Planning Your Visit - Learning at Big Pit: National Coal Museum
We hope you will enjoy your time at Big Pit: National Coal Museum. The following information will support a group visit.
M4 – follow the brown tourism signs from J 25a (westbound) or J 26 (eastbound). Also signposted off A465 at Brynmawr and Abergavenny.
All group visits must be booked in advance. Please note that the general office is closed at weekends.
Big Pit is open every day between mid-February and 30 November, 9.30am - 5.00pm. Underground tours run between 10.00am - 3.30pm.
All the information in this booklet can be used to complete the risk assessment work required before a visit.
Coaches may drop and collect groups directly outside the visitor entrance. There is a coach park adjacent to the drop-off point. Please report to the reception desk on arrival and give the total group number to reception staff.
A souvenir underground ticket will be issued for every group member.
For the underground tour, parties are divided into groups of about 17. This will be organised by the guide who collects each group from the waiting room. Please do not split up your party in advance. The guide will also collect ticket stubs before leading the group to the Pit Top area for 'kitting up'.
Most areas of the site are accessible to all visitors, but as Big Pit is on the mountainside, both the surface and underground can create difficulties for people with serious mobility problems. Wheelchair users and others with mobility problems must therefore be accompanied by an able-bodied helper.
It is only possible for a maximum of 4 visitors in wheelchairs to be underground at any one time. An access guide is available here.
There are toilets on all three levels of the site. These facilities are marked on the map. Please note that there are no toilets underground, so we recommend using the facilities in the waiting room area before proceeding to Pit Top with the guide.
Baby changing facilities are available on two levels of the site. These are situated in the coffee shop on the middle level and adjacent to the canteen in the Pithead Baths building.
The gift shop sells a wide range of items, e.g. books, postcards, crafts, miners' lamps and educational material. We ask all school groups to help with supervision by ensuring that only small numbers visit the shop at any one time. Food and drink may not be taken into the gift shop.
Coffee Shop and Canteen
The coffee shop is located on the middle level of the site and sells snacks and drinks. It opens from Easter to the end of August. The original miners' canteen has hot meals and is open all year round.
Clothing and Footwear
No specialist clothing is required, but as we are an outdoor industrial site, we advise wearing suitable warm clothing and appropriate footwear.
Photography for personal use is allowed in most areas on the surface of the Big Pit site, but there are some restricted areas. Look out for signs indicating where restrictions apply. Underground photography is not allowed by law.
Special Facilities for School Groups
An eating area is available on a first come, first served basis. This will accommodate up to 70 people for packed lunches. Picnic areas are available outside the Pithead Baths building. The cafeteria has a special menu which offers a group discount price for school groups, but must be booked in advance of your visit. The cafeteria takes last orders for meals at 4.15pm.
We encourage preview visits for teachers or group leaders wishing to familiarise themselves with Big Pit. Please telephone in advance if you wish to speak to the Education Officer on the day of your preview visit.
The Big Pit visitor's guidebook contains further details of the Museum. This can be purchased in the reception and gift shop, or ordered by telephone: (029) 2057 3650.
We recommend that all bags are left on your coach until after the underground visit. Any valuables will be locked up by the guide at Pit Top before you go underground.
Big Pit retains many elements of a working industrial site and also displays historically important buildings and artefacts. We advise a group ratio of 1 adult to every 10 children. We insist that all children and young people under the age of 16 are supervised at all times, including lunchtime.
During the underground tour, safety of all our visitors is particularly important. Any group that behaves badly will be brought to the surface and the tour ended.
The Museum reserves the right to ask groups or individuals behaving in an offensive or unreasonable manner anywhere on site to leave.
Health & Safety
Regulations for Underground Visits
Although Big Pit no longer produces coal, it is still subject to the Coal Mines Act safety legislation. It is against the law to take smoking materials or incendiary substances underground. These include cigarettes, tobacco, matches and lighters, mobile phones, battery-operated watches and key fobs, calculators, radios, personal cassette players and all photographic equipment. This 'contraband' will be collected by our guides before the underground tour and will be kept securely locked away on the surface until the tour ends.
In an emergency
We may have to evacuate visitors from underground by a different route in an emergency e.g. as a result of power failure. If this happens, your guide will give instructions.
An alarm will sound in the event of a fire in one of the surface buildings. On hearing the alarm, your group should evacuate the building or gallery by following the signs to the nearest fire exit. You will receive instructions from a member of staff.
Please tell children that if they are separated from their group they should inform a member of Museum staff, who can find one of the group leaders.
If you need First Aid attention, please inform a member of Museum staff who will contact a responsible First Aider.
What Will We See?
The guided tours, conducted by experienced colliery personnel, last about 50 minutes. A further 20 minutes or so is taken in 'kitting up' with helmet and cap lamp, collecting 'contraband' (cigarettes, matches, mobile phones, battery-operated equipment etc.), and riding through the shaft. The tour begins with a 90 m (300 ft) descent down the mineshaft by pit cage.
Pithead Baths & Exhibitions
The Pithead Baths have been restored to enable visitors to see where each colliery shift began and ended.
The baths building has an exhibition telling the stories of the people who worked within the mining industry. There is also a 'traditional' mining exhibition with flame safety lamps, tools of the trade and displays on coal society and community.
An exciting 20-minute audio visual presentation describes life at the coal face and methods of coal mining through the ages. Your virtual guide takes you through a simulated mine, where a modern coalface is brought to life with light and sound.
Visit the original Big Pit colliery buildings around the site, including the Fan House, Blacksmith's Forge, Stables and Winding Engine House. Craft demonstrations are available on special days. Please telephone for further details.
Behind the Scenes
We have a resource room for teachers, group leaders, students or other specialists who wish to carry out research work on site. The room contains reference books, maps, original documents and online access. Please book in advance.
You can view the conservation work that takes place when National Museum Wales conservators are working at Big Pit. They will be happy to talk to groups about their work in looking after the nation's industrial heritage. Please ring the general office for further details: (029) 2057 3650.