MHG94 - Blackwater Dam, Kinlochleven


This was the first rock fill embankment dam in Scotland and forms part of the Lochaber water power scheme and aluminium smelter, one of the most significant civil engineering schemes of the 20th century in Britain.

Type and Period (1)

  • DAM (20th Century - 1921 AD to 1926 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Aluminium Smelting Plant; Pipeline; Railway
NN26SW 3.02 NN 21 60 Conduit; Railway (possible)
NN26SW 3.03 NN 2019 6042

Field survey was carried over an area of 20sq km around the shores of Loch Leven during March 1996. The survey concentrated in an area between the village of Glen Coe (8km to the W of Kinlochleven) and the Blackwater dam (about 3km E of Kinlochleven) and examined all the ground between sea level and 300m that was not under existing forestry or woodland.
Monuments already recorded in this area were either related to the military road (NN 16 SE 2) or the building of the dam (NN 26 SW 3) that provides power to the Kinlochleven aluminium smelter. Some 82 monuments were recorded systematically for the first time. They fall into three clear groups: military monuments, industrial monuments and Early Historic/prehistoric monuments.
Within the area a variety of military monuments were recorded that appear mostly to relate to the protection and building of the smelter and dam. Sites included search light stations (NN16SE 38), fox holes (NN 1757 6170), and the substantive remains of a prisoner-of-war camp that was built to house a labour force for the smelter. This site (NN26SW 13) consisted mainly of building footings and landscaping features that can be clearly seen in clearings within the woodland and birch scrub about 1000m to the E of Kinlochleven. At the E end of the survey area Wade's military road runs down into the village of Kinlochleven before continuing N out of the survey area. This feature survives as a metalled track outwith the urban development. Along the line of this feature a number of culverts and small drystone bridges were noted.
Industrial monuments were classed into two groups. Charcoal- burning platforms - roughly circular scoops fronted with drystone and measuring up to 13m in diameter - may be seen mostly on the S shores of Kinlochleven to the W of the village and in the upland area immediately to the E of the village. The second group of industrial monuments was that related to the construction and operation of the dam and smelter. Most of these features are to be found between the dam and the village of Kinlochleven and range from building footings to the stations to carry the overhead cables of the system that was used to lift heavy equipment up into the construction area.
Historic and prehistoric monuments in this area are generally located in the fertile patches on the N loch shore. The sites consist mainly of rig and furrow cultivation, stone clearance and occasional enclosures, both circular and rectilinear. Due to repeated cultivation in these areas until relatively recently these features are faint and difficult to interpret.
A full report has been placed in the NMRS.
Sponsor: Historic Scotland
AOC (Scotland) Ltd 1996 <1>

This dam was added to the statutory list in November 2011, having been reviewed as part of the Hydroelectric Power Thematic Survey 2010. It is proposed to remove the dam and associated features from the schedule of ancient monuments. <2>

<1> AOC (Scotland) Ltd, 1996, 'Kinlochleven (Lismore and Appin; Kilmallie parishes) , survey', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1996, p.67-68, 67-68 (Text/Publication/Article). SHG999.

<2> Historic Scotland, 14/11/2011, Combined Statutory and Descriptive List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Highland Council, One Hundred and Twenty Ninth Amendment) 2011, HB 51833 (Text/Designation Notification/List of Buildings). SHG25577.

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NN 247 603 (387m by 885m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet NN26SW
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.