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Wheal Coates Tin Mine

wheal coates tin mine

Wheal Coates Tin Mine – Step Back in Time at this Iconic Cornish Landmark

Perched dramatically on a towering cliff edge overlooking pounding Atlantic rollers lies the atmospheric ruins of Wheal Coates. This iconic former tin mine near St Agnes boasts one of Cornwall’s most photographed coastal outlooks making it an unmissable sight on any north coast road trip.

Learn the harsh realities of miners’ lives hacking metal from barren clifftop rocks here 150 years ago. Both a reminder of Cornwall’s formidable industrial past and stunning spot to appreciate the raw power of nature today, Wheal Coates will leave a lasting impression. Here’s everything you need to visit

wheal coates tin mine

Getting There

This epic former mine location lies just south of the former fishing village Chapel Porth and north of picturesque Trevaunance Cove. It’s well signposted inland off the B3277 coast road between St Agnes and Porthtowan.

Park considerately in one of two small laybys provided along the lane towards the mine ruins but note spaces fill quickly.

Alternatively, you can reach it along the SW Coastal path while exploring other north coast sights.

Opening Times & Tickets

One of the unique things about Wheal Coates is that entry remains completely free year-round as a protected scheduled monument. Visitors can roam the hillside ruins every day without charge. It is managed and maintained by the National Trust, who have kept the spirit at the mine brilliantly.

Early morning and late afternoon visits often coincide with smaller crowds and better light for photography if you can time it well.

wheal coates

History & Background

First opened in the 1820s, Wheal Coates (meaning ‘mine in the woods’) operated commercially until closure in 1914. At its 1830s peak over 175 men, women and children were employed here manually excavating copper and tin ore to sell to British smelters.

The earliest records of mining activity at Wheal Coates date back to the 17th century, although evidence suggests extraction likely occurred even earlier. By the 18th century, the mine was already established, extracting tin – a valuable metal used for centuries in everything from tableware to roofing – from the depths below.

Boom and Bust:

The 19th century saw Wheal Coates experience periods of both prosperity and decline. The mine was significantly expanded in the 1810s, employing hundreds of workers and producing large quantities of tin. However, challenges such as fluctuating tin prices and flooding led to closures and periods of inactivity.

The Towanroath Engine House:

A defining feature of Wheal Coates is the iconic Towanroath Engine House, built in 1872. This impressive structure, with its towering chimney and imposing presence, housed the powerful steam engine that pumped water from the mine, allowing for deeper exploration and increased production.

20th Century and Beyond:

Despite the advancements brought by the engine house, the 20th century proved difficult for Wheal Coates. Tin prices continued to fall, and the mine finally closed in 1914. However, its legacy lived on, attracting visitors and photographers drawn to its picturesque ruins and rugged coastal setting.

wheal coates mine

Preserving the Past:

Today, Wheal Coates is managed by the National Trust, a charity dedicated to preserving historic sites and natural landscapes. The ruins have been carefully stabilized and are open to the public, offering visitors a chance to explore the mine’s past and learn about the lives of those who worked there.

A Window into the Past:

Wheal Coates, with its weathered stones and evocative atmosphere, serves as a powerful reminder of Cornwall’s mining heritage. It’s a place where history whispers in the wind, where the echoes of pickaxes and shovels mingle with the cries of seabirds, and where visitors can connect with the spirit of an era gone by.

A Lasting Legacy:

As you walk through the ruins of Wheal Coates, take a moment to appreciate the ingenuity and resilience of the miners who toiled there. Their legacy lives on not only in the physical remains of the mine but also in the stories etched in the Cornish landscape and the enduring spirit of the region.

What to See & Do

Today you can freely wander this dramatic headland steeped in history at your own pace by informal paths. Young kids love scrambling safely over low mine ruins nestled behind the most complete engine house chimney.

Top highlights include:

  • Admiring the phenomenal coastal outlook towards Godrevy Lighthouse
  • Reading the information panels detailing Wheal Coates past
  • Appreciating how hazardous miners’ jobs were extracting ore by hand
  • Imaging this bustling industrial site 150 years ago
  • Snapping photos of much-loved chimney silhouettes

Just remember this coastal site has sheer 100ft unguarded drops in places so take care near cliff edges, especially with children or dogs.

wheal coates cornwall

Was Wheal Coates used in Poldark?

While Wheal Coates was not explicitly used as a filming location in the most recent 2015 “Poldark” adaptation, it does hold a connection to the series and the wider Poldark story.

Here’s why:

  • Wheal Coates’ historical significance: This tin mine operated during the same period as Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, which span from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries. Therefore, it serves as a tangible representation of the mining industry that plays a crucial role in the Poldark narratives.
  • Wheal Coates’ location: Situated near St Agnes Head, which was heavily featured in the series as Nampara Valley, Wheal Coates contributes to the wider Poldark filming locations in Cornwall. In fact, some long-distance shots of the Nampara Valley clifftops might include Wheal Coates in the background.
  • Alternative use by the production: Although not filmed at the actual mine, some scenes from the 2015 “Poldark” production used CGI (computer-generated imagery) to create a fictionalized mine based on elements of Wheal Coates. This fictional mine appeared in the series as Wheal Grace.

So, while you won’t see the exact ruins of Wheal Coates in the specific “Poldark” scenes, its historical context, location, and influence on the production make it a valuable site for Poldark fans and anyone interested in the region’s mining history

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the site wheelchair accessible? – The main paths around the ruins are accessible, but the terrain can be uneven. Accessible toilets are available.

Are dogs allowed on-site? – Yes, dogs on leads are welcome, but please be mindful of other visitors and clean up after your pet.

How long does it take to explore the site? – Allow 1-2 hours to fully explore the ruins and enjoy the views.

Are there guided tours available? – Not at present, but information panels and interpretation boards provide details about the site’s history.

wheal coates

Other places to visit nearby

  • Museum of Witchcraft and Magic – Museum in Boscastle displaying objects related to witchcraft, magic and the occult, including ritual artefacts.
  • Blue Reef Aquarium – Aquarium in Newquay housing sharks, rays, tropical fish and other marine life. Fun talks and feeding times.
  • Trevaunance Cove – Scenic beach and cove with rock pools near St Agnes. Good for surfing and walking along the coast.
  • St Agnes Head – Dramatic headland with old lighthouse. Spot seabirds and grey seals. Stunning coastal walks.
  • Chapel Porth – Sweeping beach surrounded by cliffs near St Agnes. Features a cave at low tide to explore. Good for surfing.
  • Prideaux Place – Lavish 16th century manor house with fine art, porcelain, furniture and formal gardens.
  • Jamaica Inn – Inn made famous by Daphne du Maurier. Set on bleak Bodmin Moor and supposedly once a smugglers haunt.
  • Cardinham Woods – Tranquil broadleaf and conifer woodlands with walking/cycling trails. Great spot for a peaceful forest walk.
  • Lanhydrock – Impressive National Trust site with Victorian country house, gardens, woodlands and river.
  • Eden Project – Biomes housing rainforest and Mediterranean ecosystems with educational botanical displays.
  • Tintagel Castle – Ruined coastal castle dramatically set on the cliffs with links to King Arthur legends.
  • Cotehele House and Quay – Tudor house with medieval tapestries, gardens and quayside on the River Tamar.
  • Restormel Castle – Medieval castle ruins with panoramic views, dating from around 1100 AD.
  • Newquay Zoo – Zoo housing 130 species like lemurs, lions, penguins and meerkats. Interactive exhibits and daily talks

Bleak yet beautiful, the iconic standing ruins of Wheal Coates serve as a powerful memorial to Cornwall’s perilous 19th century mining times. Their windswept setting high above the pounding Atlantic makes an unforgettable sight. Just tread carefully while immersing in the history and incredible views here! You can find more great National Trust places in Cornwall here.

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