Treasure Hunt

Britain's turbulent history has resulted in a country awash with rumours of buried hoards. And you might not have to travel far to find a priceless historic gem.


Your back garden

Wherever you live in the UK, your back garden could be host to a veritable treasure trove. Even new developments could have been built on ancient thoroughfare or settlement. Ask neighbours if you can use their gardens too, and agree to split profits from any valuable finds. If you're fortunate enough to live in an old property, the chances are you could find something of historic value even if it's not classed as treasure.


Many churches have been rebuilt on sites of older buildings and will have seen a huge amount of human traffic over the years (ask permission of your local vicar or parish priest first). Roman coins, bronze and silver jewellery and even a Paleolithic hand-axe have been unearthed in the area surrounding the 14th century church at Alfriston in Sussex. Get a list of all UK churches with Find A Church: UK Church Directory or check out some of the best religious buildings as nominated and voted for by UKTV History viewers on Britain's Best.

Farmers' fields

The best time to hunt is after a recent ploughing. Always gain permission (written is best) and agree a split of possible proceeds. The Cuerdale Hoard (1,000 ounces of silver ingots and 7,000 Anglo Saxon coins) was found in a farmer's field. Local legends often have a factual basis; the local tradition at Cuerdale said that anyone standing on the bank of the River Ribble at Walton le Dale would be within sight of the richest treasure in England. Farm Search: National Directory of Farms

Castle and Abbey ruins

While sites are protected by law, the surrounding countryside is an excellent place to detect as traffic to and from would have been heavy. The areas around many castles would have seen battle action; Restormel Castle beside the River Fowey in Cornwall saw battle action during the Civil War in 1644 and stands on an earlier Norman Mound. Find a full list of English castles and abbeys at English Heritage and Welsh properties at CADW. Or check out some of the best castles and religious buildings as nominated and voted for by UKTV History viewers on Britain's Best.

Riverbanks and Lochs

Riverbanks are popular with detectorists. Finds along The Thames have included a purse of Tudor coins, medieval gold jewellery and Bronze Age weaponry. Rural riverbanks were often settlements whose crossing points have long since vanished. Lochen Hakel is reputed to be the site of the lost gold of Bonnie Prince Charlie; local legend speaks of cattle emerging from the water with gold coins embedded in their hooves. Detectorists in Scotland have to abide by different laws to the rest of the UK. Find out more about the Scottish Treasure Law.


A high tide can reveal hidden treasure, particularly after a large storm when the surf has taken inches of surface sand. After the hurricane of 1987, a metal detectorist found a ring on an Isle of Wight beach. His son (present owner of the ring) has now had it authenticated by the British Museum who suggests it belonged to either Tutankhamun or one of his inner Court and was probably washed ashore during the shipwreck of a vessel carrying Egyptian antiquities. Get more information on British Beaches from Good Beach Guide.

More detecting spots

Town and city parks: Local authorities will be able to advise where metal detecting is permitted. The human traffic over the years (sometimes centuries) means that there could be numerous interesting finds.

Flatlands: Norfolk (a typical flatland steeped in ancient history with many towns listed in the Doomsday Book) is a good example.

Moorland and mountains: Head for the rolling hills of Yorkshire where Roman and medieval remains abound. Recently, a tiny ornate bowl dating back to the 2nd century was found on the Staffordshire Moorlands. Holyhead Mountain on the island of Anglesey has also led to several interesting finds for amateur detectorists.