Kinlochleven

From Academic Kids

Kinlochleven is a village in Scotland and lies at the eastern end of Loch Leven, a sea loch cutting into the western Scottish Highlands. To the north lie the Mamore range of mountains; to the south lie the mountains flanking Glen Coe. The village is dominated by an aluminium processing plant, powered by a hydroelectric scheme situated in the mountains above.

The hydroelectric scheme was constructed for the British Aluminium Company (later known as British Alcan) and was designed by engineer brothers Patrick Meik and Charles Meik. Chief assistant resident engineer on the project was a young William Halcrow.

The scheme involved the construction of a dam over 914m long (the longest in the Highlands) and 27m high, creating the Blackwater Reservoir. It was built at an elevation of over 305m in rugged and almost inaccessible terrain, and involved the construction of some 6km of concrete aqueduct and nearly 13km of steel pipe. It has been described as the last major creation of the traditional 'navvy' whose activities in the construction of canals and railways left an indelible mark on the British countryside.

At its peak the aluminium plant employed some 700 people, but international competition led British Alcan to focus operations at its Fort William plant, and by 1999 employment at the plant was down to less than 100. In 1991, the village (according to Annual Census returns) had just over 1000 inhabitants in some 420 households. It has a post office and a handful of hotels and hostels popular with walkers following the West Highland Way. The building which housed the smelter has now (2004) been transformed into a climbing centre and includes Europe's highest indoor ice-wall.

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