How do you guarantee a UK holiday full of precious memories? By visiting our best gold and silver mines of course. Here you’ll delve deep into the history of mining, explore tunnels, pan for gold, learn fascinating facts about geology and our landscape – and buy (or find) treasure to take home.
Head first to the hills of Wales where gold has been mined at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire for millennia. Today’s gold-hunters and history fans can explore tunnels built by Roman slaves which only closed for mining in the 1930s (nationaltrust.org.uk/dolaucothi-gold-mines). After exciting underground tours, pan for gold and browse the National Trust shop for jewellery.
The Trust also owns the nearby 16th Century Dolaucothi Arms, a Countryfile Country Pub Of The Year, with simply decorated Arts and Crafts rooms. B&B costs from £70 a night (dolaucothiarms.co.uk).
Precious: A miner at the extraordinary Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall
Another historic Welsh mine with a new lease of life can be found 30 miles north. The Silver Mountain Experience near Aberystwyth offers rides, sound-and-light presentations, off-road Land Rover tours, cave tours and more chances to pan for gold (silvermountainexperience.co.uk).
Catch the mystical mood of these Welsh hills at the 18th Century Haford Hotel, where B&B is from £135 a night (thehafod.co.uk).
Any underground treasure hunt should include Cornwall’s Mining World Heritage Site, which has ten key areas where you’ll find spectacular cliff-top mines amid a Poldark-style landscape. This includes the best place to see how precious tin was excavated – at Geevor Tin Mine near Penzance (geevor.com). It’s the UK’s biggest preserved mine with tunnels extending out under the sea.
After intrepid tours, relax by panning for minerals in the museum. Pendants made from Cornish tin (a traditional tenth wedding anniversary gift) are sold here.
Looking for a place to stay? The Gurnard’s Head has B&B rooms with sea views from £140 a night (gurnardshead.co.uk).
Around 4,000 years ago, copper was precious and the biggest mine in the world was in the unlikely spot of Llandudno in North Wales. Today, guests can don a hard hat to explore Great Orme’s bronze age copper mine. More than five miles of prehistoric tunnels and 3,000 stone and antler tools have been discovered here, making this seaside spot the world’s biggest industrial complex of its day (greatormemines.info).
Add walks through colourful mineral pathways at Parys Mountain on nearby Anglesey. Children can dress as miners while history fans discover how copper was thrown out by a volcanic eruption here (copperkingdom.co.uk).
Geevor Tin Mine has tunnels extending out under the sea. Pictured are visitors panning for minerals
Relax at St George’s Hotel in Llandudno, enjoying AA rosette food amid traditional grand pillars, wrought iron and ornate plasterwork. B&B costs from £109 a night (stgeorgeswales.co.uk).
Most precious minerals are spread all over the world, but you can only find ‘Blue John’ under one hill near Castleton in Derbyshire. This rare sparkling mineral can be made into beautiful bowls and jewellery. Visit Blue John Cavern for tours by real miners (bluejohn-cavern.co.uk) or enjoy self-guided smartphone tours and a chance to try polishing Blue John nuggets at Treak Cliff Cavern (bluejohnstone.com).
Afterwards, kick back at The Peacock at Rowsley – B&B is from £135 a night (thepeacockatrowsley.com).
During the industrial revolution, precious stones and metals were shipped from remote mines to hundreds of factories in Birmingham. The newly restored Jewellery Quarter still has more than 100 workshops producing 40 per cent of British jewellery.
Fascinating: The colourful mineral pathways at Parys Mountain in Anglesey
It’s inspiring to tour the restored industrial architecture amid a genuine Peaky Blinders-style atmosphere. Highlights include the JW Evans Victorian Silver Factory, hidden behind the facades of four terraced houses knocked together, and Deakin & Francis’ Georgian Workshop, England’s oldest jewellery shop. James Deakin is the seventh generation of his family to make and sell luxury cufflinks and signet rings (deakinandfrancis.co.uk).
A former rope factory nearby is now a chic hotel for Jewellery Quarter visitors. B&B rooms at Saint Pauls House start at £99 a night (saintpaulshouse.com).
If you want to search for your own gems, lucky beachcombers on Suffolk’s ‘Amber Coast’ between Felixstowe and Southwold have found amber nuggets worth hundreds of pounds. The fossilised pine resin is 40 million years old.
After a day at the beach, head to the Anchor at Walberswick. B&B is from £105 a night (anchoratwalberswick.com).