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Prospecting for Gold: My Scottish Adventure in the Riverside

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

As the official photographer for the Scottish Gemmological Association (SGA) annual Conference, I was given the opportunity to participate in a unique and exciting field trip during my visit to Scotland.


We were presented with the choice of three excursions - visiting the National Museum of Scotland, the Burrell Collection in Glasgow's Pollok Park or taking a field trip. But being an adventurous outdoorsy type, I opted for the field trip of gold panning, led by Leon Kirk, one of Scotland's champion gold panners.


The Lead Mining Museum at Wanlockhead in Scotland was the destination for our trip, and we travelled there by coach. It's an hours drive from Glasgow, where the conference was held during the first bank holiday weekend of May 2023.


Upon arrival, we were given a gold panning license, the necessary permission to pan in the local streams. We were also equipped with special equipment, including waders – a special item of clothing to protect us from the cold water. The taster session began (sitting) with a lesson on how to pan for gold (using gravel collected from the river that same morning), and then we tried it ourselves in the streams of the Lowther Hills.


What started as a very grey and wet day turned into to glorious sunshine and it was a truly exhilarating experience; standing in the flowing water, surrounded by the beautiful Scottish countryside, sun on my cheeks and trying to find those elusive golden flakes. Even though I didn't strike it rich, the thrill of the hunt was more than worth it.



Group photo of gold panners
All kitted out - the intrepid gold panners, wearing waders

Gold panning in the steam
Gold panning / prospecting in the stream

Gold panning in the stream
Learning to gold pan with Leon Kirk

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland SGA

Two people gold panning
Using a snuffer bottle to extract the gold flakes

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland SGA

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland Leon Kirk

Kim Rix, gold panning in Scotland
Excitement! Gold fever strikes!!

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland

Person in stream, gold panning using sluice box
I put the camera down and had a go at sluicing - photo taken by Barbara Kolator

Two people walking across the stream to gold pan
You have to take extra care walking across the stream

Gold panning with Leon Kirk
You'll get some 1-2-1 training with Leon Kirk, gold-panner extraordinaire

Gold panning in Scotland
What's Sarah found I wonder?

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning session with Leon Kirk

Learning to pan for gold
First step - learn to pan (sitting on the bank of the stream)

Gold panning with Leon Kirk
Leon Kirk, giving instruction - how to use the sluice box

Panning for gold in the stream
Second step - find a rock to sit on and pan for gold in the stream

Gold panning in Scotland
Sitting comfortably on rocks and gold panning

Gold panning in Scotland with Leon Kirk
Listening to Leon Kirk giving instruction on using the sluice

Four people gold panning in the stream
Eagle eyes...and the concentration levels rising!

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland SGA group


Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland SGA

Gold panning in Scotland
Gold panning in Scotland


Gold Panning Championships in Wanlockhead

If you're a serious gold panner or just want to witness the excitement of such a competition, the British Gold Panning Association gold panning championships will be taking place over the weekend of the 27th and 28th of May at the Lead Mining Museum in Wanlockhead, Scotland.


The Scottish Champs will be held on Saturday, and the British Champs on Sunday. The Museum will be open from 9 am on both days, selling breakfast butties for those who would like one. Registration for the events will take place inside the tearoom from 09-15, and payment for the heats will be cash only. Visit the British Gold Panning Association website (Upcoming Events) for details of the different categories and prices.


ps - for some further reading, and more suggested places to visit, why not take a look at my Gemstone Detective travel-guide book for Great Britain.





Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence

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