It’s time to Botallack and Levant Tin Mines, especially after watching Poldark during a self-isolation period.
Botallack and Levant Tin Mines are on the Penwith Coast, Cornwall, between St Just and Pendeen. They’re situated on Cornwall’s Tin Coast, a 7 mile stretch of the south west coast path from Cape Cornwall to Pendeen Lighthouse.
This rich and rugged coastline is imbued with Cornish mining history. The Tin Coast, a World Heritage Site Status since 2006, boasts impressive abandoned structures and derelict engine houses along its jagged edge. There’s plenty of history here. As a result, in such a remote location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it’s possible to envisage what life may’ve been like several hundreds of years ago.
The National Trust own and maintain Botallack and Levant Tin Mines. I’m a National Trust member and recommend joining. Cornwall has lots of National Trust sites, and they own many of our beaches and respective car parks as well. I definitely make the most of my membership.
For my visit to Botallack and Levant Tin Mines, I used the The Botallack Count House car park. This is right next to the Botallack tin mining site, and with membership, it’s free.
Botallack Tin Mine
Upon arriving at Botallack Tin Mine, it dawned on me that I’ve previously run past this site during a trail race, The Cousin Jack Classic. Rather embarrassingly, I’ve no recollection of seeing Botallack or Levant Tin Mine along the way. How on Earth did I miss it?!
There’s no mistaking Botallack Tin Mine. The two crown engine houses are perched on the cliff edge, exposed to lashing waves and coastal elements. Given their location, it’s a feat of engineering that they were built in the first place.
You can’t go into the Botallack engine houses, but you can wander down for a closer look. It’s very safe and I’d certainly recommend it.
The two crown engine houses at Botallack opened some time before 1724. The houses worked in unison, the lower engine house pumped water from the mine and upper one provided wind power. It’s amazing to think that mining tunnels reach about 400m out to sea, and the mine shafts as deep as 500m. It really highlights the hazards of tin mining, and the importance of finding tin, copper and arsenic.
During my visit, I pictured the tin miners, women, and children who worked here. I conjured up images them eating their Cornish pasties at crib time, and making their way across fields and moorland at the end of the day.
Botallack Tin Mine closed in 1814. This was mainly due to the falling price of tin and copper, eventually leading to the Cornish mining industry collapsing.
On the Botallack site, and dotted along the Tin Coast, are other derelict and abandoned buildings. There’s small inlets and corridors of ruined structures, all safe to investigate, like the mine’s arsenic refining works.
Levant Tin Mine and Beam Engine
As I was so close to Levant Tin Mine and Beam Engine, I decided to walk about a mile on the south west coast path and see it for myself. I wanted to enjoy more views of the Penwith coast too, and after 10 days at home, couldn’t get enough of the salty sea air. Looking into the distance, I could see Pendeen Lighthouse, and nearby Geevor Tin Mine, situated a little inland.
At Levant Tin Mine and Beam Engine, plaques summarise its history and inevitable disasters. This steam running tin mine opened in 1820, raising tin and copper ores. It was quite profitable in its time and managed over 100 years of operation. Levant Tin Mine eventually closed in 1930.
Usually, Levant Tin Mine and Beam Engine is open to the public. The National Trust offers guided tours and you can learn more about how things worked there.
Also nearby is Geevor Tin Mine. Geevor Mine offers an authentic Cornish mining experience, although for now, it remains closed. Here, you can go underground and walk in the footsteps of our Cornish tin mining ancestors.
Like Botallack, there’s other ruined out buildings surrounding Levant Tin Mine, including one which I’m sure was a house. The remains of a tiled floor and fireplaces gave it away. Looking a bit out of place, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
As I arrived quite late to Botallack and Levant Tin Mines, I decided to walk back to my car before the sun set. The sky was looking angry and I didn’t want to get caught in the rain. The looming clouds made for some wonderful winter images though. It’s amazing how much the light changed in such a short space of time.
I saw 2 photographers along the way, and decided to check out their positions. I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos for Cornwall’s famous tin mines from a new perspective.
There’s More On Cornwall’s Tin Coast
I left Botallack and Levant Tin Mines wanting to learn more about Cornwall’s Tin Coast. I’d like to spend time at Pendeen lighthouse and venture further down to Cape Cornwall too. It would be good to cover it all and not be preoccupied with a trail race 😀.
I wonder what took me so long though! Tin mining is such an integral part of Cornish history and culture. Our Cornish identity is shaped by our tin mining industry even though it’s no longer in operation. It’s quite fitting that it continues to be proudly referenced today. I’ve shared how important and meaningful My Cornish identity is, so coming here feels quite poignant.
I’ll be back for more!
Have you explored the Tin Coast in Cornwall? Where are your favourite spots?
You you like seeing engine houses on the Cornish coast, why not try this route, from Chapel Porth to Porthtowan and check out the Charlotte United engine house?