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Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn, a day out with the children or a few days relaxing break away from the pressure.

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Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn

The gravels and sediments of the Kildonan Burn are salted with small concentrations of gold in the form of tiny granular flecks, and the very occasional little nuggets sometimes combined with quartz.
Visitors are invited to try their hand and spend an enjoyable day in the countryside panning for gold at Baile-An-Or. This is offered free of charge by kind permission of the owners of Suisgill Estate.

Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn

Gold panning equipment is available to hire or buy from Strath Ullie Crafts & Visitor Information by the Harbour, Helmsdale, where panning instructions and advice can be sought. A gold panning outfit including gold pan, riddle, trowel, instruction leaflet pipette and canister for the findings costs just £5 per day to hire, pans can be bought outright if wished. This facility is particularly popular with children 5 years and over, as well as mineralogists, geologists, and mums and dads. Lapidary enthusiasts can also find small garnets, these are in good quantity but usually well travelled and fractured, however occasionally one can be found which is of facetable quality. Other associated minerals are quartz, hematite {magnetic black sand}, granite, mica schist, pyrites and marble.

Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn

The Kildonan Burn is a small tributary of the Helmsdale River which flows from the foot of the "Hill of the Irishman", and under the single track road 10 miles along the A897 from the village of Helmsdale .
This single track road runs North West from Helmsdale, flanking the contours of the hills to the North and following the flat basin of the Helmsdale river valley to the South. On leaving Helmsdale Village, pass the small but challenging 9 hole Golf Course on your right, after which the road enters the open countryside of the Helmsdale river valley. The views along the "Strath Road", as it is locally known are particularly beautiful with rugged heather strewn moor and gentle rolling hills partially covered in forestry. Sheep and lambs roam freely over unfenced roads so please take your time and drive with care, a must when avoiding sheep and enjoying views. Deer also are a common sight and often cross the road on their way down to the river to drink and graze the grass , offering the photographer some nice close ups.

Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn


The Helmsdale river valley offers a sheltered and pleasant route to the banks of the Kildonan Burn, signposted as Baile-An-0r, the Gaelic translation of Town of gold. Visitors can park on the original site of the Kildonan Gold Rush town of 1869, by the small wooden hut in the middle of the car parking, camping and recreation site.
Gold panning is restricted to the areas between the upside of the stone bridge and the ford crossing , follow the hill vehicle track which leaves the car parking area climbing the knoll to the rear and follow it out along the flat plateau, this turns to the left and crosses the burn. Pan anywhere from this crossing back to the upside of the stone bridge, avoiding the waterfall at the end of the flat sandstone slabs. Equipment for mineral separation is strictly limited to gold pan, riddle, spade and trowel. The use of a gravel sucker is also permissable. Digging must be kept to the centre and sides of the burn, to avoid under mining of the banks. Any holes must be backfilled for the safety of other users. Young children and the elderly might find it easier to pan the area surrounding the car park.

Gold Panning at the Kildonan Burn

Visitors can camp, with tent, dormobile, or caravan free of charge for up to 2 weeks per annum. Outdoor barbeques are welcome. At night the light of the aurora borealis is uninterrupted by house or street lights, and the stars seem twice as bright against their inky backdrop. Deer and sheep surround the campsite in the evening to rest . For visitors to fully enjoy the advantage of the facility, it is respectfully requested that the area is left clean and tidy, waste bins are provided. Any changes or updates to the rules of the facility are posted in the hut .
The Kildonan burn valley is known to be environmentally pristine with no chemical contamination or seepage of applied fertiliser or weed killers, the water is tinted to an amber whisky colour due to dissolved peat residue from the surrounding soil.


There are many wild flowers to be found growing in the heather and the banks of the burn, many rare birds and hawks frequent the area and are of interest to bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts.. Blue dragonflies hovering and skimming over the water are a common site in the summertime.
The Kidonan Burn is surrounded by completely natural undeveloped countryside and as such no facilities are in place which would detract from the visitor's enjoyment and finite experience of the area.
Visitor's are advised to take all foodstuffs and necessary equipment for there time on the burn from the village.

Please keep dogs under control and follow the country code.

Please use the passing places and drive carefully with care and consideration to other road users, stock and wildlife.