Honister Slate Mine
Location : Keswick
Ordnance Survey – NY 226135
Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Keswick, CA12 5XN.
Tel 017687 77230.
Honister Slate mine is at the top of the Honister Pass in Borrowdale in the Lake District. You can watch slate being riven (or split) using processes that have changed little over the past 300 years.
Fully guided tours into the mine are available several times a day, detailing the history and spectacular features of the mine. The tour shows the current workings of the mine, and how a mixture of modern and traditional methods, is still extracting the slate which was formed some 400 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex strode the land.
Honister slate is a distinctive green slate, though Lakeland slate comes in a variety of shades and colours. It is a strong and durable material, excellant for roofs , and also for floors and walls. Slate was being exported through Piel Harbour in 1688, long before the opening of the Furness Railway in 1846. It was taken by packhorse over the western edge of Great Gable and Wasdale, for loading onto boats at Ravenglass.
In the late 17th Century, it was used by Sir Christopher Wren at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and at Kensington Palace.
The visitor centre has a series of information panels showing the history of the mine, its characters, its triumphs and its disasters.
The mine produces roofing slate but there is also the chance to buy smaller items made from slate in the shop.
Quality refreshments are available at the Sky Hi Cafe, and you can spend time browsing through the gift shop and showroom, where you can pick up anything from a house number plaque to an elegant slate water feature for your garden.
The centre is open open all year round seven days a week.
Tragically Mark Weir, owner of the mine, was killed on Tuesday March 8th, 2011, at the age of 45, in a helicopter crash at Honister. He died doing something he loved in the place he loved most in the world. Marks achievements at Honister Slate Mine stand as a lasting tribute to this extraordinary man.
Mine tour and aerial photos by Simon Ledingham.
Honister’s Via Ferrata is an adventure climbing system that uses a permanently fixed cable for safety and protection up the rock face of the old miners’ route. You are attached to this system by a harness provided by Honister. Full safety instructions are provided and initially all tours will be guided. See the Honister website for more information.
Via Ferrata photos by Simon Ledingham.
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