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Dolaucothi Gold Mine, Carmarthenshire

Dolcothi Gold Mines scenery by Barbara Ballard It’s guaranteed you’ll have a problem—keeping your eyes on the A482 road up the Cothi Valley—the scenery is just too distracting. The road winds between unpopulated high green hills and glides between wooded valleys.

The Dolaucothi Gold Mines, a scheduled ancient monument, are located in this scenic setting, just outside the village of Pumsaint. Archaeologists believe that mining took place here as early as the Bronze Age. The gold was close to the surface and often found in crevasses. They know the Romans took out over ˝ million ton of rock, leaving behind chasms and pits when they mined gold veins. Rolling ground and humps in the landscape are a result of land that was dumped when the mines were excavated.

At first the mine was under the Roman military government, then went into private ownership. Gold was sent to the Roman mints after the emperor took his 50% cut. The Romans used slaves rather than explosives to work the mine. The slaves spent their days hammering, chiseling and wedging through hard rock to get at the rim-like veins in the hills.

The Romans left in the 4th century, leaving barracks, bathhouses and other town remains—they’d built a fort above the river Cothi where it meets its western tributary.

The mines stayed unworked until the 1930s when a shaft was sunk to 480 ft. Mining didn’t last long, and things were shut down for good until the National Trust took over the site. Many of the tunnels and sublevels are now cut off, due to water flooding them.

Dolaucithi Gold Mines by Barbara Ballard A visitor can take two tours of the mines: the Roman Tour and an Underground Tour. Each lasts one hour and is physically demanding. There are 75 steps to climb up the hillside to one of the mined caverns, but the view makes the climb worthwhile. Although there’s not a lot to see in the cavern, it does give you a picture of what it would be like to spend your days in this dark, dank place. The underground tour is not for those with claustrophobia. A note for parents bringing their children along—those under five are not allowed on the tours.

1930s mining machinery from another site is on display. If you’re not physically able to go on the tours, you can still learn all the details and mining history from the informative exhibition and the AV presentation.

The Dolaucothi Estate has lots of waymarked walks. The Visitor Centre and shop have all the details. There’s a local history centre in the village of Pumsaint.

The village of Pumsaint belongs to the National Trust. The Red Kite Visitor Centre is located in the Old Coach House. There are displays on the oak woodlands, the traditional nesting place of the red kite. The red kite almost became extinct last century when they were considered vermin and eradicated in Scotland and England. Fortunately, they survived in Wales in small numbers and are now on the way back from extinction.

Dolaucothi Gold Mines
National Trust
Pumsaint, Llanwrda
Tel. 01558 650177
Open: Times for mine, tea-room vary greatly so check out National Trust website; estate and walks open year round daily

Photos © by Barbara Ballard

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