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.
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