High in the Lowther Hills to the west of the M74 in Dumfries and Galloway, Wanlockhead is Scotland’s highest village at 467m (1531 ft).
Built in 1848, the dull grey bulk of Wanlockhead Miners’ Church stands out among the painted cottages of the modern village. With boarded up windows and sagging roof, what was once the centre of the village now stands neglected. There may be some hope for its preservation in that there are plans to incorporate it into the Museum of Lead Mining which is the present centre of focus in the village.
Wanlockhead owes its existence to the lead, gold and other minerals found under the surrounding countryside. These mineral deposits were probably first exploited by the Romans and from the 1200s they were being worked again by groups of miners who gathered here each summer. The first permanent settlement appeared in about 1680, when the Duke of Buccleuch built a lead smelting plant and workers’ cottages that could be occupied all year round.
Although lead was for many centuries the mainstay of the village’s economy, it was not the only mineral found here. What became known as “God’s Treasure House” also produced zinc, copper, silver and gold. Some of the world’s purest gold, at 22.8 carats, was found locally and used in the Regalia of the Scottish Crown.
Today’s Wanlockhead depends primarily on tourism. The Southern Upland Way long distance footpath passes through the village, but the main attraction for the motoring tourist revolves around the village’s industrial past.
Information from Undiscovered Scotland.
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Featured in : United Kingdom : 12 Nov 09