It is a small village that clings to the banks of Loch Fyne, sheltered from the roar of the passing traffic on the A83 by a sprinkling of mature trees, and overlooked by peat-rich hills. 

Close by is the mouth of the River Kinglas, where hopeful anglers seek out sea trout and salmon before retiring to the Stagecoach Inn, where Queen Victoria once sheltered while her horses were prepared for the tough haul up Glen Kinglas towards the Rest And Be Thankful. 

Apart from a new microbrewery and a nearby fish processing plant, there’s been little change in the Argyll village of Cairndow since John Keats strolled through on a walking tour of the Highlands two centuries ago. 

That, however, may soon change. For the tiny village is set to become the focus for a very modern “gold rush”. 
Gold-mining firm Scotgold Resources yesterday revealed soil samples from the hills of Glen Fyne close to Cairndow had revealed “exciting, new and potentially significant” results. 

The specialist firm, which is preparing to begin full-scale mining operations at Scotland’s first commercial gold mine at Cononish near Tyndrum, says the Glen Fyne samples are far more promising than equivalent tests for the existing location. 

The gold is said to show signs of being three times better, and the silver almost twice as good. 

While it’s not yet known exactly how much gold and silver lies beneath the hills, it’s thought reserves could stretch to almost two miles long. 

The mining company has now placed the location as a “high priority” for further sampling with a view to eventually extracting the gold and silver reserves.

It raises the prospect of the peaceful village becoming the site of Scotland’s most lucrative gold mine, far exceeding the estimated £200 million worth of precious metal currently locked underground at the Tyndrum site.

The discovery comes weeks after Scotgold Resources confirmed that after 12 years of work to reopen an abandoned gold mine in Cononish, it is now counting down the months to beginning full-scale commercial production. 

However, any income from the gold will be offset against production and operating expenses, including a tariff that must be paid to the Crown Estate. As a result, the mine is forecast to make £147m in pre-tax earnings. 

But, the discovery of particularly high-quality reserves in the Inverchorachan area close to Cairndow village, has raised the prospect of the business literally sitting on a gold mine. 

“It’s a fantastic time to have a gold mine, because gold is doing phenomenally well just now,” said Richard Gray, the company’s chief executive.  

“The combination of the gold price being in excess of £1,200 per ounce, and the pipeline of projects we anticipate will result from our Grampian exploration work, bode well for the company’s long-term outlook.”

Large gold deposits have long been known to exist across a large area stretching from Grampian across to Northern Ireland and Scandinavia. However extracting it, until now, has proved frustrating.

A small deposit of gold was confirmed at Cononish in the 1980s when a small exploration tunnel of about 200 yards was drilled. However, the mine was abandoned because the price of gold slumped. It was 2016 before the Australia-based Scotgold was able to provide an on-site processing plant, while new engineering technology to enable “cleaner” mine workings – a key issue within the national park area – paved the way for planning approval. 

Ore that had been extracted during early tunnelling work and which had been stockpiled for several years beside the mine’s entrance was crushed and processed and alloy added to create 18 carat yellow, white and rose gold. 

It was shared with two jewellers, Hamilton & Inches in Edinburgh and Sheila Fleet in Orkney, and stamped by the Assay Office with a distinctive stag’s head and triangle symbol.

The current mine will now enter full production next February, when it’s expected to deliver 23,500 ounces of gold a year, with about 3,000 tonnes of ore per month processed in the initial stages. The firm has offered about £500,000 in payments to support the local Tyndrum community. 

Scotgold has a licence to look for gold in an area covering more than 1,500 square miles 4,000 sq km of the Highlands. All gold and silver mined across the UK is owned by the Crown Estate, so the firm has an agreement to pay 4% royalties will be about £8m of the mine’s value.

Mr Gray said a further tranche of soil sampling will take place at the new Cairndow site to help establish its potential. However, the gold rush may not be immediate – it is likely to be several years before the mine can enter production. 

He said: “Soil sampling work has shown the values there are high compared to what we have already. That has given us a lot of encouragement. It will take several years of work to get to the point where we think there’s enough for us to build another mine.”