Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 400 years of industrial heritage
One of the major highlights at Aberdulais is the overshot water wheel, the largest electricity-generating water wheel in Europe. This huge wheel is not an historical relic; it activily generates green energy that is fed into the national power grid. The wheel dominates the site, though it is dwarfed by a solitary brick smokestack, which teeters high above the ruins of buildings used to process the tin. One of these is The Tin House, where iron plates were hand-dipped in pots of molten tin. Set in the floor you can still see the ash pits which were used to catch the residue from hot vats of tin and grease. Once dipped, the plates were cooled in oil, then polished, graded, and boxed for shipping around the world.
Another highlight is a single arch of a bridge across the Dulais that used to link the site to a tramway that connected to the Tennant Canal and, eventually, to Swansea and the sea.
Even if industrial activity had never taken place here, Aberdulais would still be worth visiting just to see the waterfall. There are several viewing platforms that allow you to see the falls from below, partway up, and from above. You can also see how water from the river is diverted into a trough that spills down onto the waterwheel, keeping the wheel turning and generating power.
I'm not terribly knowledgeable about mining or industrial heritage in general, but I found the Aberdulais site fascinating. It is fairly obvious that the National Trust is faced with a major task restoring the site and presenting it in a way that really brings to life its long and rich industrial history, but so far they've done a smashing job. You really get a sense of what it must have been like for the people who worked at Aberdulais, especially in the late Victorian period when Aberdulais was at the heart of the Welsh tin plating industry. One of the excellent features of the exhibition is that you learn about specific people who lived and worked here, from tin workers to their children. That alone helps bring the history of the site alive. Well worth a visit.
Address: Main Road, Aberdulais, Neath Port Talbot, Wales, SA10 8EU
Attraction Type: Historic Building - Waterfall
Location: On Main Road (A4109) just off the A465 north of Neath. National Trust parking across the road. Limited free parking on the west side of Main Road (heading north). Follow brown signs, don't rely on satnav directions.
Phone: 01639 636674
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Gnoll Estate Country Park - 1 miles (Garden)
Cefn Coed Colliery Museum - 1.3 miles (Museum)
Neath Castle - 1.5 miles (Castle)
Neath Roman Fort - 1.9 miles (Roman Site)
Neath Abbey - 2.4 miles (Abbey)
South Wales Miners Museum - 4.2 miles (Museum)
Aberavon, St Mary's Church - 5.7 miles (Historic Church)
Carn Llechart Ring Cairn - 6.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Aberdulais:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Aberdulais Falls National Trust property
Tel: 01639 636 674
Fax: 01639 645 069