Neart nan Gleann

When I stand below one of the many dams built in Scotland, I stand in awe. These large masses of concrete strung across many Scottish glens, struggle to blend in with their surroundings. But their presence, even majesty, means they add to the surrounding landscape rather than being a detriment to it.

In the 25 years post World War 2 there was a concentrated hydroelectricity infrastructure building program run in Scotland. In this time over fifty major dams and power stations were built. The body responsible for all this was the North of Scotland Hydroelectricity Board. Its main responsibility was for improving conditions for the population of the North of Scotland by introducing electricity and encouraging investment in the region. It used the profits it made from supplying electricity to the central belt to construct smaller unprofitable schemes in the remoter areas of the Highlands and ensuring even the remotest settlements had access to electricity. This redistribution of profits was an early example of the push for social equality post World War 2 which would later be responsible for the building of the National Health Service.

Much of this infrastructure is at the end of glens, accessible only by miles of single track road, or hidden in the hills. The construction of this was one of the greatest engineering efforts in Scotland’s history, involves thousands upon thousands of people, working in some of the remotest areas of Scotland in some of the harshest conditions, excavating miles of tunnel, building miles of access roads and then of course the construction of the dams and power stations themselves.

The title for the project “Neart nan Gleann” was the motto of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. It is Gaelic for “Power from the Glens”. This is a long term project which has lasted a number of years. During this time I have visited the majority of the schemes built by the hydro board. The latest images from the project can be seen above.