Great Orme Bronze Age Copper Mines

Great Orme Mines

Useful Information

Location: Llandudno LL30 2XG.
Great Orme's Head, Llandudno, about 100 km from Liverpool or Manchester. From Llandudno follow the road to the right of the Empire Hotel for 1,2 km, or take the tram.
(53.330478, -3.847385)
Open: 15-MAR to 02-NOV daily 9:30-16:30.
Fee: Adults GBP 10.50, Children (5-18) GBP 6.50, Children (0-4) free, Family (2+2) GBP 28.50, additional Children GBP 4.50.
Groups (15+): Adults GBP 10.50, Children (16-18) GBP 7, Children (5-15) GBP 5.75.
Classification: MineCopper Mine ExplainOldest Mines
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=8 km.
Guided tours: self guided, D=45 min, L=200 m.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: C J Williams (1972): The Llandudno Copper Mines, pp 211-232 [in] Trans CHS Vol 33 1972
Anonymous (1995): Secrets of the Award Winning Great Orme Mines, illus by Ross Hammond 40 pp illus yellow card cover.
Anonymous (1995): The Award Winning Great Orme Ancient Copper Mines [from] Current Archaeology (130) pp 404 - 409 illus. ND [1995?]
Ivor E Evans (1949): Copper Mining on the Great Orme, Proc Llandudno ... Vol xxii 1949 pp 11-15 illus
Anonymous (1993): Finds at mine could play havoc with history books, Rhodri Clark explores the depth's of the world's largest Bronze Age mine. p 18 Western Mail Sept 6 1993
C R Blick (1991): Early Metallurgical Sites in Great Britain BC 2000 to AD 1500, 108 pp illus. Institute of Metals Book No 494
Don Smith (1988): The Great Orme Copper Mines 48pp illus
C J Williams (1995): Great Orme Mines / A History of The Great Orme Mines from the Bronze Age to the Victorian Age, British Mining No 52, 57 pp illus.
Nick Jowett (1988): Discovering The Amazing Great Orme Ancient Copper Mines, [12pp] illus surveys etc. GBP 1.00 on sale at the entrance.
Address: Great Orme Mines, Great Orme, Llandudno, North Wales LL30 2XG, Tel: +44-1492-870447. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


~4000 BP open cast started.
~3600 BP beginning of underground mining.
~2600 BP end of underground mining.
1987 prehistoric opencast discovered and excavated.
2008 Sharing Treasures exhibition at Llandudno Museum.


The limestones from the Carboniferous era, approximately 340 million to 280 million years ago, were folded in an orogeny about 280 million to 200 million years ago. Fissures caused by this tectonic forces were filled by magma from below, which was very copper rich. This magama planes cutting through the rocks are called dykes. The rather weak limestone (compared to the surrounding rocks) was widened more so the dykes are thicker in the limestone layers than in the other rocks.

This kind of ore was very rich in copper, but the veins are rather thin. It's a lot of (manual) work to follow the thin veins. In former times, at least until the beginning of the industrial revolution, this kind of ore was very important. Man power was cheap and the metal valuable.

Today this kind of deposits are not relevant anymore. The main factor of today's mining is, how effective it is to mine the ore, using heavy machinery. On the other hand, today's ores have a much lower content of metal. Bronze Age man would not have recognized this as copper ore and did not have the technology to melt it.

The Great Orme ore was very easy to find for Bronze Age man. It was very close to the surface and weathering made it even easier to mine: the limestone around the dyke was altered by the heat of the magma and became dolomite, which is less resistant against weathering than regular limestone. So the dolomite eroded and the dyke remained.


Great Orme Bronze Age Copper Mines is not the only mine from the Bronze Age in the world open to the public anymore, but it was the first which was opened to the public. And it is definitely a unique sight, as it is the largest prehistoric mining complex in the world, with more than 8 km of tunnels.

The site shows an underground tour into the narrow bronze age tunnels. The surface includes archaeological excavations and the Great Opencast, a large depression which is thought to be a 4,000 years old opencast. The smelting site is the place where the copper ore was smelted into copper.

This is a mine complex which began with the Great Opencast 4000 years ago, and progressed to underground mining in the Bronze Age 3500 years ago. This is the only Bronze Age copper mine open to the public. As you progress through the mine it is possible to see numerous blocked off passages which have yet to be explored, but which have been left deliberately until archaeological work can take place. There is also an audio visual presentation and as part of the surface archaeology tour explanatory notices and reconstructions of various mining processes are to be seen.

A series of narrow passages about 3 ft wide and 5 ft high, which occasionally open into larger chambers and which go down to the third level of the mine. The floor has been levelled, but there are steps which have to be negotiated. The self-guided tour takes as long as you wish, but probably 20 minutes is average.

At the visitor's centre, there is also a gift shop, with second hand books for sale and a tea room.

Text by Tony Oldham (SEP-2001). With kind permission.