Wheal Coates, Cornwall


Towanroath pumping house
One of the most spectacular old tin mines in Cornwall, a photogenic group of ruined buildings on sloping, heather-covered ground right by the cliff-lined coast
Along minor roads southwest of St Agnes; TR5 0NT
0.5 miles, one-way, or a 1 mile loop also visiting Chapel Porth beach
Photo Tour (14 images)
Wheal Coates has one of the most spectacular settings of the many disused tin mines in Cornwall, situated right on the coast amidst steep, heather-covered slopes, overlooking the greenish blue sea, 2 miles west of St Agnes. The buildings mostly date from the late 19th century, and were abandoned in 1914, after repeated attempts failed to produce sufficient quantities of good quality ore, though surface excavations of tin at this site have probably occurred since the Middle Ages, the first record of the mine itself is in 1692.

The site is now managed by the National Trust and is easily reached, by a short walk, starting either a little way inland, a point 300 feet above the sea, or at Chapel Porth Beach half a mile south, this another popular location. A loop walked between the two access points is about 1 mile.

This part of the coast is also notable for its wildlife, including adders and lizards on the slopes, greater and lesser horseshoe bats in the mine tunnels, and peregrine falcons along the cliffs. The rarest wildflowers around the mine are wild asparagus and rock sea lavender.

Paths to the Mine

Inland access to Wheal Coates is from a National Trust parking place along Beacon Drive, from where all the mine buildings are within 0.3 miles. The other approach, from the south, is at the end of the narrow road down to Chapel Porth Beach; the ruins are half a mile away. Both parking places are liable to be full by mid-morning at busy times of the year. From the beach, the coast path heads north, climbing the size of Chapel Porth valley, heading towards a slightly detached component of the mine complex, the Towanroath shaft pumping engine house; the remainder of the site is a short distance uphill. Just beyond this pumping house, a little side path winds part way down the hillside to the mouth of a deep cave or shaft, the floor of which is at sea level. The steep cliffs prevent getting anywhere close to the sea at this point, though at low tide it is possible to walk to the lower end of the cave, from Chapel Porth.

Heather around the ruins of Wheal Coates
Heather around the ruins of Wheal Coates

Buildings of Wheal Coates

The Towanroath pumping house, built in 1872, was used to remove water from the main mine shaft, which extended some way below sea level. The largest of the other buildings is a second beam engine, which lifted ore to the surface, and also housed a set of stamps for crushing the rocks. Nearby are a pair of whim engine houses, also used to process the ore, while to one side is a low-walled square enclosure, once containing water for use in boilers. Other ruins are a tall chimney or stack, the foundations of a gas engine plant, and a twin-bay calciner, this dating from the later operations of the mine, 1910 to 1914, and used to roast the ore to remove impurities such as arsenic.

Ledgy slate walls
Two whim engine houses at Wheal Coates

@johncrossley120 Ruined building at Wheal Coates, an old tin mine in Cornwall #oldmine #coast #cornwall #tinmine #whealcoates #sea #ruin #historic #outdoors ♬ Candy - Dan