Back in 1869 there was a gold rush up in Sutherland in the Scottish highlands about ten miles inland from the coastal fishing village of Helmsdale in the strath of Kildonan.
The gold rush took place after two local brothers the Gilchrist brothers returned from a mostly unsuccessful stint in search of gold down under in Australia. On their return to their native Strath of Kildonan they were looking in their local burn the Kildonan burn and thought the sediment looked very similar to that which they had come across while panning for gold down under.
They decided to have a pan in the Kildonan burn and low and behold they struck gold! Soon word got around and in no time at all a gold rush was underway with a shantytown quickly growing on the banks of the Kildonan burn. The prospectors named this shantytown Baile An Or which is Celtic for the City of Gold. Although the gold rush is long past the old shantytown name can still be found on the banks of the Kildonan burn.
Gold was also discovered in the two nearby burns the Suisgill and Kinbrace burns.
I can not remember exactly how long the gold rush lasted for but I think it was somewhere in the region of two years before it finally fizzled out. Some people did do quite well out of it and the biggest gold nugget that was found which was somewhere in the region of 2oz can still be found and viewed in Dunrobin castle which is just North of the small Cathedral City of Dornoch on the Dornoch Firth.
As a family we used to go camping on the banks of the Kildonan burn for many years stopping for three weeks every summer. We did find a few ounces of gold and my wedding ring is made out of gold that I found whilst panning in the burns. My father made the ring for me during the night before my wedding.
After almost 20 years I went back to Baile An Or last year during August 2009 and I am considering going back again this year. As well as the gold panning it is a beautifully scenic and tranquil part of the British Isles to pay a visit to.
You can camp free of charge on the bank of the Kildonan burn, although to pan for gold you are required by law to have a gold panning licence but this can be obtained free of charge, you just have to sign the register which is on site.
If you are interested in finding out more just follow this link Kildonan