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Gold Prospecting and Panning In The UK

Almost all gold panning in the UK takes place in North Wales and Scotland.

If you want to take up panning and you live in the south east of England (for example), you will need to have a lot of free time and be prepared to do a lot of driving or, alternatively, take up back garden gold panning, it's less travel, less hassle and will give you a greater chance of actually finding some gold.

We should also be clear on one thing from the beginning; gold panning in the UK will not make you rich, if you are having to travel any great distance to get to areas that are worth panning you will not even cover your expenses, unless you are exceptionally lucky - and I mean a lottery jackpot level of lucky.

Most people who pan in this country do it for the love of the outdoors and the thrill of the hunt, very few (if any) do it for the money.

Gold Mines in Wales

The Clogau Gold Mine (sometimes known as the Clogau St David's Mine) was once the largest and richest mine of all the gold mines in the Dolgellau gold mining area. It is situated in Bontddu, near Barmouth, in Gwynedd, north-west Wales.

After producing copper and a little lead for quite a number of years, the mine developed into gold production in the 1862 'rush' and continued as a major operator until 1911 during which 165,031 tons of gold ore was mined resulting in 78,507 troy ounces (2,442 kg) of gold. It worked the St David's lode of Clogau mountain alongside the co-owned Vigra Mine. Since 1911 the mine has been re-opened several times for smaller scale operations. It last closed in 1998, but has been held by a local exploration company since 1999.

When in production the mine used a two-foot gauge railway.

Gwynfynydd Gold Mine at Dolgellau, Gwynedd, Wales, was discovered in 1860. It was active until 1998 and has produced 45,000+ troy ounces of Welsh gold since 1884. The mine, when open, was open to the public and provided guided tours which included the opportunity to pan for gold.

The mine closed because of Health and Safety issues and because of changing pollution control legislation which would have made the owners liable for the quality of the mine discharge into the River Mawddach had the mine remained open.

Gold Mines In Scotland

In 1984 a gold bearing quartz vein was discovered by the Irish firm Ennex International on the lower south eastern slopes of Beinn Ch�irn just above Cononish Farm at Eas Anie. The company spent over �250,000 doing test drillings and were hopeful that the mine would be very productive. The gold, which is the most important deposit found in Scotland so far, occurs as minute particles inside Pyrite and Galena which in turn occur in the quartz vein. Despite claims that there are up to a million tonnes of ore present on the site which could produce five tonnes of gold and about 25 tonnes of silver, the location was only developed briefly as a mine in the 1990s.

In 1994, The Caledonian Mining Company acquired the mine with the intention of putting it into production, however the falling price of gold meant that such a small mine was uneconomic at the time. Higher gold prices in 2007 have led to renewed activity with Scotgold Resources purchasing the mine and applying to extend the lease and start mining again within two years, for a period of eight years. Permission to mine is yet to be granted by the Crown Estate who owns the rights to all gold in the UK and by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.


Before panning anywhere you need to make sure you have the permission of the landowner (preferably in writing), but be careful, it is the owner of the riverbank whose permission you need, not the owner of the surrounding arable or pasture land. The mineral rights to the area may even belong to someone completely different to the landowner, so you really do need to take care.

Environmental Issues and Impact

Another area with many pitfalls. You need to ensure that your gold panning activities won't have an adverse effect on the local environment or you could find yourself being prosecuted Environment Agency, if you have any doubts or questions about an area you wish to pan contact them and ask them where you stand.

Places You Can Pan for Gold in the UK

The Hopetoun Estate

A gold panning licence for the Hopetoun Estate (Elvan Water, Short Clough and tributaries) can be obtained by post for �25 per year from Mr. W. Steel, Elvan Foot Road, Leadhills. The estate has strict rules on what equipment you can use to prospect; you are limited to a gold pan, a hand pump and a shovel, no sluices are allowed. Digging into river banks is strictly forbidden.

Mennock Water and Wanlock Water

A gold panning licence for Mennock Water and Wanlock Water (and their tributaries) can be obtained by post from Mr. Charlie Smart, Mennock Pass Cottage, Mennock Pass, Nr. Sanquar. The licences cost �3.50 for a one day licence, �7.50 for a seven day licence or �15 for a yearly licence. Strictly no digging into river banks. Again, you are limited to a gold pan, hand pump and a shovel.

Strath of Kildonnan

As far as I know, you do not need a licence to pan at the Strath of Kildonnan, but you must visit the pagoda at Baile An Or and leave your name, address and car registration number. You are allowed two panning trips to the Strath of Kildonnan per year with a maximum limit of two weeks per year. Again, you are limited on what equipment you can use, stick to using a gold pan, hand pump and a shovel. No digging into river banks.

Calling All Gold Panners!

Are you a gold panner in the UK? Do you you have a story to tell or do you want to share your experiences? email us we would love to hear from you!

UK Gold Panning Links

Back Garden Gold Panning

The British Goldpanning Association

The Scottish Gold Prospectors

Kit Andrews' Gold Prospecting blog, Kit is a UK based prospector with 30 years experience.

Other sources of precious metals in the UK

Silver has also been mined commercially in the UK, one mine on the island of Sark produced more than 25,000 ounces of silver:

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