Gold Panning Guide for Kildonan area, Sutherland

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Tue, 2009-11-24

Gold panning is a fascinating pastime. You may organize trips to the famous Kildonan Burn, in search of this most highly prized precious metal.

Your days gold panning will gie you an insight to the gold rush fever. You will be shown the art of gold panning and given the opportunity to try your hand for as long as you wish.

A unique day trip to a stunning location – and you can keep all the gold you find!!! Click to read more about The Scottish Gold Rush.

How to Gold Pan:

  • Use a riddle to sieve the stones out of the gravel.
  • Place it over the pan and fill it with sand, stones, gold, (lol) etc., from the river bed.
  • Pick up both the pan and riddle, hold under the water and swish first one way then the other to rinse all of the sand and gold into the pan.
  • Now, with the ridges of the pan facing away from you, shake the pan backwards and forwards fairly gently and holding the pan at an angle with the ridged side in the water.
  • The aim here is to get rid of the bigger stones, then the sand and you hope to be left with “black” sand, which is garnet sand.
  • Note: It is not a good idea to use a yellow painted trowel when gold panning!
  • Once you have the garnet sand only, the gold flecks or flakes (if you’re lucky) should show up.
  • You can tell it is gold rather than mica by the way it moves.
  • Gold is heavier and does not flip the way that mica does.
  • Once this is done, check that there are no nuggets *grin* in the stones and throw them out.
  • Put the riddle aside (somewhere safe) and give the remains a good shaking and swirling to make the gold sink to the bottom of the pan.
  • The more you do this the better result you will get! A good 20 shakes should do it!
  • Remove any gold from the pan by keeping a small amount of water in the pan and washing the black sand to the other side of the pan.
  • Once you have isolated the gold flakes you can pick it up on a DRY fingertip.
  • When you dip the finger into the water of your gold jar, the gold will fall off.


  • You can go panning with very little equipment and it is even possible to make some of your own!
  • You can buy the pump on the right but have since made your own with plumbing fittings and much hard work!

Gold Pans
These come made in various materials. Probably the most common being plastic, but you may buy one made out of steel. It is smaller than the plastic ones and doesn’t have the ridges the same either but once you know what you are doing it still works! You may have panned using a dustbin lid and a handle less work!

Pump: Whatever you like

This is a necessity as it saves so much work! A garden riddle will do fine. All you are doing is removing the larger stones.

This can be very useful for digging out under rocks, etc. Any old trowel will do, you don’t need an expensive one.

Small bottles are used for keeping the gold in.

You can buy or hire (on a daily basis) some of this equipment from a shop in Helmsdale.

Tip: Take some Blu Tack with you to fix your gold bottle to a rock so that you don’t lose it!

Directions to find Kildonan:

From Helmsdale:
Leave on the A897 going up the Helmsdale water for about 8 miles. You will see the site. It is on a sharp bend with a bridge at the bottom and a large flattish area with a hut in the middle.

From Thurso:
Head West on the ?, pass through Reay, continue for another 4-5 miles and turn left before you reach Melvich! Head down this road for about 20 miles or so. See left panel for how to recognise the spot!

Visit The official website for the Village of Helmsdale, Scotland. They will help you more.

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