GOLD PANNING IN DONEGAL
Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to someone who was telling me all about gold panning in Donegal. It seems it is the latest fun thing to do. Of course me being me, I am always hugely interested in things to do in Donegal, try them out and then write about them.
I loved the idea of gold panning and it’s not as bonkers an idea as some might think. According to surveys carried out Ireland is very rich in gold and Donegal has the highest presence of it.
So we purchased two gold panning dishes, loaded the car with other bits and bobs to assist us in our gold panning (see “THINGS TO TAKE WITH YOU” below).
We took an old road we found between Glencolmcille and Ardara and drove along there until we found a river. The main idea of taking the old road I have to admit is that I didn’t want to be standing beside a river panning for gold and loads of cars going by, occupants gazing out and thinking “bonkers!”.
Our gold panning river
As it happened we picked the perfect spot. In the hour or so we were there only two cars passed by and each time I grabbed my camera and pretended to be engrossed in photographing the pretty stream there. Mind you, what they thought of me standing IN the river in my wellies as opposed to standing on the dry banking to take photographs can only be imagined. That said, I got some very nice photographs taken from the middle of the river.
"Mr. Grumpy" gold panning
You know the saying “the grass on the other side is always greener”? Well I had that thought after a while panning on one side of the river and decided that the other side might be better. Luckily it wasn’t a very deep river, more of a big stream really. So of course I had to get to the other side to see if I would have better luck there.
I grabbed husbands arm and asked him to escort me over. He was not amused at being dragged away from the spot he had chosen but he gave in and off we went. At-a-very-very-slow-pace. The stones were very slippy beneath our feet and my tightening grip on his arm caused even more grumbling from himself.
Then of course in the middle of the river the water was much deeper and I was seriously in danger of getting a couple of wellies full of water. I decided I might just go back to the banking I had just left.
The grumbling grew louder and he insisted that as I had dragged him away from his spot I would not just continue to the other side!
So there I am, in the middle of this rushing river, slipping all over the place, clutching for dear life on to the arm of a very annoyed husband, my gold panning dish in the other arm and my beloved camera around my neck causing me huge stress that I might slip and it would get wet. And I can only imagine the expletives that would come from the mouth of himself were that to have happened. Not I might add about me getting soaked but rather first, the damage to the camera, then his getting drenched. And of course it would all be my fault. Well I might have been slightly to blame I suppose.
Luckily however we made it to the other side safe and dry. Only for me to decide that I liked the first side better. You can imagine what he said when I mentioned this.
Half way across I dropped my panning dish! Well you try crossing a slippery bottomed river strewn with a variety of rocks in your wellies whilst clutching your panning dish and an angry husband and terrified of slipping lest you drop your precious camera!
Off it sailed down the river as I watched, unable to dash after it lest I slipped and toppled in. Mr. Grumpy, for that is the name I gave him during our to-ing and fro-ing, abandoned me and took off after it catching it when it got lodged in some rushes at the side of the river.
Gold panning with gusto!
Safely back to our original spot and harmony somewhat restored, I began panning with gusto. I had thought the water would be freezing but it was actually warm.
I had been planning to take my Marigolds with me in case the water was cold but my husband pointed out that my fears of looking bonkers would come true were someone to pass and see me in a river with bright yellow rubber gloves on. I suppose he had a point.
Things were going well, but then we were attacked!
They came from nowhere, unnoticed at first, until their savage bites alerted us.
We stood up from our bent panning position to see thousands, well dozens, of tiny midges who had honed in on the mobile feasts who had arrived with signs we couldn’t see but clearly declared loudly to them “DINNER!”.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! We made a note that next time we would have insect repellent with us.
After a while you sort of get used to being eaten alive and we continued with our gold panning a while longer.
Tiny bits of gold. And some pebbles!
I got really excited (as I do!) at one point when I found a large gold nugget. Until my husband pointed out that it was just a stone. I insisted it was a gold nugget. Sadly, he was right. But it did look like a gold nugget to my over-enthusiastic eyes anyway.
We managed to get lots of little bits of gold ~ not enough to retire on mind you but still the thrill of finding any gold was great. Surveying the little pile of gold we got I fully understood how Charles Stewart Parnell reportedly had to pan for seven years to get enough gold to make a wedding ring for his beloved Katherine O’Shea! Now that was true love!
Mind you, so too is putting up with my over-enthusiasm, mercurial temperament and inability to settle in one place and do one thing for any length of time I suppose. No wonder he occasionally gets grumpy!
Relaxing in a gold panning dish!
And if the worst comes to the worst and you don't find gold and give up on the idea ~ I'm sure someone will be happy to take over the dish.
We left one of ours outside last night and straight away one of our cats took up residence in it and is today lying in it sunning herself!
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Scroll down for google map indicating roughly the area we went gold panning in. I took the location from the sat. nav.
THINGS TO TAKE WITH YOU
1. Your gold panning dish (obviously!). We got ours in O'Neills in Dunkineely (€17).
2. Insect repellent.
3. A small shovel ~ a child’s beach spade will suffice, but better still a hand trowel as the tip is slightly pointed and you can dig down deeper with it.
4. Some kitchen roll to put your gold on to dry out whilst you continue panning (please take the used paper home with you when you have picked your gold off it ~ no litter!
5. A small box in which to deposit your gold!
1. Watch this YouTube video which shows you how to pan HERE.
2. Wear wellington boots.
3. Be careful ~ the stones beneath your feet are probably very slippy.
4. Pan at the edge of the river where there is a sandier textured edge.
5. Dig down as deep as you can and shovel that into your panning dish and begin panning.
6. Open out a bit of kitchen roll and hold it down with a heavy stone ~ you can then pick off any bits or flakes of gold you find and leave it there until you are leaving.
We Love Donegal
We Love Donegal is a site dedicated to bring the beauty of County Donegal on the north west coast of Ireland to the world.