Honister Takes Gold in Top Tourism Awards
Honister Slate Mine has taken gold in the 2011 Cumbria Tourism Awards celebrating the best businesses in the Lake District.
The mine’s hugely popular Via Ferrata experience won “Best Tourism Experience.”
The exciting cliff-edge Via Ferrata which encompasses a zip slide across a short gorge hundreds of feet up, is the only one of its kind in the UK.
Via Ferrata – meaning Iron Way in Latin – takes place high on the slopes of the spectacular 2126ft Fleetwith Pike, in the Borrowdale Valley.
It involves people secured by harness and watched over by trained mountaineers edge along metal ladders, hand rungs and bridges to reach a stunning summit viewpoint over Buttermere. (See photo)
For real daredevils, there’s also a thrilling zip wire hundreds of feet off the valley floor across a short gorge. The experience was devised by the late mine owner Mark Weir with the idea of helping those with no climbing experience, enjoy the drama of the mountains. He also wanted people to understand more about the hardships of the original Victorian miners who used the very same high altitude path as a route to get to work.
Via Ferrata were established in the First World War to help troops unfamiliar with climbing get through the mountains in the Alps and Italian Dolomites.
As well as being popular with locals and visitors, it has been widely acclaimed by travel writers from national newspapers and guide books.
Jules Brown, writing in the Rough Guide to England, said: “I'm a scaredy-cat as far as exposed heights are concerned - so edging along metal rungs on a rock face over 2,000 feet up, is probably the most challenging thing I've ever done.”
“I went with a friend who has walked in the Dolomites and has been on one of the original "iron ways" over there. He reckoned Honister is just as amazing, tough and exciting. Our Rough Guide verdict? The Lake District’s biggest thrill - don't even think of coming to Honister and missing the Via Ferrata.”
Just this year, national tourism body Visit England sent out an undercover tourism inspector to road-test the business on behalf of customers. It passed with flying colours and was praised for its excellent standards.
They found: “No other English attraction is quite like Honister Slate Mine. This is a unique experience and has great development potential. The owner’s vision has done so much for the area and can be seen as a perfect example of how pro-active visitor experiences can be linked to industrial sites. Honister is not in any sense Disneyfied. Tunnels are damp, the floors are uneven but the experience is quite outstanding. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the insight into the Lake District’s industrial world which still exists in a modified form, but was once a major industry, is fascinating.”