More on England and Scotland Rockhounding

Filed under: regular postings — Gary December 18, 2006 @ 12:42 am

Dear Gary,

I got a message from Barry Flannery in Ireland that someone was seeking
information about Scottish localities for rockhounding. I looked at your
website and guess that it is Katie from Minnesota. I note she also mentions
England. As I am a Scotsman living in England perhaps I can help. I see
you have already found Hamilton Currie’s website (I did the Irish section
for him). I also recommend which has lots of quite detailed
I am not sure exactly what interests Katie. If zeolites, then the Isle of
Skye is the place, but it is one location I have not been to. mindat has
details, but she should note two things. Firstly some of the coastal sites,
like Moonen Bay, are dangerously tidal, secondly, after May the midges tend
to become unbearable. If she has not encountered the highland midge she
will have no idea of how horrible they are. Imagine a fly a twentieth the
size of a mosquito, but with an appetite twenty times greater. Now imagine
five million of them at once.
For metallic ores the Leadhills/Wanlockhead area is obvious. The smaller
of the two flat-topped tips on East Stayvoyage vein (on the hillside above
the highest point on the Leadhills/Wanlockhead road) has yielded some fine
acicular green pyromorphite recently. In Wanlockhead the conical tip of New
Glencrieff mine is a traditional favourite for the primary & gangue
minerals. The little fenced off spot by the old smelter nearby (actually
reserved for collectors to dig in) yields good blue mammillated
hemimorphite. Whytes Cleugh, the little glen on the opposite side of the
road, has all the usual secondaries.

In the Highlands, the Strontian mines combine good minerals with fabulous
scenery. The tips are slowly being reprocessed for aggregate so fresh
material is constantly turning up. Permission is usually readily granted
from Dan MacDonald. White harmotome crystals to 1 cm, sometimes on brown
(and very fluorescent) calcite can be found. At the older workings
(Whitesmith mine) on the hill 1 km beyond the sheds, brewsterite is common.
Strontianite occasionally turns up inside massive white barite at
Whitesmith, and at Bellsgrove (opposite side of road to main mine).
If she likes lapidary then she’ll want agates. The best tend to be found
in farmer’s fields after ploughing, but they will all be under crop when she
visits. Her best bets are pebble beaches. Around Dunure in Ayrshire, the
north coast of Fife (especially Balmerino) and the Montrose area (Auchmithie
and Lunan Bay) should yield agates. Some will also yield jasper by the
sackload. They are easiest to spot where the pebbles are wet.
If she is into gold panning then almost any stream in the Highlands or
Southern Uplands will yield a speck or two. Favourites are Mennock Pass at
Wanlockhead where permission can be got from the museum (if it has not
closed, it is in financial trouble). Most of the streams around Leadhills,
with Longcleugh probably the easiest to get at (not sure who to ask – try
the gamekeeper who lives in the village in a big old stone built house).
Crom Allt (the stream that flows through Tyndrum, in Perthshire – the lead
mines on the hill nearby are disappointing except to micromounters). I
don’t know who owns Crom Allt but I have never had problems just going and
panning. Kildonan in Sutherland is the other traditional place, and a
licence to pan can be got for a token fee at the estate office (well
advertised locally – the gold panning is something of a local tourist
After the delights of Scotland she’ll find England a big let down. Much
more of the land is private, “Get off my land” syndrome is commonplace, most
of the mine tips have either been reprocessed for industrial minerals, or
cleared away for agriculture, and the quarries will not let casual visitors
in (and often not any visitors at all at any time). Most of my collecting
in England is underground, down the few mines that remain accessible. I
also know little about anything south of Yorkshire, except that the same
problems prevail. She will also find that the Caldbeck Fells are in a
national park which has imposed a petty collecting ban, unless you have a
permit, but even with a permit you cannot dig more than a few inches, hammer
outcrops etc. In short a permit to do nothing. On the other hand, the area
is impossible to police and she lives outside the jursidiction anyway so
could easily get away with it!
I hope this helps. By all means forward it to her, and if she wants more
details she is welcome to e-mail me.


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.