I recently walked a section of the North Cornwall Coast Path from Trevaunance Cove to Gwithian and the old tin mine workings at Wheal Coates were undoubtedly the highlight of that long day's walk. The old mine workings sit right on the cliffside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and spread back inland for a considerable distance.
It's the chimney of the Towanroath Pumping Engine house that first comes into view as you head west along the scenic path and initially, this appears to be all there is to see. This was constructed in 1872 to drain the seeping sea water from the 600 feet deep Towanroath shaft. But a scramble up the cliff via a roughly-hewn path soon leads you to the extended site of the old mine workings and from here, it's easy to see the scale of the place.
There are two further engine houses, firstly, the Stamps & Whim engine house, completed in 1873 which served a dual-purpose as both a hoist for raising the rough tin ore from the Towanroath shaft and also to crush the raised ore for further processing on the adjacent "dressing floors".
Behind this is the Whim ( winding and raising) ) engine house, finished in 1880 in order that the older dual-purpose engine house could be used predominently for crushing the ore. Alongside this, the old boiler pond can still be seen, this being a reservoir for the vast amount of water required to power the various boilers that drove the beam engines. To the other side is the calciner, this being where the rough tin ore was roasted at high temperatures to drive off unwanted impurities, especially arsenic.
In 1881, the site employed 138 men, working in filthy conditions, not least of all those in the deep shafts that extended way out beneath the shore line. It is said that in high storms, the miners could hear huge boulders being dragged across the seabed which was only feet above their heads.
The mine closed down in the late 19th century and lay unused until it was restarted in 1911 when the price of tin on world markets made it profitable again. But it was short-lived, the price of tin soon nose-dived dramatically, foreign imports were cheaper, Wheal Coates was hugely expensive to run and maintain and the mine ceased working, the shafts flooded, and it was closed for good in the early years of the 20th century.
Cornwall is littered with such ghost mines, but few are as complete as Wheal Coates, and none can lay claim to be located in such a stunning location. The National Trust own and maintain the site which is free to view and open all year around, and there is a car park nearby from where it's a 10 minute walk across heather and coarse grass to the site.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.