WHILE Scotland will never be counted among the world’s greatest producers of precious shiny metal, it has long been known that there’s gold in them there hills.

Prospectors and miners have been extracting nuggets from brooks and shafts for hundreds of years, dating back to the Iron Age.

Yet the cost of extracting gold from Scottish soil has often been too prohibitive to make it worthwhile, and the back-breaking labour required to pan for flakes in brooks and streams has also brought and end to many an fortune-seeker’s dreams.

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The earliest date for Scotland as a home for gold hunters comes from decorative bands known as 'torcs' which were worn by some of the countries earliest inhabitants.

The largest hoard of these artefacts was found atBlair Drummond, Perthshire, Scotland, and date from around 300 BC.

Records show that lead was mined at Crawford Muir, South Lanarkshire, in medieval times and the area is also known to have been relatively rich in gold deposits.

In 1502, a nugget reputed to be 2lbs 3oz (about 840g) was found close by, and mining began in earnest.

At its high point there may have been more than 300 miners during the reign of James IV.

The mining was eventually taken over by James V who granted a lease to work the mines of Crawford Muir to German miners, who had greater skills and more experience, in 1526.

It has been said that the Germans extracted over £100,000 (about £65 million today) worth of gold in English money and in some places found nuggets weighing over 30oz (0.933 kg).

In the late 1500s Cornelius Devosse, a German  artist was granted permission to search for a gold vein at the village of Crawfordjohn. After thirty days he was able to deliver 3.6 kgs of gold which was turned into coins.

An experienced mineral prospector, George Bowes, later obtained a grant from James VI to mine gold in Scotland.

Bowes discovered a small vein rich in gold in the Wanlockhead area, but he swore his men to secrecy and covered it up before a visit south. He told Queen Elizabeth of his discovery but died, without divulging its location, whilst visiting a mine in northern England.

Britain’s only short-lived, gold rushes in the 19th century were in Scotland, one in Fife and the other in Sutherland.

In 1852, the discovery of gold in Fife sparked a rush on home territory. With gold valued at £4 an ounce and a skilled worker earning less than £50 a year, the prospect of making a year’s wages in less than a month inspired thousands of labourers to head for the hills around Auchtermuchty and Kinnesswood.

In 1868, when Robert Gilchrist had returned from prospecting in Australia and New Zealand to his native Sutherlandshire, he looked for gold in the hills near Helmsdale. Granted permission by the Duke of Sutherland, he found it around the Kildonan Burn.

As a result 180 people petitioned the Duke asking permission for the local community to prospect in the hills around the Kildonan.