I’m not sure how often I’ve driven past Cruachan Power Station on the way to Oban, but I’d obviously never noticed it.
This trip, taken at a more leisurely rate than normal, saw us stop off for a tour of this facility built inside a mountain.
Nestled on the side of the beautiful Loch Awe, water from which makes the energy, there is a visitor centre with all sorts of information on hydro power, as well as a film. As we were called to get onto the minibus it became obvious that our guide, Ian, was as suited to a comedy stage as taking us around Cruachan.
The first piece of information he imparted is that the power created at Cruachan is used for the national grid at peak times; the ad break in Coronation Street, half-time in football matches and during party political broadcasts. More importantly, the 440MW this power station can produce comes with virtually no emissions at all.
So off we whizzed through a tunnel chiselled out from black granite – a stone that is as strong as steel. It’s hardly surprising that it took 1,300 “tunnel tigers” a year to drill and blast their way to make the short road to the viewing station. According to Ian, these men played as hard as they worked and the local pub, The Tight Line, was the most profitable licenced premises in Scotland during construction of the tunnel.
On the road there are a few little puddles – rainwater that has taken two years to travel through the granite. After leaving the coach there is a short walk to the viewing gallery that passes a display of old tools and bits of machinery. There are also several tropical plants that find the heat and humidity (which can reach 90 degrees) deep inside the mountain just perfect. They serve no purpose at all, the workers just like growing them.
From the gallery we looked down onto the four large yellow “pony motors” which sit above the main cavern, which is about the size of a football pitch. It all looked somewhat familiar. Of course, it features in The World Is Not Enough; indeed such is the dramatic scale of the operation, it could have been used in any number of Bond films.
Ian continued his patter in the viewing gallery, answering questions from the group, although with the constant hum of the machines below it’s not that easy to hear him if you’re standing at the back.
And the children on the tour? They thought it was “awesome” and given the situation, for once I didn’t sigh when they used that word.
• Tickets cost £6.50 for adults and £2.50 for children over six. For tour times, which resume next month, tel: 01866 822618 or visit www.visitcruachan.co.uk
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
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Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
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