By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 10th May 2018

Gold Panning on your NC500 travels!

Venture off the main North Coast 500 route, drive away from the coast, and take time to explore the inland areas of the North Highlands. You never know what you’ll come across – a host of different experiences and activities await! Did you know that the area which the North Coast 500 route encircles has a brief history as a gold panners’ paradise?

You can even try your hand at panning for gold while on your travels…

In 1868, when a local man found significant amounts of gold in the Suisgill and Kildonan burns, Suisgill Estate became the centre of the ‘Great Sutherland Gold Rush’, with hundreds of would-be gold prospectors flocking to set up camp at the site of Baile an Or and try their luck at making their fortune.

Although this gold fever was short-lived, recreational gold panning is still permitted on certain parts of Suisgill Estate today, and visitors to the area are welcome to try their hand at this absorbing past-time (panning is available from 1st April to 1st October).

The technique of gold panning requires some skill and a lot of patience, but it’s fairly easy to pick up the basics and start your hunt for treasure. Nuggets are extremely rare, so while you’re unlikely to be able to pay off your mortgage with your findings, you’ll be able to claim specks and very small flakes of gold as your own. For most people, the fun is in the search, the process of looking for gold, and we’re sure that you and your family will enjoy splashing about in the burn, regardless of whether you strike it lucky!

Permission and Rules for Gold Panning on Suisgill Estate

For more information on permission and rules for gold panning, please see here.

Purchase your permit and equipment now!

To help protect the burns and ensure that gold panning can be enjoyed by all for many years to come, the permitted gold panning equipment is limited to a pan, a hand sieve (or ‘riddle’), a hand trowel, a small spade and a gravel pump with a maximum barrel width of 2.5 inches. The use of sluices is strictly prohibited.

A gold-panning kit comprising a pan, riddle and hand trowel can be hired from Timespan Museum in Helmsdale. Licences for gold panning can be purchased from a couple of the eateries in Helmsdale, visit Timespan Museum for more information.

For the 2018 season the fee is £10 per day per person for a permit.  Children under 16 free of charge.  16 – 18 yr olds and concessions £5.  A 50% discount is applicable if staying in a local hotel or b&b. Check out Bannockburn Inn or Kindale House.

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