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Gold Panning, Prospecting, and Mining in Scotland, UK

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Prospecting is a fun hobby that can also be lucrative.

Prospecting is a fun hobby that can also be lucrative.

Prospecting in the UK

The very idea of gold prospecting in Scotland (of all places) might seem strange to some, but Scotland, like all countries in the world, has an unknown reserve of gold perhaps buried deep within its mountains. Panning for gold has been a popular pastime in parts of Scotland for centuries, ever since the first gold was discovered in her burns and streams.

Where to Find Gold In Scotland

I bet you didn't even know that there was gold in Scotland! Scotland is famous for its whisky (liquid gold to some) and golf courses, but there's gold there too—not in great quantities, although over the centuries there have been mini-gold rushes where gold prospectors have descended in numbers.

The Scottish Crown Jewels, better known as the Honours of Scotland, are housed in Edinburgh Castle and are made from Scottish gold, which has a market value 5 times higher than other golds due to its rarity.

  • There is known to be gold in Kildonan Burn, Helmsdale, and Sutherland as in the video near the bottom of the page. This was the focus of a gold rush in the mid-18th century when many people went gold prospecting.
  • There has been gold found at Wanlockhead and the surrounding Lowther Hills, and Leadhills in Lanarkshire.
  • A new gold mine has just opened at Cononish in Tyndrum, Perthshire where Australian company Scotgold expects to mine in the region of 20,000 ounces of gold annually, which at today's prices is worth approximately $22 million.

Scotland's Gold Locations

Gold belt in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Gold belt in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Gold Prospecting Tools

You are going to need prospecting tools in your hunt for gold. The commonest form is the pan for gold panning. You place your pan underwater in a stream and lift as much of the riverbed silt as you can into the pan. When you take it out of the water, the water drains off and you can search through the grains left behind for gold.

Other gold prospecting tools include a suction pump for removing the silt from the river bed to your pan, a metal detector, and a testing kit to see if you have found gold or iron pyrite - fool's gold. Welly boots are a must, water-protective, warm gloves may be useful to stop your hands wrinkling up and dropping off through being continually in cold water, and old but warm clothes.

Be prepared for inclement weather if you ever go gold prospecting in Scotland.

Kildonan Burn

Kildonan Burn

How to Pan for Gold

Gold is carried along by streams and rivers, from fissures or cracks in the rocks they've been buried inside since the world was formed 5+ billion years ago. Being heavy, they sink to the bottom, so the gold prospector has to dig deep into the river bed to find any.

Grains of gold are more commonly found in bends in the river where they tend to get caught up in the silt at the riverbank.

Hard Work in Freezing Water

The prospector wants to re-create the river in spate to loosen the gold particles in their watery bed, and so it is not uncommon to see gold prospectors build mini-dams in the river to make the water they are searching a little deeper, and also to help stop any grains of gold they free from where it was stuck from drifting away downstream unseen.

Gold prospectors fill their pans with silt, then wash off the free-flowing particles of silt and gravel by continually plunging the pan under the surface of the water. Gold is heavy. It does not wash away using this method.

After much back-breaking work, standing knee-deep in freezing cold water, while probably being attacked by the midgies that plague any Scottish summer, you may be rewarded with flecks of yellow gold at the bottom of your pan.

Gold prospecting is unlikely to make you rich, but it can grip you with a 'what if' fever that will find you continually returning again and again in the hope of finding your very own El Dorado.

Current Global Gold Prices

Permissions for Gold Prospecting

You do need to apply for permission before you pan for gold in Scotland, and that application should be directed to the person who owns the land. The person who owns the surrounding arable land might not be the owner of the river bank where you plan to pan for gold, so it is worthwhile visiting the local council to see if they can help you in this department. If you go on an official gold-panning tour with a local specializing company, they will have applied for the correct permissions beforehand so you will not then need to do this.

It is also advisable to contact the local Environment Agency, in case they have any legislation in place that stops gold prospectors or others from digging into the river bed or bank. They should be able to tell you what you can and cannot do.

More on Gold in the UK


stephen morris on June 16, 2020:

i live in luton dont have time to drive to scotland wheres best to go prospecting down south on July 24, 2019:

hi ray,did you get to scotland yet, thinking of going too, dont know any places yet tho, rob

Ray@ on July 17, 2019:

Hello Izzy,I'm thinking seriously about starting up a one man venture for Scottish gold panning.Its allways been a dream of mine for many years .

Would you be kind enough to let me know the must haves in equipment and not needed extra weight to carry in rucksack.For the much needed gold drive I intend on.

Yours faithfully

Mr R Ward

.I hope you've time to get back to me.

geoff on December 11, 2018:

smoke. midges wont go near ypu if you smell of smoke

Angela on January 31, 2018:

Hi Izzy can you please tell me where to start, permission or booking through someone to go panning in Scotland

Des Green on June 11, 2014:

I'm up in Tyndrum next week for 4 days, here's some pics of my last gold panning trip in Yorkshire a few month ago :-)

Gavin SR on December 24, 2013:

What an excellent insight to the subject of Scottish gold,i did no there was gold in them there hills as i've lived in Scotland all my life,but i never gave it a thought to have a wee look around when i've been fishing and i've wet a few lines in many a scottish rivers.I'll be paying more attention to the river beds in the future instead of admiring the sarounding hills. Thanks.

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 27, 2013:

Hi John. I live in that pink area, but in a part where gold has not yet been found. First chance I get, I am out there with my gold-pan!

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on May 26, 2013:

I prospect in Arizona, USA. I never thought about Scotland and gold. That it is rarer and therefore sells more per ounce than other gold was interesting too. The photos are great. Thanks.

IzzyM (author) from UK on July 30, 2011:

LOL Shinkicker! You had a gold mobile phone? Sorry about late reply - no notification!

Shinkicker from Scotland on July 18, 2011:

I know there's gold at the bottom of the River Clyde. It's in the mobile phone I threw in there 10 years ago after an argument with the girlfriend.

Interesting Hub Izzy

IzzyM (author) from UK on March 18, 2011:

No matter where you go in the world, there is always some pesky insect to annoy you!! Glad you liked Scotland, and yes I'd have been into fishing too before I'd have thought of panning for gold. I mean, you just wouldn't have thought gold was there!

Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on March 18, 2011:

Hi :)

I love Scotland, and used to go there, every year, on holiday with my family. This brings back special memories!

We used to look for gold in the rivers ~ but no serious 'panning'. (Serious fishing, more like, on the part of my brother and my late father.)

Scotland is a beautiful country ~ and we were only bothered by midges once ~ when we stayed at Corpach, near Ben Nevis.

Since marriage, I have only been back to the country once ~ my husband likes to go South for the holidays ~ and I was tormented unmercifully by horse flies!

IzzyM (author) from UK on November 13, 2010:

The midges are horrendous on the west coast and the western islands. Only thing to do is to stay indoors at dusk when they appear. They disappear when it is completely dark. Whoever finds a cure from the nuisance midge will make a fortune!

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on November 13, 2010:

Well you learn something new every day! Sounds exciting but I have had a run in with the midgies in the past on Skye.

IzzyM (author) from UK on June 13, 2010:

You have opals in Australia too haven't you? They would be amazing to find - such beautiful gems! Thanks for stopping by :)

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on June 13, 2010:

Gee you have midgies over yonder too we have them in OZ too.

Gold prospecting or fosicking has been around for centuries and I have learned something new today I did not know you had gold in those yonder hills.

We have lots here in oz. I wrote a hub on gold detecting and also one on my blog. We have a great big open super pit in Kalgoorlie when standing on the top vehicles look like little ants down the bottom. Thanks for an interesting hub

IzzyM (author) from UK on June 01, 2010:

The midgies only come in the evening, so be finished panning by teatime and you should be OK :) lol - forgot about them!

nicks on May 31, 2010:

I presume you must be careful about the time of year - to avoid being bitten to pieces! It must be the biggest disincentive to any private gold prospectors. Or are there now effective insect repellants?

molson5070 from State College, Pa on May 30, 2010:

guess im heading to scotland

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 30, 2010:

LOL I prefer vodka myself! Many thanks for commenting and for your kind words :)

mysterylady 89 from Florida on May 30, 2010:

Thanks for sending me the link. Of course I enjoyed reading this hub. You have talent. By the way, although I have not ever panned for gold, I am quite fond of Scotland's liquid gold!

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 30, 2010:

Thanks, Gramarye

gramarye from Adelaide - Australia on May 29, 2010:

Great hub, and a good read.

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 27, 2010:

I'm working on a hub just now...but do you know there is gold deposits in EVERY country in the world? There is gold now in places where it hasn't yet been discovered. Near you? Maybe? It just needs someone to go look!

lender3212000 from Beverly Hills, CA on May 27, 2010:

What a great hub! Makes me want to go out for a little prospecting.

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 27, 2010:

Absolutely! I believe the World Championship Gold Panning Competition is being held there too round about now.

Mindfulness on May 27, 2010:

Another great reason to visit Scotland!

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 21, 2010:

Sure...we'll have a ceilidh while we're panning for gold (might make things a bit difficult LOL - without being an octopus don't see how to hold the pan and the glass of whisky)!

Healthy Living Is from allergies, people, flowers. health, diet, art, medicine, mental health on May 21, 2010:

Can I come?

dansmith86 on May 16, 2010:

Excellent article

IzzyM (author) from UK on April 12, 2010:

LOL, thanks for commenting :)

De Greek from UK on April 12, 2010:

I am packed. Coming? :-))

IzzyM (author) from UK on April 10, 2010:

It's an exciting hobby, I'm sure :)

Wonder if there is any gold where I live? No alluvial gold that's for sure. Ground is so dry all the streams dried up long ago and the ground is rock solid so no chance of digging it up to look for gold without some serious heavy-duty machinery!!

febriedethan from Indonesia on April 09, 2010:

Great! so I have to start looking for gold now :) thank you for sharing, have a nice day!