An underground play area is located in an abandoned mine cave. // © 2016 Visit Wales
Feature image (above): Riders can zipline over cliffs and across canyons at speeds of up to (and sometimes over) 100 mph. // © 2016 Visit Wales
In the quaint, sheep-farming country of Wales lies the largest zipline zone in Europe. Operated by Zip World, it is sure to give adrenaline junkies their fix. The company’s Velocity line, for example, is one of the longest and fastest ziplines in the world, with riders flying down mountains and over a cliff at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
In 2014, Zip World expanded with the installation of Zip World Titan — the only four-person zipline in Europe — at the historical Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a slate quarry and mine in the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. What better way to experience ziplining than going side by side with your buddies, simultaneously feeling the rush of the wind in your faces?
When I arrived at the caverns, Zip World outfitted our group with orange jumpsuits, helmets and goggles (the latter keeps the wind out so you can actually see the views around you) and drove us to the first of the Titan lines. We stepped onto a large metal platform containing four cables, and an attendant hooked and strapped us in, double checking all safety features. We faced a gate that opened up, and we flew out like racehorses leaving their stalls.
And race we did. Going over the quarry, we whooped, hollered and laughed as we ziplined at 70 mph. At the end, we were unhooked and took a short walk to the next platform before repeating the process all over again, until the final zipline took us back to the start of the course.
Next, we went to the world’s first sub-terranean adult playground, Bounce Below, which opened just one year ago at the same location.
After entering a 177-year-old abandoned mine cavern, we walked down mining corridors until we reached two chambers. There, 180 feet up from the bottom, is a hanging playground made entirely of bouncy nets, linked together by netting walkways, tunnels and slides. (Young children have their own age-appropriate version in a separate area.)
People were tossing themselves around and moving from one area to the next through the roped tunnels. I could hear the squeals of those plunging down the slides from one hanging pod to the next. We wasted no time joining in.
I felt like a little kid again. We laughed as we tried to steady ourselves. Others around me were falling down, upsetting the balance, and setting off more giggles. The only sobering moment was when I sat still long enough to look through the nets below; it dawned on me how surreal it was to be suspended in a mine tunnel with a bottom that is impossible to see.
But what I did see below were the ziplines that made up Zip World Cavern, the world’s largest fully underground zipline. The zigzagging lines went deeper and deeper down the mine, until I could no longer see them from my suspended vantage point.