Big Pit National Coal Museum

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Fascinating Big Pit provides an opportunity to explore a real coal mine and get a taste of what life was like for the miners who worked here from 1880 to 1980. Tours descend 90m into the mine and explore the tunnels and coalfaces in the company of an ex-miner guide. Above ground, you can visit various colliery buildings, including the 1939 pithead baths, filled with displays on the industry and the evocative reminiscences of ex-miners.

It's sobering to experience something of the dark, dank working conditions below ground, particularly considering that children once worked here by candlelight. If you choose to head underground you'll be decked out in a hard hat, power pack and other safety gear weighing some 5kg, and you won't be allowed to bring matches or anything electrical (including photo equipment and watches) down with you. It's cold down here, so take extra layers and wear sturdy shoes. Children must be at least 1m tall. Visitors with disabilities can arrange tours in advance.