Honister Slate Mine

(See also Honister Pass)

Visitor Centre Honister Slate Mine by Alexander P KappOld slate quarries and underground mines sit atop the barren summit of Honister Pass. The high-grade slate was quarried from the mid-17th century but not on a large scale until 1750. By 1833 underground mines as well as quarries were in operation. In 1879 the Buttermere Green Slate Company was formed. The business closed down in 1986, but reopened in 1997. The slate is now taken from underground tunnels only.

Honister Slate Mine by Michael ElyHonister Crag, Yew Crag, and Rigg Head all yielded up the hard green slate, compacted through the centuries from 400-million-year-old volcanic ash. The slate was brought from the mines to the cutting and dressing sheds by means of sleds. After loading a sled with up to 500 pounds of slate, a worker would bravely pull it down the steep mountainside, running in front of the sled. If he lost his footing or wasn't quick enough, the sled could overrun and crush him. Several loads a day were the working norm. After processing, the slate was carried by packhorses to Ravenglass via the western edge of Great Gable and Wasdale.

Honister slate mine worker slate splitting by Michael ElyIn the 1870's a tramway and aerial ropeway took the place of sleds to move the slate from the mines. Workmen often finished the slates in the mines or in stone huts built near the quarries. In the 1920's a purpose built slate finishing building was constructed.

Underground mine tours of Honister give a view of how the slate is extracted, while the Visitor Centre details the history of slate mining. Visitors may also watch workmen preparing the slate. A reconstructed slate mine is included in the displays. Slate can be purchased for building use and a shop sells slate souvenirs.

Walkers heading for Great Gable from the summit use a path that follows the line of the old tramway uphill to the site of the former winding house. The route was named ‘Mose's Trod’.

Honister Slate Mine by Iain LeesHonister Slate Mine is a both a working and a heritage enterprise.

Honister Pass is on the B5289 between Buttermere and Seatoller.

Honister Slate Mine
Honister Pass
Borrowdale, Cumbria CA12 5XN
Tel. 017687 77230
Website: www.honister.com
Free parking
Shop sells slate souvenirs.
Open: year round, daily, 9am–5pm; underground tours at 10:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm; pre–book on website during busy months.

Note: Please check opening times and dates before visiting in case of changes.

Photos courtesy of Alexander P Kapp , Michael Ely , Iain Lees.

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