The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Lansdscape is a UNSECO World Heritage Site, comprising 10 mining districts stretching across almost 100 miles of England’s West Country. At the western extreme is one of the most dramatic and inspiring parts, the St Just Mining District. This is centred around the pretty little town of St Just. This is Britain’s most western mainland town with rows of neat granite miners’ cottages leading from a central town square now gentrified with cafés and craft shops.
It’s a chance to visit one of the country’s most ancient and remote mining districts where pre-industrial and more modern mining activity have left a great impact on the landscape. It is also a chance to explore the impact of Cornish mining on the rest of the world.
The stark moorland drops sharply away to the sea here amid jagged rocks, with iconic cliff-top engine houses perched above the Atlantic in some memorable locations. Undersea mining was more concentrated here than anywhere else in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly for tin and copper.
Today’s visitors can see the oldest surviving Cornish beam engine (constructed in 1840) in its original engine house at Levant, still working under steam. Geevor, one of the last mines to close in Cornwall (1990), was saved from demolition and is now the largest metal mine open to the public in the UK.
Highlights of a visit might also include seeing the waves crash onto rocks below the engine houses perched on the rocks at Botallack or exploring the lonely spot of Ding Dong engine house high on windy moors surrounded by the ruins of mine workers’ cottages.
The St Just area is open and free to explore all year round. Different attractions have varied opening times so it’s best to check before visiting. Geevor Mine for example, is open all year but closed on Saturdays.
Tel: 01872 322 586. www.cornish-mining.org.uk