Within the hills above the village of Tyndrum, there are the remains of lead mines that have been worked on and off for nearly six hundred years.
The earliest known record of mining in this area was in 1424. Mined for precious metals rather than lead, the mines supplied King James I with silver.
On 30 May 1730, Sir Robert Clifton signed a thirty-eight year lease with the Earl of Breadalbane to mine any metals that he could discover on the earl's estate. In 1740, he discovered lead and established Tyndrum Mine the following year. Bad debts, however, led to his imprisonment in 1745, and he gave up his lease.
The Mine Adventurers of England (1746-1760) took over after Clifton's failure. This met with the approval of the Earl of Breadalbane:
"I am sure it will be upon the whole more beneficial and much safer to do with known reputable company than with people who upon trial may be perhaps too late found unequal to the undertaking"
Earl of Breadalbane's estate papers (1746)
Later in the 18th century, the Scots Mining Company (1768-1791) operated the mine and built a smelting works nearby to turn the mined lead ore, called galena, into metal.
Mining for lead, silver and gold continued at various times into the 20th century, but with limited success, however, gold mining continues in the area today.
Visiting the mines at Tyndrum
The exact location of Tyndrum mine is grid reference NN 317 302.
It is not safe to explore the remains of mine shafts and we recommend that you do not visit this area. Care should be taken if you do access this site. Note that the mine area can be safely viewed from the Green Welly Stop.
All sites managed by Forestry and Land 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.
An unprofitable mine
After the Scots Mining Company shut down at Tyndrum in 1791, a friend of the Earl of Breadalbane wrote
"I suspect there is little chance of Tyndrum ever turning out to profit, even if adventurers can be found to speculate upon it"
Letter written by Mr Campbell of Lochard, dated 6 of February 1791, quoted by T.C. Smout (1967) in "Lead Mining in Scotland"
Campbell did not know how true his words were, however, many adventurers still tried their luck to mine at Tyndrum over the following decades. They failed, due to the difficulty of mining enough lead to cover the costs of their activities.
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1864-67) shows the location of the old Tyndrum mines.
The 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane
One of the strangest examples was in 1838, when the landowner, the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, re-opened the mines himself. Over twenty-seven years the mines made a total loss of over £36,500; this would be over 30 million today.
He kept the mines working, despite making a loss, to create jobs for locals. Yet at the same time, he treated staff badly. His German mine managers did not approve of the treatment of the workforce.
"It may look very well on the books, [but] it is only an illusion that a man will work with too low wages," from letters from S. Rechtendrop and H Odenheimer written in 1847, quoted by T.C. Smout (1967) in Lead Mining in Scotland.
The German managers believed that he saw the mine as an expensive ornament to show off. He could use it to demonstrate that he was doing something noble for the people who had no jobs on his land.