Boulby is a small coastal hamlet in North Yorkshire that is primarily known for its deep underground mine that currently hosts a large laboratory and being beside the North York Moors National Park.
The name comes from Scandinavian terms, meaning a ‘farmstead’, ‘village’, or ‘settlement’. There have been settlers in Boulby for over 1000 years, as it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The village has been the site of industry for hundreds of years, with alum-works and minerals mined from the cliffs for dying cloth. There are mines and quarries all around the village, alongside a dramatic coastline of cliffs and marshland.
The cliffs north of Boulby stretch up to 203 metres, being among the tallest cliffs in England. They became the location of mines and quarries, and miner’s cottages and quarries once dotted the dramatic coastline. The ruined mines are still visible when walking along the Cleveland Way, a walking route between two other Yorkshire towns – Staithes and Skinningrove.
Boulby Mine–The Deepest Mine in the UK
The mine was first constructed in the 1960s, but they discovered potash as far back as 1939. They investigated the mining reserves in the 50s but considered the potash too deep to excavate properly. Finally, the mines began production in 1973 and became the only place in the UK to mine potash.
More recently, in 2011, the mine produced polyhalite. It’s a rare mineral that could be used as fertiliser, and they believe a billion tonnes of it are sitting just off the coast by about 1.5km near Boulby.
Nowadays, the mine exclusively mines polyhalitem they do not mine potash here anymore. It is also interesting to note that it is the only polyhalite mine in the world.
It is the second deepest mine in the UK. There is a network of underground tunnels going under the North Sea, spanning almost 1000km. When workers travel from the top to the bottom of the mine, it takes a full seven minutes in the lift because of the massive depths.
Boulby Underground Laboratory
Since it’s the deepest mine in the UK, there is also an underground laboratory sited in the mine for scientific purposes. Scientists examine extremophile organisms who can survive in extremely salty environments. They have also tested NASA Mars rovers.
They’ve also run dark matter experiments, environmental gamma spectroscopies, and are planning to study antineutrinos in the mine.
North York Moors National Park
Boulby is beside the North York Moors National Park. A wonderful nature reserve spanning across 554 square miles and taking up 26 miles of the Yorkshire coastline. It has classic quiet Yorkshire dales, towering cliffs, and ancient woodland reminiscent of folklore.
For nature lovers, there are plenty of birds and moorland animals to see, including Britain’s smallest bird of prey, the merlin.
The National Park has been open for 70 years and has plenty of family-friendly activities, as well as quiet spots to visit if you feel like spending some time alone.
The park features old British stately homes quintessential pretty British villages and lots of greenery to explore.
North York Moors National Park has also featured on plenty of TV shows and films set in the UK, such as Downton Abbey, Dads Army, and Bridgerton.
A Village of Industry
Compared to other Yorkshire coastal towns and villages, Boulby isn’t a tourist town. It’s a small village known for the large mines nearby and plenty of the workers don’t live in Boulby. If you were coming to visit we’d recommend going for a walk along the coast and enjoying the views from the clifftops, or visiting the North York Moors National Park.
Unfortunately, tourists cannot go down the mine since it’s still functioning. So while it’s interesting to read about, you can’t actually see anything.
Still, the coastline is worth a visit if you’re touring around Yorkshire.
Cover image: GBC – May 2023