Boulmer is blessed with a natural harbour formed from a gap in the offshore rocks between Longhoughton Steel and Seaton Point, although there is no actual manmade harbour, so the boats, which include the traditional ‘cobles’ of the area, have to be hauled ashore or moored in the water. At one time the village was known as the smuggling capital of Northumberland. It was particularly popular with Scottish smugglers, and was best known for its illicit trade in alcohol such as gin, possibly because of a verse describing how one of the Scots, Wull Faa, got into a scrap with a custom’s man on one of his smuggling trips: "There is a canny Will Faa o' Kirk Yetholm, He lives at the sign o' the Queen; He got a great slash i' the hand. When comin' frae Boulmer wi' gin'". Another verse has a go at one Jimmy Turner: "Jimmy Turner of Ford did not think it a sin, to saddle his horse on a Sunday and ride to Boulmer for gin". A large proportion of the villagers were complicit in the trade, and there is one story of a woman sitting on a barrel of liquor wearing a full skirt with the aim of hiding it from the customs men. Salt was another commodity popular with the smugglers, and anyone caught carrying a sack of it would find their bundle on the receiving end of the customs man’s knife, their cargo spilling all over the place. As is usually the case, the village pub, the Fishing Boat Inn, was the local HQ of the smugglers.
Apart from being a delightful place for a quiet coastal break, the main thing Boulmer is known for nowadays is RAF Boulmer, which carries out search and rescue operations and homeland defence. There was great consternation in 2003 when the base was earmarked for closure, threatening local jobs and livelihoods, but in 2008 there were sighs of relief all round as it was announced that the base would stay after all. In 1977 there was a UFO sighting at Boulmer consisting of two bright objects out to sea at a height of about 5,000 feet. The sighting was afforded credibility by the fact that it was RAF personnel who observed it and that it was confirmed by local radar facilities, but it was considered so sensitive that the information was only released more than 30 years later.
Map of the area.