Using Metal Detectors

Metal Detecting in West Harris

If you are planning to use metal detection equipment in West Harris it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding it.

We have put together a brief summary of the guidelines for metal detecting in Scotland.

Please ensure that you have done your own research and abide by all legislation.

Use the links provided for further information and consult the appropriate regulatory bodies to confirm any advice given here.

Metal Detecting on private/community-owned land:

You must obtain permission from the landowner.

If you are looking to use metal detection equipment in West Harris (including the foreshore), please contact us at:

admin@westharristrust.org or call on 01859 503 900

Metal Detecting and Historical/Archaeological monuments and sites:

Metal detection equipment should not be used within 20 meters of archaeological or historical monuments.

The landowner/local archaeologist should be consulted about relevant archaeological and historical sites.

If you wish to use metal detection equipment on these sites and have the permission of the landowner, you must also gain permission from the Secretary of State for Scotland to detect on listed ancient monuments or other protected sites.

A fine can be imposed for using a metal detector on these sites without permission. A person can ask for permission from:

Historic Environment Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Edinburgh
EH9 1SH
Tel: 0131 668 8600
Fax: 0131 668 8789
Website: www.historicenvironment.scot

Metal detecting on the foreshore/beaches and other Crown Estate owned areas:

In West Harris, the foreshore is owned by The West Harris Trust – please follow the advice given in the ‘private/community-owned land’ section above for these areas.

Elsewhere in Scotland, the foreshore and beaches are often owned by the Crown Estate – in this case, a permit is not required for metal detection equipment.

Please be aware that the foreshore is sometimes in private ownership and therefore would require permissions from the landowner.

Can you keep what you find?

If you find something whether or not you can legally keep it depends on:

  • where it has been left or found
  • whether it is lost or abandoned, and
  • how possible it is to find the rightful owner.

As a general rule when you find goods that you know don’t belong to you they can be handed in to the police or a lost and found office if you found it in a public place like a bus or train. After a period of two months, if the person who lost them hasn’t gone to the police station or the lost property office, to look for them, you can claim them.

If you knowingly keep something that doesn’t belong to you it is an offence but it may be difficult to charge you if no one knows you found it.

Can you keep treasure?

If you find any ancient objects whether they are made of precious metal or other metals or clay it is called a ‘treasure trove’ and is the property of the Crown.

If you find an object that might be a treasure trove, you must report it to the Treasure Trove Unit at the National Museums of Scotland or to a local museum or the local authority archaeologist. If you’re unsure if a find is a treasure trove, you can contact the Treasure Trove Unit for advice.

If you find human remains or skeletons you must report these to the police as these are covered by different laws.

For further information on metal detecting and what to do with your finds please see the links below:

Western Isles Archaeology service: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/western-isles-archaeology-service/

National Council for Metal Detecting: https://www.ncmd.co.uk/code-of-conduct/

Citizen’s Advice Bureau: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/law-and-courts/legal-system-s/if-you-find-treasure-or-lost-goods/

Treasure Trove Scotland: www.treasuretrovescotland.co.uk

Crown Estate Trust: https://www.crownestatescotland.com/what-we-do/coastal/asset/metal-detecting

The Federation of Independent Detectorists has a Code of Conduct which its members must follow. It can give further information and advice about using metal detectors. It also offers a free recovery service for people who have lost metal objects:

Tel: 01635 522578
Website: www.fid.org.uk

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