The stunning Dan-yr-Ogof caves at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales in Brecon Beacons National Park Photography by GeoPictures.net, copyright Kiran Ridley

DAN-YR-OGOF, located at National Showcaves Centre for Wales, is an 11-mile-long cave system in south Wales, about five miles (8km) north of Ystradgynlais and 15 miles (24km) south-west of Brecon, in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

It is the main feature of an award-winning showcave complex which is claimed to be the largest in the United Kingdom and is a tourist attraction in Wales.

The first section of the cave system is open to the public, but the extensive cave system beyond is scheduled as a national nature reserve and is open only to bona fide cavers.

The bones of some 42 humans, as well as numerous animal bones, have been found in one of the nearby chambers of this cave system.

In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, Dan-yr-Ogof was named as the greatest natural wonder in Britain.

Hydroelectric power and solar panels provide all electric needs in the Dan-yr-Ogof showcave centre.

The river Llynfell emerges from the mountain as you approach the entrance to Dan-yr-Ogof, returning to the surface after an underground journey of more than 6km. It was by way of this entrance that the Morgan Brothers made their dramatic discovery in 1912.

Tommy and Jeff Morgan had only candles to light their way, a coracle to cross the lakes they encountered, rope to help with the dangerous climbs they undertook, but no map to help guide them.

Modern-day visitors you can enjoy this natural wonder without any of the difficulties they experienced over 100 years ago.

Formations within the caves, discovered by the Morgan Brothers during their adventures, include the ‘Rasher of Bacon’, the ‘Angel’ and the ‘Alabaster Pillar’.

These incredibly brave acts of discovery were not surpassed until 1963, when a relatively inexperienced caver, Eileen Davies, made a significant breakthrough in the exploration of Dan-yr-Ogof. The ‘Long Crawl’ was finally conquered; so far this has led to the discovery of an incredible cave system with over 16km of explored passageways.

A small tunnel-like cave above Dan-yr-Ogof Farm has been known for many years. When you look over the railings at the entrance to Cathedral Cave visitors can see the beginning of a tiny passageway through which members of the South Wales Caving Club squeezed in 1953 to make the most awe-inspiring discoveries.

After blasting their way through boulders to the end of the small tunnel, half-filled with water, they came upon a colossal cave passageway, decorated with thousands of delicate ‘straw’ stalactites. Waterfalls cascaded into underground lakes, and unusual formations adorned the cave walls. This was the beautiful cavern now know as ‘The Dome of St Paul’s’.

Cathedral Cave and its wonders are not only viewed by thousands of people from all over the world every year, but is regularly chosen as a spectacular venue for weddings.

Bone Cave, or ‘Ogof-yr-Esgyrn’, is so called because 42 human skeletons dating back to the Bronze Age (over 3,000 years ago) have been discovered in its chamber. Other items including silver rings, fragments of Roman pottery, bone pins, and fine bronze jewellery have also been unearthed, as well as evidence that the Roman legions were stationed in this area.

In addition to the caves, visitors can explore one of the world’s largest dinosaur parks with over 220 life-sized dinosaur models, and get up close and personal with some of the monsters from millions of years ago.

Among the other attractions at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales are a shire horse centre, Victorian and Iron Age farms, playgrounds, stone circles, a fossil house and museum.

To discover more, and for full opening time details, visit the showcaves website at www.showcaves.co.uk

(sources include National Showcaves Centre for Wales, wikipedia; images courtesy of Dan-yr-Ogof)