There is much more to Kinlochleven than just its magnificent scenery. Long before the arrival of the Aluminium Smelter in 1907, Kinlochleven existed as two small hamlets called Kinlochmore and Kinlochbeag. King Edward V11 stayed at Mamore Lodge on Kinlochmore Estate while shooting in the area. Later the woodlands above Kinlochleven were chosen as a suitable site for a POW camp during World War 1. The remains of the site are still visible today, visited by many using a popular access path from the village.
The village of Kinlochleven was developed in the early 1900’s when the then North British Aluminium Company harnessed two of the Highlands natural assets – water and hills – to create the Blackwater Reservoir, a hydro-electric plant and the Kinlochleven Aluminium Smelter.
The small hamlet, built where the River Leven meets Loch Leven, quickly became the thriving one-industry village of Kinlochleven. As the smelter developed, so did the community. The smelter employed over 800 at times, making a major contribution to the economy of South Lochaber for almost a century. With strong international demand for aluminium, the village quickly grew to a thriving community of over 1000 people. The smelter specialised in the production of high purity aluminium.
The smelter’s operator, Alcan Smelting and Power (UK) Ltd, announced in 1994 that, due to changing international patterns of demand, outdated technology and economies of scale, it would close around the turn of the century. In March 1999, 96 people were employed in the smelter, with an anticipated closure date in June 2000. In June 2000 the smelter finally closed and this had an understandably devastating effect on this community that was, to a large extent, economically and socially dependant on Alcan. In response, a multi-agency and community forum was established to address the regeneration of the area. An outcome of this group’s work was the formation of the Kinlochleven Land Development Trust (KLDT), now known as Kinlochleven Community Trust, a private company limited by guarantee, and with charitable status, that is working with the community in taking forward the strategy for redeveloping the village.