When venturing into the subterranean world excavated by Victorian and Roman gold miners, it will soon become apparent that today all that glitters isn’t gold, but rather a rare form of cave-dwelling bacteria that sparkles silver in the torchlight!
Wagons roll at Dolaucothi Gold Mines. ©National Trust Images/John Millar
The last pieces of gold were removed from Dolaucothi in 1938 but there are still plenty of nuggets of information and fascinating stories to be unearthed at the site where daily tours now take place. It was the Romans who first mined for gold in the hills of the Cothi valley, making Dolaucothi the only known Roman gold mines in the UK and the only ones with public access in the world. It is still possible to view the thousands of pick marks left by the Romans over 2,000 years ago and follow in their footsteps with a tour of Upper Roman Adit, a tunnel that they would have used for access to the mine.
Visitors can also take a tour of the Victorian mine where work would have been carried out by candlelight, or, often in the case of the children working there, in complete darkness. Relying on their sense of touch alone, children were tasked with sorting the smooth shale from the rough quartz, which could potentially hold the gold they sought.
Today, visitors are invited to turn off their head torches during a tour of the mine to experience the complete claustrophobic darkness for themselves and get a small sense of the otherworldly conditions the miners would have worked in for up to 12 hours a day.
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