Cornwall is full of stunning reminders of our tin mining heritage.
Mining in Cornwall actually dates back over 4000 years, but the industry reached its peak between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. This is when many of the engine houses you can see along our coastline and nestled within our countryside would have been built, and today the Cornwall mining landscape has been given World Heritage Status, recognised by UNESCO.
As well as the importance of remembering the county’s rich history, and of course all the men women and children who worked in the mines, today the iconic landmarks of engine house ruins that have been left behind have become a picturesque symbol of Cornish-ness.
Not to mention their inclusion in the stunning imagery shown in the popular Cornwall-based historic drama, Poldark, which has now added to the wow-factor of these incredible structures.
Below is a list of my favourite engine house and mining heritage spots to visit in Cornwall (and thank you to Olivia for taking these photos on our Poldark-inspired shoot!):
Wheal Coates on St. Agnes Head
Standing right at the edge of the cliffs between Chapel Porth beach and St. Agnes Head, the Towanroath engine house at Wheal Coates is an iconic image for me, as I grew up very close by and visited often as a kid. This is where the photos in this post were taken! There’s a shaft opening on the ground next to this engine house (with a metal grate over it for safety!) where we always used to drop pebbles and count the seconds until we could hear them hit the water. The shaft is pretty damn deep I can tell you that!
Heartlands in Pool
If you want to learn more about the history of mining in Cornwall and one of the county’s biggest mines at the time, Heartlands is a great place visit as they have a whole educational centre and a wealth of information around the site. There’s also a great cafe and beautiful gardens to walk around, and the often host events here throughout the year too! I used to live a 5 minute walk from here and it’s a lovely spot to have lunch or take the dogs for a walk.
The Great Flat Lode
Despite (what I find) quite an amusing name, The Great Flat Lode is in fact a 7.5 mile mining trail that you can walk or cycle along. The engine house and boiler room ruins here are pretty spectacular, and are some of the largest I’ve seen in Cornwall!
Wheal Prosper at Rinsey
If you’re after that Poldark-esque rugged landscape, visiting Rinsey head is a must! The landscape here on the South coast is just so wild, and the Wheal Prosper engine house sits beautifully looking out to see.
Wheal Virgin & the Mineral Tramways
Alex and I discovered this awesome ruin and mineshaft whilst walking along the Bissoe Cycle Trail the other day. The cycle trail is part of the old Mineral Tramways which goes from Devoran to Portreath and again has lots to see along the way, including Wheal Virgin which has an incredibly deep shaft that you can peer into!
As I say, there are so many places like this to discover around Cornwall, but these are my personal favourite! Below are some that I have yet to visit but that I’ve heard are truly awe-inspiring:
The engine houses at Botallack are some of the most well known and most pictured ones in Cornwall, due to their unique position so low down on the cliff edge, quite literally with the sea crashing up against the rocks they stand on. I am yet to visit and see them for myself but it is definitely a must!
Levant Mine and Beam Engine are just a little way along the coast from Botallack, and along with the mines there, this location is known for having shafts that penetrate deep into the ocean floor beneath and along out to see, where they used to pump the water out! I think a road trip is in order to visit these two spots.
Where are your favourite Cornish heritage sites? Please share your recommendations below!
Poldark inspired photoshoot by Olivia Bossert.