About Ben Cruachan Dam
What’s this attraction all about?
Ben Cruachan is a 1126-metre high Munro in the Scottish Highlands which has two claims to fame. Firstly, it has the distinction of being the highest point in the district of Argyll and Bute. And secondly, it is home to the Scottish Power hydro-electric dam which powers the power station hidden deep within the bowels of the mountain.
A visit to to this mountain (which is actually a munro) rewards walkers with some of the finest views in the Southern Highlands, especially if they make it to the top of its pointed peak and gaze down at its multitude of rocky satellites. As the highest summit of a grand range of sharp peaks between Loch Awe and Loch Etive, Ben Cruachan is at the top of the list of munros to ‘bag’ for many climbers and hikers, but a much gentler – and equally interesting – walk can be had by heading to the man-made dam part-way up instead.Read more...
What can you do there?
The walk up the well-worn track to this remarkable feat of Scottish engineering is well worth the effort, if only to marvel at the dam which looks so out of place perched high up on the mountainside.
The dam stores massive reserves of water which is piped down the mountainside into the power station, and the power behind this flow of water is used to power turbines that generate up to 440 megawatts of electricity. The water is then pumped back up to the dam at night when the energy is cheaper and is released back down the mountain during the day when the energy cost goes back up. Clever stuff!
Ben Cruachan is part of a ring of mountains known as the Cruachan horseshoe which overlooks Loch Awe and Loch Etive, and a gentle climb to the summit reveals both the loch and the surrounding peaks in all their glory. Although car parking is limited, there are a couple of laybys along the road beneath the Munro, and during the week there are usually only infrequent tourists joining in with the ascent.
You can also take a steeper climb by following the path that leads out from the railway station a short distance from the visitor centre, although this route takes you through the muddy fields surrounding Ben Cruachan, so be sure to take a good pair of walking boots with you.
While a visit to the dam is interesting enough you really need to take a tour in the Ben Cruachan ‘Hollow Mountain’ centre to fully understand what makes it so special. The tour takes you deep underground into the maze of tunnels that have been bored deep underground until they finally open up to a cathedral-sized room that houses the hydro-electric turbines. The fact that you know there’s such a large body of water overhead powering these machines is enough to make your head spin, but if you’ve got any kind of interest in engineering it really is a must-do attraction in the Highlands.
What I liked about this attraction
- The walk up to the dam is really nice
- The views are amazing from the top as well
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- It gets really muddy in winter – wear appropriate clothing
Ben Cruachan Dam is not accessible by car, but it’s a wonderful walk to the Dam and you can enjoy stunning views at the top. From the Scottish Power visitor centre, turn right and drive to Loch Awe Village. After the 30 mph sign, take the first road on the left which is signposted St Conan’s Road.
You will arrive at a padlocked gate, which has access for walkers. Follow the road to the dam. The road is three miles long, has a good surface all the way and climbs gradually across the hillside.
- Telephone: 0141 614 9105
- email: [email protected] (Ben Cruachan visitor centre)
- Website: Visit Cruachan
Prices and opening times
Ben Cruachan Dam is free to visit and is usually open all year round, but check with Scottish Power visitor centre first.
Craig Smith is your guide to the best attractions in Scotland. He loves exploring the Scottish wilds and is happiest when he’s knee-deep in a muddy bog in the middle of nowhere.