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Whilst Allihies was not the only area of West Cork were copper mining took place, it was by far and away the largest and most productive.

John Lavallin Puxley (1772-1856) was the man responsible, commencing work in 1813 at Dooneen north of the village.

From the fortune he made, he not only built a large house on land he inherited from his father at Dunboy Castle, but also maintained an equally impressive establishment at Llanddarog near Carmarthen.

Mining continued up until 1885 when the last of the mines (Mountain Mine) finally closed and the miners left the area, many of them going to Butte, Montana.

There have been sporadic attempts to restart mining in the area since them, the last being as recent as 1962, but all to little or no avail.

The village is unusual in that it boasts a Baptist Chapel (something of a rarity in this staunchly Roman Catholic area). This was patronised by the many Cornish miners who settled in the area.

The chapel is now home to the Allihies Copper Mine Museum. This is a little heavy on display boards and light on artifacts, but is interesting and informative. The adjoining Copper Café can be warmly recommended.

A leaflet is available at the museum detailing the various remains in the area. Most of these have plaques near them giving brief details, but many are fenced off and difficult to view.

An interesting day out for die hard industrial archeology fans, but more needs to be done if ever they want to attract a wider tourist market.

Ballydonegan Strand


Cork Map

If only all industrial waste tips could be as pretty as Ballydonegan Strand. Composed entirely from quartz sand that was washed down to Ballydonegan from the dressing processes that removed the copper from the crushed ore.

Admittedly the "sand" is very coarse and gritty, but it still makes a very fine beach, and a welcome one in an area that has very few good beaches.

Dooneen Mine


Cork Map

The first mine in the Allihies area was opened at Dooneen in 1812 by John Puxley, after the bright green Malachite staining, some of which is still visible today, identified the cliffs as copper bearing.

Initially mined through a horizontal tunnel in the cliff face, two shafts either side of the road were dug in 1821.

Two years later a pumping engine house was erected. The remains of this building, a stamping engine and the base of the chimney can still be seen.

The ore was finally exhausted in 1838, and the mine closed, although there was a brief attempt to re-open it in the 1870s.

Kealogue Mine


Cork Map

The only substantial above-ground remains at Kealogue Mine are of the engine house.

This housed a 50 inch steam engine, known as Puxley's Engine, brought from Cornwall in 1845 about three years after the mine opened.

At its height there were over eighteen shafts spread along a 2,000 metre long quartz vein, several of which are visible from the engine house.

The mine continued to be productive until falling prices led to its closure in 1875.

Mountain Mine


Cork Map

By far and away the most impressive ruin in the Allihies area is the Man Engine at Mountain Mine. It was built in 1862, and allowed miners to travel up and down on a system of platforms attached to the pumping rods.

A total of 30 man engines were installed in Europe, of which 16 were in Cornwall and only one in Ireland.

The one at Mountain Mine saved the miners a 421 meter climb down to the lowest levels of the mine (280 meters of which were below sea level) and, more importantly, back up again at the end of the shift.

What it didn't help with was the 200m or so climb up from the village to the mine at the start of the shift. I'm tempted to say, a peculiarly Irish situation, but I won't.

The mine opened in 1813, originally as an open cast mine, and closed in 1882.

The mine is currently (2010) surrounded by a high chain-link fence, and would greatly benefit from the installation of some viewing platforms to make it more approachable.