Saturday, 23 January 2016

There's gold in them thar (Scottish) hills!

Searching for gold in Scotland


I'm sure most people wouldn't associate panning or mining for gold with Scotland and when a ''gold rush'' is mentioned thoughts are more likely to turn to the Klondike in Canada than to Scotland but significant amounts of gold have been found in the Scottish hills.

You're unlikely to get rich quick but gold prospecting and mining has been going on in Scotland for centuries especially in the area of the Lowther Hills in the Southern Uplands, south of the central belt.

Gold dust in a pan taken from a river
Dennis Garrett/AlaskaMining
Wikipedia CC-BY-SA 3.0
This area became known as ''God's Treasure House in Scotland'' and some of the purest gold in the world has been found here (22.8 karats) and was used to make the Scottish Crown Jewels (known as the Honours of Scotland) which date from the 15th/16th centuries and are the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles.

Commercial gold mining

Many other areas of Scotland have seen gold prospecting, mainly by amateurs, but a commercial company - Scotgold Resources - have plans to open a full-scale gold mine and have been granted planning permission for a mine at Cononish near the 3710ft mountain Ben Lui close to the town of Tyndrum (see on map).

A full-scale gold mine in this location is now thought to be viable because of the price of gold on the international market and, in fact, due to the scarcity of Scottish gold (in the greater scheme of things) gold mined here should attract a premium price and make a good profit. Scotgold Resources also say the mine will provide employment for about 50 people - no bad thing in a rural community.

Panning for gold as a hobby

As hobbies go panning for gold is surely one of the more unusual but a surprising number of people engage in this very activity in Scotland. If you are thinking of taking up a new hobby then, to avoid disappointment, it is advisable to learn something about the subject first. Most panning for gold takes place in rivers and a few tips on where to find gold in a river will come in handy.
A man panning for gold in a river
Photograph by Alan Souter/Geograph UK CC-BY-SA 2.0
A rundown on the equipment you will need is also necessary and you can buy gold prospecting and panning kits which will include everything you need to get started. It's probably best if you can make the acquaintance of an experienced gold panner and learn from them but there are courses available on how to pan for gold so there is no reason you can't go it alone. This short video will give you an insight into how it's done:



Where to pan for gold in Scotland

There is the potential to find gold all over Scotland (rarely in large quantities) but all the best places are already pretty well-known so take a look at this list of ''best places to pan for gold'' and give it a go.

Remember, you will need the permission of the landowner before you start panning and be aware that a licence is also normally required.
A man panning for gold in a highland burn
Photograph by Bill Henderson/Geograph UK CC-BY-SA 2.0

So how much gold can you expect to find in a typical highland burn? There are no official figures collected on how much gold is found by amateur panners but, as with many things, it will depend on how much work you are prepared to put in and how dedicated you are in applying youself to the task. In 2015 one very lucky beginner found a gold nugget worth an estimated £10,000 - whilst on a course on ''how to pan for gold''!

Don't expect to get that rich but, with hard work and some luck, you can expect to find enough gold to make some jewellery for yourself or your other half. In fact, some aspiring bridegrooms have actually panned for (and found) enough Scottish gold to make the rings for their wedding.

How romantic is that?






22 comments:

  1. Now I really want to visit Scotland!

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    1. Don't forget to bring you gold panning equipment!

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  2. That sounds very romantic. Why do you have to have a license to pan for gold?

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    1. In the UK (which Scotland is still part of despite the Scottish National Party doing its best to take us out of the Union) precious metals technically belong to the Crown. This quote is from the Scottish National Heritage Position Statement on Gold Panning: ''Gold and silver are Mines Royal, which in most cases belong to the Crown and are managed by The Crown Estate. To take gold or silver from land or rivers, you therefore need the prior permission of The Crown Estate with the exception of areas where the rights belong to others.''

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  3. I always wanted to pan for gold as a child - watching too many cowboy films - but I think I have put it off for too long now!

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    1. Me too - my back couldn't cope with all that bending over!

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  4. I had no idea. I don't live more than a day away from California gold country

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    1. I live less than an hour drive from the nearest place where gold can still be found by panners and I didn't know that either!

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  5. This truly sounds like a lot of fun! I have been to Scotland and I have to say, when I visit Scotland, I don't have to pan to find pure gold! It is a beautiful country!!! I can just imagine how much I would truly enjoy standing in the stream with my little pan and looking at the gorgeous surroundings. Wouldn't matter one bit if gold ended up in my pan or not.

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    1. It would be a nice bonus if you found a valuable nugget, though!

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  6. Hi there! I found you because you commented on www.themarthareview.com I really enjoyed this post. I learned a lot! The panning video was really cool. I always wondered how people panned for gold. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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  7. Just send any of those ugly big chunks to me---ha!

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    1. Sorry, I'm at the head of that particular queue!

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  8. Wow, Bill I loved the video. I live in the US and one of the places I hope to visit is Scotland. In a way I do every time I read your blog. Than-you so much for sharing the beauty of Scotland.

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  9. We panned for gold on a vacation and it was great fun!and I panned a miniscule nugget..

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  10. Sounds like a great time! I think we should all come over to Scotland and you can take us panning for gold!

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    1. Certainly - and I will only charge a small commission on any nuggets found :)

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  11. While panning doesn't sound like something that will tickle my fancy, maybe one day you'll catch your own lucky nugget!

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    1. With my luck, standing all day in a cold highland burn, the only thing I would catch is pneumonia!

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