Mining runs deep in Cornwall’s blood. And there are few places that are as devoted to this industry’s rich history and heritage as the Tin Coast, a seven-mile stretch of coastline between Pendeen and Cape Cornwall, not far to the north of Penzance. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its globally defining mining history and it contains three National Trust hubs that must be visited by all history buffs: Botallack, Cape Cornwall and the impressive Levant Mine and Beam Engine.
Tin and copper have been mined for more than 2,000 years, however Levant was only established just over 200 years ago, in 1820. It reached a depth of around 600m and included tunnels that were driven up to 2.5km from the cliffs under the sea. It closed in 1930 and experienced its fair share of historical moments along the way, including a tragedy in 1919, when the engine that was used to transport miners between the different shafts failed, leading to 31 deaths.
The main attraction here is surely the world’s only restored Cornish beam engine that is still operated by steam at its original location. It was built around 1840 by Harvey’s of Hayle and was restored by volunteers in the 1980s. It really helps conjure up images of the past when visitors see and hear it in action. The best way to experience Levant is to take a guided tour, though. These need to be pre-booked otherwise you won’t be accepted, however the National Trust experts who run them fill visitors in on the history of the site and details of the local community from days gone by. On a tour, you will be able to go underground into that tunnel where the 31 men died just over 100 years ago.
There’s also a visitor’s centre at Levant, which is pretty close to the equally impressive Geevor Tin Mine, and, even if you don’t take a tour, it’s worth taking a stroll along the cliff-hugging South West Coast Path to Botallack, another historically important Tin Coast mine. Aside from the mining remains along the way, there are incredible vistas to marvel at alongside some of the best seaside flora and fauna in the whole county to discover. Whether down in a tunnel at one of Cornwall’s most important historical treasures or up on the cliffs looking out to sea, the majesty and atmosphere of this wild location on the edge of the county is sure to capture your imagination – and your heart.