The rich history and unique natural landscape of the UK means that we are an island that is teeming with fascinating items just waiting to be discovered. The rewards can be great, if you look in the right places, so it’s no wonder that ordinary people up and down the land have turned their hands to treasure hunting. From precious stones that have washed up on beaches to huge piles of Viking gold buried deep underground, there are plenty of hidden treasures just waiting to be found.
We have compiled a map showing where X marks the spot for some of our favourite hidden treasures, so why not get out exploring this half term and see if you can strike it rich with a lucky find of your own?
Items found around the UK
This jet black precious stone is unique to the Yorkshire Coast and can be found washed up on the beaches around Whitby. It’s formed from extreme pressure on fossilised wood over millions of years and is used within a range of jewellery items.
Nuggets of beautiful British amber can wash up along the beaches of the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline, particularly after there has been a storm. An eagle-eyed beachcomber found a piece of Amber worth £500 on Cromer Beach in 2013.
Gold can be found in small quantities in rivers throughout the UK, but your best chance of striking it rich is by finding a nugget on the beach - the largest one to wash up in the UK was at Anglesey and was worth a huge £50,000!
Dark red and green Cornish Serpentine is found on the Lizard Peninsula at Kynance Cove and is unique to this part of the world. Pieces of serpentine can be found lying on the beach and can be used in a range of jewellery.
One of the rarest minerals around, Blue John can only be found in the caves and caverns of Castleton in Derbyshire. You can take a guided tour of the Blue John Cavern to try and find some, or just pick up a piece of this precious blue gemstone in the on-site shop.
The largest hoard of Anglo Saxon silver and gold ever found was discovered by a man with a metal detector in some farmland near Lichfield and was sold for over £3 million. As with all finds that are certified as treasure, the money raised by the sale of the hoard was split equally between the finder and the landowner.
Chew Valley Hoard
Back in 2019, more than 2,500 rare Norman coins dating back to 1066 were found in the Somerset countryside by a couple of amateur metal detectorists and were valued at around £5 million.
The Watlington Hoard is a collection of Viking silver made up of 186 coins along with ingots and jewellery items that had lain undiscovered since it was originally buried in the 9th century. The hoard was discovered by an amateur treasure hunter in 2015 and was sold to the Ashmolean Museum for £1.35 million.
Gold ring from the 17th century
A 17th-century gold ring was discovered on the shores of Loch Lomond at Duck Bay in 2019. The ring once belonged to a courtier of James II and sold at auction for £14,000. It was the second valuable find for the lucky treasure holder, who previously discovered a rare half angel coin.
Medieval diamond brooch
This 600-year old flower-shaped gold and diamond brooch was dug up in 2019 on farmland in Brigstock that was once a royal hunting ground and is one of only seven similar brooches to be found anywhere in the world. The V&A museum purchased the brooch for an undisclosed figure but has said the valuable item is ‘priceless’.
Treasure hunting tips
If you’re ready to go hunting for treasure in the half-term holidays, here are some tips and advice to get you started:
- Beaches make great places to hunt for hidden treasure - items such as fossils, precious stones and even gold nuggets can all be found washed up on the shore.
- High winds can help to dislodge precious stones, such as Whitby Jet and Amber, so items can often be found following a storm.
- Treasure hoards are typically found using a metal detector, and you can buy lightweight entry-level detectors for under £50. More expensive professional-quality metal detectors are also available to hire from several suppliers.
What to do if you find treasure
If you are lucky enough to find any items that you think might be treasure, it’s very important that you follow the correct procedures as set out in the Treasure Act of 1996.
- Treasure is defined as gold and silver over 300 years old, hoards of coins or prehistoric metalwork
- Potential treasure must be reported to the British Museum within 14 days of your discovery
- You’ll be asked to complete a treasure declaration form and submit a photo of your find
If your find is indeed treasure, The British Museum will manage the sale of it, and the value will be split equally between the finder and the landowner. Even if you don’t manage to make your fortune through treasure hunting, it can be a fun family activity and a great way to spend time outdoors together.
Explore the Yorkshire coast and countryside
With sheltered bays and sandy beaches backed by cliffs that date back to the dinosaurs, the Yorkshire Coast is a perfect place to search for rare fossils and other precious items, including the area’s unique Whitby Jet that has washed up to shore in the past. Viking coins and royal jewellery have also both been found in the Yorkshire countryside, so who knows what other treasures could be hidden underfoot?
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.