Gold In Wicklow

Gold in County Wicklow,Ireland

gold prospecting in ireland

Half a century before California had its gold rush, a 200 meter stretch of river which descends from the northeastern flanks of Croghan Kinshela in County Wicklow, Ireland, produced 300 kg of gold in the space of 6 weeks. Many of this gold now sits in the national museums of Ireland, crafted into beautiful works of art. Below i will tell the story of the gold found in wicklow and how it was discovered.

Gold in Wicklow

Gold in wicklow map

Gold in wicklow map

The image above shows a small map drawn by an engineer. This map was commissioned by the head of the gold works in wicklow, his aim was to try and find the source, or mother lode of the Wicklow Gold –  he never found it. As you can see the most profitable areas are marked in red, these are the tributaries and arms of the Gold Mines River. One arm is coming from Killahurler, the other is coming straight down Croghan Mountain. Both of these rivers meet just after Clonwilliam House (still there),  this was said to be a most profitable area and is the location where a several thousand year old giant sluice box was found under several feet of earth. After both tributaries join they continue for over a mile and eventually enter into the Avoca river at Woodenbridge. The river Avoca also contains gold ;). In the paragraphs below i will outline how the gold in Wicklow was found and the ensuing gold rush that followed –

In September 1795 near the town of Avoca , County Wicklow, several workers on an Estate owned by Lord Carysfort were felling trees. The men toppled a large tree and exposed its roots, on closer examination one of the men found a gold nugget weighing several ounces. Needless to say, the men soon gave up their laboring in favor of more rewarding pursuits – gold prospecting.

Not long after it is said that a local man crossing a river, at the time called the Aughtinavought River, chanced upon another large nugget, also weighing several ounces.

Others in the area soon heard of these finds, learned how to pan and sluice gold and began searching the river. Gold was said to have been disseminated in the river quite largely and easily retrievable, just a few inches below the river gravels. Unsurprisingly, the Aughtinavought River was soon changed to – The Goldmines River, which it is still called to this day.

The most profitable area of river is said to have been 150 yards above the Ballingore Bridge (which still exists) and 200 yards below it, this location was known locally as “The Red Hole” – probably owing to a large deposit of iron in the locality which would “rust” the surrounding soils. This Red Hole can still be seen when the area is viewed on google earth.






gold prospecting in ireland - croghan kinshela

Wicklows Gold Rush begins

Within days ALL the local residents left the tilling and sewing of their fields to join the frenzied gold prospecting down at the river – they made crude gold pans and sluice boxes & began panning and sluicing the sands of the riverbed and extracting its precious alluvial gold. Many women and children would go through the tailings of other less efficient workers and still find gold in considerable quantities.

6 weeks after the news had become widespread the government brought in The Kildare Militia and the locals were ousted from their claim by force. By this time though, the vast majority of the easy gold had been taken by the locals and sold to Dublin jewelers. It is estimated that the locals had extracted between 150 – 300kg (5000 -10,000 Oz) of gold (January 2012 Gold Price – 41,520 Euro/Kg), that’s a lot of gold :).

After a short interlude the government began working on the river, they instructed the men they hired to – “rewash the gravel which had been crudely washed by the populace,” and to “continue the works after the gold wherever it was found”. The government worked the area extensively – they trenched, scoured and scarred the mountainside from which it would be expected that the gold had originated but to no avail, the mother-lode was

never found, and it remains elusive to this day, many believe that the original source of the gold to be long since eroded, others believe that it is still lying waiting to be discovered – hidden in plain view, a view which i personally agree with as the area was never thoroughly searched extensively by modern methods, although in 1996 Riofinex took a number of Quartz core samples and found some interesting results ;).

In the meantime the locals who had been driven from their diggings in Ballinvally, were exploring the neighboring brooks but any discoveries they made were kept secret
because whenever the directors heard of one, they once again bullied the locals off their claim. However, none of the neighboring streams or rivers were as rewarding as the original river, in the end, most were abandoned.

The government operations continued up until May 1798 when most of the laborers left to join the insurrection. The totals obtained by the government works was 655 Oz (20 kg). Eventually it became unprofitable for the government to continue the works, this was due to the high number of men required to shift the large amount of gravels and the dwindling supply of gold per ton of earth washed. The locals continue to pan and sluice the river gravels to this day and many find it profitable – their modern gold recovery tools being VASTLY superior to the tools used at the time of the goldrush that even washing previously washed gravels can be profitable.


If you would like to find more detailed information about the gold in Wicklow and the surrounding areas i have painstakingly recreated all of the locations into a google earth file. These locations are taken from everythinggoogle-earth-gold-mines-river mentioned in historical books on the subject. This file will open up in Google earth, it pinpoints rivers and locations where gold was searched for and found. Due to the work p

ut in i simply cannot give this information away for free. This file can be purchased below for just 20 euro, remember to add your email address while paying –