I gingerly stepped out onto the springy net. I was almost walking on air. The dim yawning chasm below seemed to touch the very centre of the earth and I grasped whatever netting I could reach with sticky, sweaty hands.
My knees were weak and all I could hear was my shallow breathing.
Meanwhile my kids were jumping like happy kangaroos across the springy netting with no inkling to the potential horrors that existed below in the seemingly bottomless cavern.
My hands were shaking. How could a previously non-existent fear abruptly rear its sinister head? I felt blindsided.
The twirling overhead lights shifted to point into the fathomless darkness below and, with squinty eyes, I could just make out the rocky bottom. Ok, so it wasn’t a bottomless pit. Only 180 feet. Gulp.
When we first read about the mysterious Bounce Below we knew we absolutely had to go there. It was too unique an opportunity to miss.
Bounce Below is the world’s first subterranean playground and luckily for us, it is located in north Wales within the Llechwedd Slate Caverns near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, not far from where we were staying. This historic abandoned slate cavern is 176 years old and twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral. In July 2014 the opening of Bounce Below marked a new era for this cavern.
Now installed inside are massive bouncy nets yearning to be jumped on. These nets are suspended within two vast chambers at three different levels. The highest being 180 feet up from the bottom of the cavern. They are cleverly linked together by walkways and slides, the longest of which is a 60 feet and includes a vertical drop.
The cave is illuminated with technicoloured light displays that brighten the Victorian slate mine in the creepiest yet funkiest way.
Entry is £20 per person, adult or child. The minimum age is 7, however they do offer special sessions for younger kids if you call in advance (usually at the start or end of the day). Seeing as they were not too busy in our allocated time slot our kids were allowed to participate. But remember bookings are essential.
We arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled booking to sign insurance waivers and gear up. The temperature in the cavern is a steady 8°C all year round so ensure you wear warm clothes. We wore jeans and t-shirts, but you can borrow swanky red jump suits if your clothes aren’t suitable.
We were provided sturdy helmets and netted booties to cover our shoes. You are jumping around on rope so beware of the potential friction burn and ensure your body is completely covered. Sneakers are best, no open-toed shoes.
After we had our gear on, an old underground mining train transported us from the entrance to the cavern. It was an exciting journey into the depths of the earth that only took about 5 minutes. When we disembarked we were 100 feet below the surface.
It was a short walk past another huge cavern where zip lining is currently being constructed (due to be opened in 2015) and then we were given free reign. The activity lasted approximately one hour and we were free to bounce, climb, slide and make our way around the three levels of netting.
That first step was surprisingly scary, as the deep cavernous void loomed below. It took me quite awhile to summon the courage to gingerly bounce, let alone jump, but the kids were straight into it.
Mia’s favourite slide, rather “chute”, was the top level to the middle level. The longer chute connected all the way down to the bottom of the cave and it was a fairly lengthy climb back up.
Time in the cave went really fast and before long the staff were calling us to come out for the return train journey.
What an amazing highlight from our Wales road trip – such a unique experience! I was able to conquer a fear I didn’t even know I had, and the kids had an absolute ball! They sure slept well that night.
I highly recommend a visit to Bounce Below on your next Wales holiday. Sure, it’s not the cheapest experience in Wales, but it was most definitely worth it. After all, where else can you defy gravity in a location that is both dauntingly deep and dizzyingly high at the same time?