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Bottles filled with Scottish gold
from different areas of Scotland.
SCOTTISH GOLD NUGGETS
The nuggets above are from different streams
across Central Scotland.
The Scottish Highlands is famous for its pure water - an essential ingredient in making Scotland's national and world-famous drink - whisky (from the Scottish Gaelic "uisgebaugh" meaning " Water of Life" ).
The water is also panned for gold in the small burns or streams, ubiquitous throughout the country. The Ochil Hills of Fife and some streams in the county of Angus are among the most popular areas to try one's hand, but there are others. Access to some sites is however not permitted.
A Scottish Gold Rush
In the 19th century, around 1860, there was a "gold-rush" in the northern Highlands to a location in the county of Sutherland - though, as can regularly be the case, there was more rush than gold.
Nonetheless, left to its own desserts and a couple of dozen decades, this occurence can replenish itself to a small degree. Scottish gold is of a generally high grade, that is to say, fairly pure.
Nuggets with attached matrix can be found,
but well-crystallized gold on matrix, is much less
There are other similar occurences in the region, though whether of mineral collector interest remains to be seen.
Each of the ten bottles above represents a different stream - spanning Leadhills (Lanarkshire) in the south, to Kildonan (Sutherland) in the north. The vial across the top contains some unidentified silver-coloured nuggets.
Scotland's most famous mineral deposit at Leadhills and Wanlockhead started out mining for gold. The eventual decline in the extraction of this metal turned attentions to the rich lead ores that also occured in the area. Its lead deposit has since given it world fame - particularly as a result of the rare and common, lead mineral species found there. As for the gold, it occurs in situ in the surrounding Lowther Hills in small veins.
As the gold gets eroded out of its matrix, it eventually drops into the nearest burn as nuggets, great or small. Nowadays, the best way to get some gold from this area is to pan for it.
Gold Panning in
The following information and hints below on gold-panning have been graciosly made available for publication online by an anonymous gold-panner from Scotland, with great experience and, as the photographs testify, with a great deal of success.
WHERE TO PAN
The main gold-bearing areas are as follows: Leadhills, Tyndrum, the Ochil Hills and Strath of Kildonan. There are other isolated occurences dotted over Scotland.
I would advise beginners to start at either Leadhills or Kildonan as there are usually other panners on these streams who are always glad to give assistance.
The equipment for gold panning is basic and cheap: starting with a plastic gold pan, a Henderson pump and a pair of Wellington boots.
As for accessibilty, the Leadhills area works through permits. The Kildonan burn itself is open to panners.
For all other areas, the landowner's permission MUST be sought!
At Wanlockhead, one can learn and practice the art of panning and pan for the precious metal itself, as small nuggets and flecks, in the surrounding burns..
Gold, being heavy by nature, will be found sitting on top of bedrock, so try prospecting in areas where the bedrock is visible, as this will save you digging through several feet of gravel.
Gold does not uniformly deposit itself up and down the streams.
Try sampling the length and breadth of the stream until you hit a hot spot.
This may be where the water slows, the inside of a bend, where the stream widens or where there is a change in gradient.
Wanlockhead has been host to panning contests, including the World Gold Panning Championships.
Uses of Scottish Gold
The mace of the new Scottish Parliament is gilded with gold extracted from Leadhills.
Do's & Dont's
seek permission for access.
Don't leave litter and don't dig into the river banks.
Gold is found in situ as micro flecks in quartz veins over a fairly large area of the Highlands. The main occurence, around the Highland Boundary Fault - which forms the southern border of the Highlands region with the Central Lowlands - is centred around the Tyndrum (Argyll) & the Aberfeldy areas (Perthshire).
Scotland's first gold mine was planned to
open near Tyndrum, at Cononish, a few years back, but
operations were terminated due to the economic conditions
prevailing at the time and to environmental concerns -
the mining area being within the Loch Lomond National
The small-scale operations have now been approved with the company addressing environmental concerns. The creation of jobs locally has also influenced planning permission. Gold extraction at Scotland's first gold mine in over 500 years is due to commence in 2013.
Crystals of Scottish gold showing several differing habits.
from Silver Glen, Alva, Clackmannan, Scotland.
In the last couple of decades, waste dumps were scoured on a small and forgotten occurence of cobalt and silver ore that was worked at the start of the 18th century (around 1715). On the edge of the Ochil Hills, near Alva, in the "wee county", Clackmannan, it is the richest deposit of silver in the United Kingdom.
When the small dumps of the site were
scoured, they revealed superb, small specimens of
skeletal and arborescent groups of native silver
crystals, some associated with accessory erythrite, a
secondary cobalt mineral or with crystalline masses of
the rare species, clinosafflorite, (cobalt arsenide). The
common and predominant habit of the silver is as
dendrites with 90° branches. Other habits occur, but are
Though crystallized specimens are generally small, only up to around 5mms, a very few, larger specimens were uncovered. The Hunterian Museum of Glasgow University has one such specimen extracted from the time of the original mining period with crystallized silver groups to 3cms on matrix.
Analysis has revealed the silver is rich in mercury, containing around 10-15% of this element. Alva silver therefore approaches amalgam in its chemical constitution rather than the "kongsbergite" variety of silver, which is also mercury-rich. Additional analysis may also reveal more rare species or possibly new ones from this occurence.
The Alva silver mine is now barren: a later extraction has since cleaned out the deposit and the location is now part of a trustland.
A full account of the extraordinary history of the Alva Silver Mine is related in the recently published book entitled, "Bonanzas & Jacobites: The Story of the Silver Glen" by Dr. S. Moreton and published by NMS Enterprises Ltd. It is available for purchase through Amazon or other online bookstores.
ALVA SILVER - Photo Gallery
Other Scottish Silver Occurences
A similar, but less rich occurence of silver
and cobalt is found at Hilderston in the Bathgate Hills,
Several other very small finds of native silver in Scotland include localities situated on the Clyde Plateau Lavas of Carboniferous age around Glasgow. Boyleston Quarry near Barrhead (Renfrewshire) and Loanhead Quarry, near Beith (Ayrshire) are two examples of such occurences. At both localities, silver occurs both as very small, microscopic wires and as crystals, the latter often in complex forms and, quite regularly, is associated with native copper.
Native silver is found only in very
insignificant amounts in Scotland. In the past, silver
A special thank you
to a Scottish gold prospector and panner who will remain
References / Further Reading
The Mineralogical Record - vol. 27, no. 6; pp 405-414. "The Alva Silver Mine, Silver Glen, Alva, Clackmannan, Scotland." S. Moreton (1996).
of the Russell Society - vol.2, no. 2; pp.
11-21. "Secondary Mineralogy of the Clyde Plateau
Lavas, Scotland. parts 1& 2 - Boyleston Quarry &
Loanhead Quarry..." T.K. Meikle. (1989).
UK Journal of Mines & Minerals - vol. 21, pp 8-27. "Twenty Years in Minerals: Scotland." D.I.Green/ J. G. Todd (2001).
© Minerals of Scotland