Away from Cornwall’s modern day popularity with the bucket and spade holiday market lies a harder, grittier landscape. Here, sprawled across a sloping valley above the coast, Geevor Tin Mine provides an insight into a past where Cornwall was one of the world’s most important tin centres.
Geevor was the last working mine in West Penwith and closed in 1991, ending almost 300 years of continuous tin mining. But a number of former miners moved quickly to help maintain the site and ensure that the past was not forgotten. The museum and heritage centre comprise the largest preserved tin mine in the United Kingdom. Converted from the mine offices, the museum explores the history of the mine, with sepia photographs, personal effects and examples of cassiterite, the vital tin-bearing ore.
On the wider mine site, visitors can explore several of the outer buildings along with the stark, almost fossilised remains of the main wheal shaft. The dry room, where the miners would change and clock in for their shifts, and the mine captain’s desks, look much as they must have done on the mine’s last working day.
You can join a guided tour down one of the shafts of Geevor Tin Mine. The tours, led by former miners happy to talk about their experiences, explore the 18th-century tunnels of Wheal Mexico, which like other tin mines, drilled out horizontally under the Atlantic Ocean, rather than vertically. The farther outposts of the mine buildings are passed through by the South West Coast Path as it heads towards Land’s End.
Don’t miss: the cafe. Its huge window offers magnificent views over the industrial landscape and the Atlantic.
Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen, Penzance Cornwall TR19 7EW