Corrantee Lead Mine
At the end of a disused cart track, within Sunart Forest, you can find the ruins of old Corrantee Mine; the most westerly of the mines in Strontian.
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1876) shows the isolated location of the Corrantee mines, high up in the hills.
Detail from the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1876) showing the Corrantee Mine workings.
Mining for minerals
The mineral Strontium is named after Strontian, where it was first discovered at the end of the 18th century. The Strontian mines, however, were more famous for a different mineral, galena, used for producing lead.
In 1722 Sir Alexander Murray discovered a wealth of galena in the hills around Strontian. In 1725 he opened a mine, in partnership with such prominent people as the Duke of Norfolk and General Wade, who had recently become Commander-in-Chief of the British army in North Britain.
At the end of the 18th century the mines closed due to flooding. With varying success, people re-opened the mines several times over the next 200 years.
There is evidence of both open cast mining and deep shaft mining at Corrantee. It is not known when work finally ended at Corrantee, although other mines around Strontian were worked, on and off, until the 1980s. In the later 20th century mining continued for other minerals at Strontian, finally ending in the 1980s.
The miners at Corrantee
The mines were located within the hills and the miners lived in isolation. They were reliant on ships bringing supplies by sea. When this failed the miners died of starvation.
One occasion, when this happened, was in 1745 when local men stole gunpowder from the mines to aid Bonne Prince Charlie. As a result the English military closed the sea lanes and prevented supplies reaching Strontian, with devastating results for both locals and miners.
Once deliveries successfully arrived on the shores of Loch Sunart, it was another job getting them to the mines. Ian Thornber has written an example of their resourcefulness: when cast-iron machinery weighing three-and-a-half tonnes was delivered to Corrantee Mine in 1867.
There was no crane to lift it, and some suggested that the sides of the ship be cut off, but the mine manager - aptly named Mr Bright - succeeded in making a hoist to lift the precious cargo.
The next problem was to get the machinery up the three miles of track into the hills. The route was so steep, however, that horse drawn carts could only carry one quarter of a ton. As a result, 150 men moved the machinery by hand, using a well thought out system of ropes and planks.
It became an event, with bagpipes playing in the background while the men struggled on in teams. Ten hours after they started the men arrived at Corrantee mine.
Visiting Corrantee Lead Mines
The exact location of Corrantee Lead Mines is grid reference NM 801 659.
Take the A861 from Ardgour to Strontian. At the end of Strontian, cross the stone bridge and take the first turning to the right, signposted 'Polloch', follow this single track road along the riverside until you come to a junction for the 'Ariundle centre' and take the left turn, again signed 'Polloch'.
Climb a steep winding road (take care!) to the top of the hill and drop down to the loch below. Follow the road to a small metal bridge crossing the river at the mouth of Loch Doilet. The footpath to the mine starts just back from here, following the green right of way sign into the forest. Parking is available a little further along the road at the Forestry Commission car park in Polloch village.
There is no official trail but there is a forest track which leads up a steep slope to the site. It's a strenuous walk. Wear stout waterproof shoes as the area is often wet and marshy further up on the hill. The site is marked as a ruin on Ordnance Survey maps.
All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. 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.