Gold Panning at Kildonan

Kildonan is in Sutherland.

If you are heading down country from Thurso, then you can either go via Melvich (down the Strath of Kildonan) or you can go down the main A9 until you reach Helmsdale and then go up the Strath until you reach Kildonan. Coming from the South, stop at Helmsdale, find the Timespan Heritage Centre (near the old bridge at Helmsdale) and take the A897 to Kildonan (about 9 miles).

In a wild and beautiful spot at Kildonan in Sutherland, there is a place where you can go Gold Panning. It is known as Baile an Or which means “town of gold”. The Gold Rush occurred there in 1868 to 1869.

Gold was originally found in 1840 when a gold nugget that weighed more than half and ounce was found! More usually though you will find gold flakes. Kildonan gold was used to make the Queen’s wedding ring! Some people dig really deep holes in the river bed and manage to find sizable nuggets!

Once you get there you will be asked to leave your details (Name, Address and Car Registration) on a slip of paper and to put it into the box provided. You are only allowed to pan at Kildonan for 2 weeks out of every year, and only between the bridge at Baille an Ór to the wooden bridge. You are not allowed to dig because this will cause erosion to the banks. You are also not allowed to use any mechanical devices with which to find gold.

On a beautiful day, there is nothing more peaceful or relaxing that sitting in the river on a boulder gold panning!

In Helmsdale, down at the harbour, you will find a shop that will hire out Gold Panning Equipment. A Gold Panning Guide for Kildonan area, Sutherland may help you as guidance.

Kildonan was the site of the 1868-69 gold rush. A nugget weighing more than half an ounce was found in the burn in about 1840. It was a local man (R N Gilchrist) who first found gold in any quantity here.

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