Hidden within Knapdale forest, near the town of Inverneil, you can find evidence of past copper and lead mining.
It is common, when mining for galena ore, the mineral that contains lead, to find other metals at the same time. Often silver is found with lead, as at Tyndrum mines. On the Inverneil estate, it was copper.
In 1326, a record shows that the Constable of Tarbert paid for coal and materials supplied to the lead mines. This is the earliest known evidence for such activity in this area. It is unknown if it specifically refers to the mines at Inverneil.
The first edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1872-73) shows the location of some of the Inverneil estate mine workings.
The Inverneil estate lead mines operated mainly in the 18th century. This was a time when the lead mining industry was growing in Scotland. At Inverneil, it never became a major industry, unlike the other three lead mines on the national forest estate: Tyndrum, Corrantee and Minnigaff.
There is evidence scattered throughout the forest of the mining activity. Opposite Auchbraad farm, beside the burn, there is an old mine shaft. Locals refer to the burn as Copper Craigs, suggesting this is one of the copper mine workings.
Elsewhere, there are other shafts and many spoil heaps, where the debris from the mines piled up; these piles remain today.
History of Inverneil Mines
In 1790 Sir Archibald Campbell, owner of Inverneil Estate, decided to explore the estate's potential for mining.
He hired two groups of miners to assess the value of the old mines on the estate. He wanted to know if it would be profitable to re-open these mines. He also contacted former mine workers from the estate. He wanted to learn all he could about the previous mining activity.
On 25 October 1790, Matthew Freeman, the manager of a mine on Islay, replied to Campbell's request for information. From Freeman's account, we can discover a bit about the history of Inverneil mines.
Freeman came to Scotland in 1749 to work at Tyndrum and then Corrantee lead mines. Here, he met miners who had worked for the Clifton Company at Inverneil.
It is unknown when the Clifton Company first started mining operations, but in 1745 the Bristol Company took over the mines. They raised nine tons of copper and 19 tons of lead. Freeman began to work at Inverneil around this time.
In 1756, a Derbyshire company took over and ran the mines for a further two years.
In 1762, Matthew Freeman worked for a Mr Lissington, who devoted his time to prospecting for more lead and copper at Inverneil. This included re-examining old mines and undertaking trial pits with little success.
The results of Archibald Campbell's investigations wisely led him to abandon his idea to reopen the lead mines on his estate.
Visiting Inverneil Mines
The exact location of Inverneil Mines is grid reference NR 830 811.
While all sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore, this site does not have an official trail and is not easily accessible. It is not safe to explore the remains of mine shafts and we recommend that you do not visit this area.
If visiting, we recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.
Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.