Birkhill Fireclay Mine

The Birkhill Fireclay Mine is a former industrial site which now forms a tourist attraction within the steep-sided gorge of the River Avon 1½ miles (2.5 km) southeast of Grangemouth Refinery and 2½ miles (4 km) southwest of Bo'ness. Fireclay deposits had been exploited here since the 18th century. The clay was valued for its high alumina content which allowed it to be made into heat-resistant refractory bricks for lining industrial furnaces, including iron and steel works. The modern mine was established by P. & M. Hurll Ltd., a fire-brick manufacturer based at Glenboig (North Lanarkshire). In 1908, the company leased Birkhill from the Hamilton Estates (at Kinneil) but went on to buy the property in 1916. The first of the adits which can be seen today was sunk into the hillside in 1932, followed by two others; one for haulage and one for ventilation. Production reached its peak in the 1950s and by the 1970s there were 6 miles (10 km) of tunnels penetrating 823m (900 yards) into the ground. However, demand for its product declined and the company went into liquidation in 1980. The mine lay abandoned until 1987 before it was revitalised as a tourist attraction. Visitors can enjoy an underground tour of part of the old workings, which retain a constant temperature of 11°C (52°F) throughout the year. The clay was laid down alongside coal measures in the Carboniferous Period and visitors can see 300 million-year-old fossils, together with the imprint of ancient riverbeds in the roof of the mine. Guides describe how the clay was worked and the life of a miner. A range of equipment and tools found in the abandoned mine are also on display.

Birkhill Fireclay Mine is managed by Falkirk Council, in partnership with the Scottish Railway Preservation Society. The mine is open from April to October and is usually accessed by the Bo'ness & Kinneil Steam Railway, which terminates at Birkhill Station. It can also be approached by road from Nether Kinneil.

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