction promises the opportunity to pan for the precious metal and keep what you find. It is open throughout the year, but call in advance to book.

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