Kinlochleven, Argyllshire

Kinlochleven is a small village tucked away at the head of Loch Leven, a narrow inlet of the sea about 8 miles long that extends eastward from the village of Ballachulish. The village is about 100 miles north of Glasgow, about 89 miles south of Inverness and lies on what used to be the borders of Argyll and Inverness Shires. The River Leven flows into the head of Loch Leven here running roughly from east to west. Originally the river descended from a chain of three small lochs situated on a vast moorland some 1,000 feet above the village and about 5 miles away. However back in the early 1900s the then named British Aluminium Company built a dam at the western end of the moorland raising the water level to form one large lake some eight miles long called the Blackwater Reservoir.

This massive amount of water was needed to provide hydro-electric power for the soon to be built factory that Kinlochleven would grow up around. The water from the reservoir would be then carried 3.5 miles through a conduit, just south of the River Leven, to the Penstock. From here the water is passed into 6 huge pipes which carries it down to the Factory Power House, a drop of about 1000 feet in a little more than a mile. The factory and village was originally built on the south side of the river and later (after the first world war) eventually spread out onto the north side across the River Leven.

The factory was one of the largest in the world at the time, employing over 800 people. With strong international demand for aluminium the village quickly grew to a thriving community of over 1,000 people. The Kinlochleven factory provided some of the purest aluminium available on the market.

Unfortunately changing demands for aluminium and outdated technology soon got the better of the factory and in 1994 it was announced that the factory would be closing. The factory was officially closed in June 2000, however with new developments, the factory site and the village itself is getting a whole new look. Massive cleanup and demolition on some of the buildings, and renovation work on other factory buildings have turned the village into an attractive site for many new businesses and recreation facilities.

The village boasts restaurants, tearooms, B&Bs and 3 hotels, The Mamore Lodge situated 700 feet above sea level, The MacDonald Hotel and The Tailrace Inn, to take care of the travellers' needs. There is also the Blackwater Hostel which is located on the factory grounds where the Lab used to be. The Blackwater Hostel offers high quaility bunkhouse accomodation or campsite facilities.

Although it is a small village there is much to see and do, and it makes an excellent base camp for touring an area rich in history and scenery. I have listed some activies that you can take part in during your stay. Of course there is lots more to do than what I have here.

There is an excellent Visitors Centre here showing the early history of the village and of the British Aluminium factory that the village grew up around.

The Atlas Brewery is one of the many new businesses that have made Kinlochleven thier home. The brewery is built in the former carbon bunker for the factory and they offer a tour of thier facilities during the summer.

Vertical Descents is a modern outdoor adventure activity centre offering a wide range of exhilarating activities including Canyoning, White Water Rafting, Fun Yakking, Bridge Swing, Paintball and Mountain Biking. They are guaranteed to give you an experience you won't soon forget.

The Ice Factor is the largest indoor ice climbing facility in the world and has been built inside the carbon bunkers of the original factory. The Ice Factor can give the novice a taste of mountain climbing in a safe enviroment, or offer the seasoned climber a good challange.

If you are so inclined, there are a number of walks that will take you to some very spectacular scenery, perhaps the best in Scotland.

An easy one to get you started is a trek to The Grey Mare's Tail, a gorgeous waterfall and one of the 6 highest in Britain, just outside the village. You can start this walk from near the junction of Wades Road and Kearan Road in the Church parking lot.

Another more adventurous walk of about 5 miles will take you to the Blackwater Dam & Reservoir. From the walls of the dam can be seen the remains of a German POW camp built during the 1914-18 war, and the remains of a cemetery that was used to bury those that died during the construction of the dam (This may be the highest cemetery in Scotland). German POWs were used for many projects around the village including the road to Glencoe. A stone on the first bridge records the construction date and that it was a POW project.

The third walk I would recommend is a little more demanding, but well worth it. From near the Hotel MacDonald you will see the sign post for a part of the West Highland way that will take you from the village across the mountains to Fort William about 14 miles away. The West Highland Way is a footpath from Glasgow to Fort William which cuts through the village and hikers are a frequent sight in the village.

For a list of other walks in the Kinlochleven and Glen Coe area you can visit this web site.

If the idea of a long walk doesn't appeal to you one of the best features of the village is by far its spectacular scenery and views. Looking northward you can see the sharp peaks of the Mamore Forest with its narrow ridges and white quartzite screes that look like a fresh layer of snow. To the south is the sheer face of Garbh Bheinn scarred by it's many silvery burns flowing down towards the still waters of Loch Leven. However, the most impressive view of all is that of the view you get on a warm summer evening as the sun sets in the west mirrored in the still waters of the Loch with the Pap of Glencoe keeping silent guard over the famous Glen of Weeping