Think Lunar …. Think Martian … Think Grand Canyon … Think ‘Wild West’ …
All of these conjoured images won’t prepare you for the breathtaking sights of the oldest Copper Mine in history. With its stunning surreal landscape, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s something out of a weird scene from Mars!
I took a moment to visit this ancient surreal landscape with my son Louis and our two Manchester Terriers, to witness this beautiful array of copper, bronze and pinks that make up this rugged stoney terrain that overlooks the historic industrial ‘Copper Rush’ town of Amlwch and impressive far-reaching views beyond.
We visited on a lovely sunny summer early evening and had the place virtually to ourselves. The lack of people made it all the more surreal. We were astounded at the enormity of this largest man-made open cast copper mine in the world during the 18th century. Audible gasps from Louis and lots of gushing about it meant that this a fantastic place to take a teenager and camera!
Mynydd Parys Mountain history
People have mined the metals on Parys Mountain since the Bronze Age. A mass of copper ore was discovered there in the late 1760’s which prompted large scale mining, with yields so great that this little known port town of Amlwch experienced a boom in both wealth and population and came to dominate the world copper market for a decade. It became known as the ‘Copper Kingdom’.
Over a 150 year period, a whopping 3.5 million tonnes of copper ore was extracted from the ground here and was further processed and transported around the world from Amlwch Port.
- The copper from this mine coated the warships of the Royal Navy at Trafalgar in 1805.
- Following a national shortage of small coinage, The Parys Mine Company even began producing its own coins to pay its workers. Between 1787 and 1793 as many as ten million pennies and half pennies were minted!
The call for copper had diminished at the beginning of the 19th century, and the mines were finding it more difficult to make a profit. From 1878 onwards it became too expensive and difficult to extract the copper and production declined. By 1904, the underground work had come to an end and the mine closed.
Mynydd Parys Mountain Windmill
Standing proud at the summit of the mountain is the famous windmill, which is visible from miles away. This Grade II listed building located on the highest point of Parys Mountain (138 metres/453 ft above sea level) was built in 1878 to assist the copper mine in the removal of water from mine shafts, and was the last tower mill built in Wales. It was also unique on Anglesey, in that not only was it the only industrial windmill but for the fact that it had five sails rather than four. By 1929 the windmill was an empty capless shell, which it remains to this day.
Today, Anglesey Mining Company, which owns the western part of the mountain, has discovered reserves of 7.8 million tonnes containing 10% combined zinc, lead, copper with some silver and gold, and has permits and a plan to restart mining operations at 350,000 tonnes per year in its Morris Shaft, which was sunk in 1988 and is still in operation.
In the late 1990s, surveys of the mine’s hydraulic systems revealed that a large reservoir held back by a dam in an underground working was in poor condition. Failure of the dam would have been catastrophic on the town of Amlwch, with loss of life and substantial property damage. To complicate matters, the water in the underground reservoir was highly polluted by copper and extremely acidic.
In 2003 a carefully controlled drainage operation was carried out which dropped the water levels by 70 metres (230 ft), releasing the pressure on the dam and enabling its removal.
- The unique terrain lends itself to Sci-Fi movies and films, including Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Dr Who, amongst others!
Parys Mountain Walk
Located a short drive from Amlwch town, Parys Mountain offers a circular walk which takes you around the surface of the old mine and the ruins of industrial buildings.
To get the most from your walk, we’d recommend that you take time to visit the Exhibition Centre (details further on) before you visit Parys Mountain, so that you can put true meaning to the experience that you’ve had at the centre first.
The dramatic, stony landscape appears barren, but it supports a variety of wildlife, including birds such as skylark, meadow pipit and chough. Plants that are able to tolerate high concentrations of copper and zinc are able to survive here, such as colourful heather and gorse.
The area has distant views of Snowdonia, with the peak of Mount Snowdon visible on clear days.
There’s a free car park situated beside the B5111 road out of Amlwch and a self-guided marked walking trail. There are a couple of trails, which are signposted. There’s a shortcut trail which takes around 45 mins, whilst the main trail takes around 90 mins.
It’s worth noting that whilst it’s open all year round, be prepared for bad weather and walking boots are recommended. There are also no facilities so make sure you’ve had a comfort break before arriving and take some water with you.
It’s definitely a place not to be missed!
Address: Mynydd Parys, B5111, Amlwch LL68 9RE – Map
Opening Times: All Year
Parking: Free car park next to the mountain. Signposted.
Copper Kingdom Exhibition Centre
You can find out more about the history of Parys Mountain and the Anglesey copper trade at the Copper Kingdom Exhibition Centre, located at the quayside in Amlwch Port. There’s lots of fascinating information & artefacts, including the role of the famous Copper Ladies and the workings of the harbour, amongst other things.
Address: Copper Kingdom Centre, Amlwch Port LL68 9DB – Map
Opening Times: 08/04/2022 – 25/09/2022. 10:15 – 16:15 (Tue- Sun)
Parking: Free at Amlwch Port Car Park