Finding Treasure: Where to Find Gold in the UK (and What Happens Next)

The Spotlight

10 minutes read

May 1, 2024

A man looking under a rug to find a gold coin

From hidden mines to Scottish streams, learn the best ways to prospect gold and find out if you can keep your treasure. Dive into our guide for all the details!

From the gold panning in California that sparked the Gold Rush to England’s King John losing the Crown Jewels in 1216 whilst crossing The Wash estuary, the allure of finding treasure has captivated people's imaginations for centuries.

While the UK may not be renowned for its gold mines, look at a map of where gold is found over there and there are still plenty of opportunities to find hidden treasure – even strike gold.

Gold mining in the UK has happened for centuries with big finds in Tyndrum and Eas Anie in Scotland to Clogau in Wales.

And whilst the exploration of gold mines in England still presents a chance to uncover lost riches, few mines now operate across the country.

Not that mining is the only way to find gold!

From panning for gold in rivers to exploring abandoned mines, this comprehensive guide covers the various ways you can still go prospecting for gold in Britain or at least join a treasure hunt in the UK.

We will also delve into the legal aspects of treasure hunting and provide tips on where to find gold and other valuable treasures.

So, is there any lost treasure in the UK? 👀

The history of gold mines in the UK

A man digging for GBP pound gold coin

Gold has a very rich history in the UK dating back thousands of years. The Roman Empire recognised the value of gold and played a significant role in its early extraction and trade in Britain.

Whilst large-scale gold mining may no longer be prevalent in the UK, gold can still be found throughout the country.

Alluvial gold, consisting of small nuggets and flecks, can be discovered in rivers and streams in Cornwall, Dorset and Wales.

Mining, erosion and other natural processes have exposed these gold deposits to make them accessible to treasure hunters 🙌

Gold hunting: age-old techniques to find river gold

finding gold in a river uk

Gold panning, also known as gold prospecting, is a popular activity in the UK that requires minimal gold panning kit and expertise.

It simply involves sifting through river sediments in search of those all-important gold particles.

While the chances of striking it rich might be slim, the thrill of the hunt and the sheer joy of being outdoors make gold panning a rewarding hobby.

To get started, all you need is a pan, a spade, and a sense of adventure! 😉

Where can I find gold in the UK? The best locations for gold panning

a man looking for the best location

While gold can be found throughout the UK, certain areas are more promising for gold panners.

Here are some of the best locations where can you find gold:

  • The Lake District The picturesque Lake District in Cumbria is well known for its natural beauty and rich mineral deposits. Blencathra Mountain, Dunmail Raise, and Mungrisdale are popular gold prospecting locations where the metal has been discovered. A bit of gold panning in these areas might lead you to a glimmering treasure.
  • Scotland With a history of gold discoveries, the famous Douglas Nugget valued at £50,000 was found in a Scottish riverbed. Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway offers great opportunities for gold panning but you’ll need to sort the necessary permits (available for the day, week, or year) and follow local regulations. If you are panning gold for commercial purposes, you’ll need a lease from the Crown Estate Scotland.
  • Wales The Dolgellau Gold Belt in Snowdonia has yielded gold for centuries. In Carmarthenshire, the UK’s only known Roman Gold Mine, the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, a prominent gold mine in the UK, provides a unique opportunity to try gold panning under the supervision of trained miners (only open spring and summer). Additionally, the Parys Mountain in Anglesey is currently being considered for potential gold mining UK sites due to its gold fields.
  • England People have been finding gold in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire for eons, as have the locals in Cornwall, particularly the Camborne area. The region has yielded significant mineral deposits for gold prospectors with mining companies looking to develop a site there as recently as 2010.

Where can I test my gold-panning skills against the world’s best?

  • The World Gold Panning Championships of course! Yes, it exists, and in 2017 the UK played host to the tournament in Moffat, Scotland, a parish that falls under the Dumfries and Galloway local authority.

Are there gold mines in the UK?

In addition to panning for gold in rivers, exploring abandoned gold mines in the UK can be an exciting way to uncover hidden treasures.

The UK has a long history of mining, and many of the old gold mines have been left untouched.

While it's crucial to prioritise safety and obtain any necessary permissions, these abandoned mines hold the potential for remarkable discoveries.

For those wondering how to dig gold, some mines are set up for tourists such as the Sygun Copper Mine in Beddgelert, Wales which was abandoned in 1903.

The legalities of treasure hunting in the UK

a man looking a ta checklist

Now for the important stuff.

Before embarking on any treasure-hunting adventure, it's essential to understand the legal framework surrounding treasure finds in the UK.

The Treasure Act 1996 and the Treasure Act 2023 outline the process of reporting finds and the potential rewards for treasure hunters.

If you stumble upon a significant find, whether it’s a hoard of gold coins or ancient artefacts, it’s crucial to follow the legal procedures and report the discovery to the relevant authorities.

Failure to do so may result in legal consequences 😬

The key aspects of the Treasure Act 1996

  • Anyone who finds ‘treasure’ is legally obliged to report their findings to the local coroner within 14 days.
  • The coroner will then determine whether or not the findings constitute treasure.
  • If it is classified as treasure then the finder must offer it for sale to a museum.
  • The offer price is determined by the Treasure Valuation Committee.
  • If a museum is not interested or unable to purchase the item, then the finder can retain the gold for themselves.

Metal detecting: uncovering lost treasures

a man with metal detector

Following treasure hunting shows like the BBC series, The Detectorists, metal detecting is becoming another popular method of treasure hunting in the UK.

With a metal detector, you can search for hidden artefacts, coins, and even gold.

While gold nuggets may not be as common as in other countries, metal detecting and prospecting for gold can still lead you to valuable treasures that have been lost or buried over the years.

When searching for gold with a metal detector, it's important to research areas with a history of gold discoveries or high mineralization.

Learning how to detect gold in the ground and gold panning can be beneficial in this process.

Keep in mind the use of metal detectors is subject to local rules and regulations, so always ensure you have the necessary permissions and follow any codes of conduct based on where you are.

Recent treasure finds in the UK

An item from the Staffordshire Hoard
An item from the Staffordshire Hoard

In 2022, coroners in England and Wales received reports of over a thousand treasure finds, the highest number since the implementation of the Treasure Act in 1996.

Norfolk led the counties with the most finds with 98 of the 1,087.

The number of reported finds has consistently risen since the act's establishment in 1996, with a 20% increase from 2021 to 2022 📈.

The surge in interest in treasure hunting is evident and there is an ongoing eagerness to find gold, driving enthusiasts to explore new areas.

The Staffordshire Hoard, England’s biggest ever gold hoard

The biggest Anglo-Saxon gold find in Britain, The Staffordshire Hoard was unearthed beneath a Staffordshire farmer's field in July 2009 – and what a sight it must have been.

Comprising over 1,500 items crafted from gold and silver, adorned with precious stones and jewels, this UK treasure was first discovered on a farm by amateur metal detectorist Terry Herbert.

Dating back to the 7th Century, it holds a value of £3.285m 🤪. An unparalleled gold discovery in the UK.

It just goes to show the rich history and craftsmanship of the Anglo-Saxons, and how the significance of gold resonates throughout the annals of time.

How to prospect for gold

a man holding a bunch of question marks

Prospecting for gold in the UK can be exciting even if the chances of striking it rich may be slim. Here are some tips on how to prospect for gold in the UK:

  • Research potential locations Start by researching potential gold-bearing areas in the UK. Look for historical records, geological maps, and information on previous gold discoveries.
  • Obtain the necessary permissions Before you start prospecting, make sure you have the necessary permissions and permits. In areas such as Wanlockhead, a license must be purchased before you start gold panning. These licenses can be purchased at the museum as well as through the Queensbury estate office. Check with local authorities and landowners before prospecting on their land.
  • Equip yourself Depending on the type of prospecting you plan to do, you'll need some basic equipment. This may include a gold pan, a metal detector, a sluice box, or even a small dredge. Research and invest in the right equipment before prospecting.
  • Learn the techniques Familiarise yourself with the different techniques used for gold prospecting, such as panning, sluicing, and metal detecting. YouTube is a great place to start and good technique can increase your chances of finding gold.
  • Join a gold prospecting club Consider joining a local club like the British Gold Panning Association whose experienced members can provide guidance, share tips and tricks, and organise group outings and access to known gold-bearing areas.
  • Be patient but persistent Don’t strike it rich instantly? Gold prospecting requires patience and persistence. It may take time to find your first speck of gold, but savour the process and enjoy being outdoors while searching for treasure.
  • Report significant finds Follow all regulations and guidelines regarding gold prospecting in the UK. If you make any significant finds, such as artifacts or valuable nuggets, report them to the appropriate authorities as required by law.

Or, you can improve your gold prospects the easy way: buy gold from a trusted reseller

PAMP Suisse Lady Fortuna gold bar, 1 kilo cast bar, and gold grains

Whilst finding gold in the wild is a thrill, why not stack the chips in your favour and buy gold from a trusted reseller?

GOLD AVENUE is the official online gold reseller of the MKS PAMP GROUP.

We sell the very best physical products on the market, including Swiss-made PAMP® bars that come directly from our gold refinery.

👖 No wet trousers. No gold pans. Just pure investment gold that you can stack safely in our secure vaults in Switzerland for free! We will also buy back your stored gold at any time at the spot price, commission-free!

Find out more.


The Spotlight

The free newsletter helping you understand how to build your wealth.


Get the Spotlight

The free newsletter helping you understand how to build your wealth.