History of Loch Awe

Loch Awe, situated in the heart of Argyll and Bute in Scotland, is a majestic freshwater lake renowned for its rich history, vast expanse, and significant water catchment area. Spanning approximately 25 miles in length, Loch Awe stands as the longest freshwater loch in Scotland, winding through the picturesque landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.

The origins of Loch Awe’s name are steeped in Gaelic history, with “Awe” believed to be derived from the Gaelic word “abh,” meaning river. This etymology underscores the lake’s connection to the River Awe, which flows from its northeastern end. Historically, the loch has played a pivotal role in the region, with evidence of ancient settlements and structures lining its shores, reflecting a tapestry of human habitation dating back centuries.

The loch is nestled within a sprawling water catchment area, drawing from the surrounding hills and mountains. The diverse flora and fauna that inhabit the Loch Awe region contribute to its ecological significance. The surrounding landscape is dotted with picturesque villages, and the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, positioned strategically on a peninsula, add a touch of mystique to the scenery.

Loch Awe’s historical importance is further underscored by its association with Clan Campbell, one of Scotland’s most prominent and influential clans. The loch has witnessed various events throughout the ages, and its waters hold stories of battles, legends, and the resilience of the communities that have thrived along its shores.

Today, Loch Awe remains a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, attracting visitors with its breathtaking scenery, recreational opportunities, and a deep sense of historical resonance. Its expansive size and the magnitude of its water catchment area contribute to its significance not only as a natural wonder but also as a repository of Scotland’s cultural and historical heritage.


Boundaries of a proposed National / Regional Park in Loch Awe, this boundary will include the four Community Council Areas for Dunadd, Avich & Kilchrenan, Glenorchy & Innishail and Taynuilt. This would create a National / Regional Park running from Bridge of Orchy to the Sound of Jura incorporating Kilmartin Glen. The Community Councils have been consulted and are in general favor of progressing forward, public consultation is underway.

Attached is a map of the proposed area, time will need to be spent considering this with various stakeholders, especially communities. Importantly we want to include the Iconic Mountain of Cruachan and its vast volcanic expanse, this mountain plays an indelibly linked part in the existence of Loch Awe its ecology, water supply and climate.
We will look at the areas where most visitors go and those areas with the potential for further appropriate development for visitors. Incorporating the needs of the local population will be a priority with in the Park Plan. Preservation of the clean fresh water and healthy environment, improving, protecting and repairing the ecology so as to protect this most special and precious area for generations to come.

At either end of the National Park Boundary are key stake holder developments, to the NW the Drax Powers Hydro pump power station, a well-run visitor centre is based there which concentrates its focus on displaying the history and functionality of the Hydro installation in the mountain of Cruachan. The shoulders of Cruachan mountains NE flank form the spectacular River Orchy Glen leading up to The Bridge of Orchy and the proposed NE boundary finishing as it meets Glen Coe.

To the SE of the proposed National park boundary is the Kilmartin Museum with newly upgraded and excellent facilities, the museum has a major focus on the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron age history of Kilmartin Glen and surrounding areas with a burial site trail taking in standing stones and many burial mounds along this ancient historic Glen. Loch Awe was a major highway during early Medieval history and there is a strong representation of unique carved burial stones from this period at the Museum.

Renewable Energy & Loch Awe National Park

There are already significant renewable energy installations within the proposed park boundary, the landscape has accommodated the huge Cruchan Pump Storage Generation Station. This installation is about to be doubled in size with a well progressed plan. Over to the west Carraig Gheal Wind Farm operating 20 wind turbines with a nominal output of 20,700 kw, there are a number of applications for large wind generation sites along the ridge of the more remote eastern side of the proposed park and a further pump storage electric generation site in application. Carefully managed and siting appropriate decisions will lower the impact and damage to this most beautiful area. This will of course if chosen become the first National Park making a very significant immediate contribution to the green energy needed to de-carbonise the cities and country of Scotland!

Green energy production already active or under final planning with in Loch Awe National Park

Cruachan Pump Storage, opened in October 1964 with a capacity of 440MW. In 2009, it produced 705 GWH, and an expansion is underway to more than double production. The 2nd generation is under planning, aiming for a capacity of 600MW (Drax).

Dalavich Community Hydro Scheme was commissioned in 2018 with a capacity of 50KW.

An Suidhe Wind Farm was commissioned in 2010 with a production capacity of 19MW.

Carraig Gheal Wind Farm, commissioned in 2013, has a production capacity of 46MW (Green Power International). Carraig Gheal 2 is under review and planning, with an expected production capacity of 55MW.

Beinn Ghlas Wind Farm, commissioned in 2001, has a capacity of 8.4MW. A repowering initiative is under planning, expected to proceed with a capacity of 55MW.

An Carr Dubh Wind Farm is under planning, expecting to proceed with a capacity of 85.8MW.

Balliemeanoch: ILI Group started the initial planning phase for the 1.5 GW Balliemeanoch pumped storage hydro project at Loch Awe, Dalmally, supplying 1.5 GW of power for up to 30 hours.

Current generation capacity at Loch Awe National Park adds up to 513.45 MW. The expected increase in final stages of planning or decided projects adds up to 2,295.5 MW (2GW 295.5MW). There are 13 applications in early stages of similar size under progress.

The question arises: Can Loch Awe sustain this level of industrial development without losing its natural heritage? Examining statistics and development in the Loch Awe area suggests it’s contributing significantly to a carbon-free future. The National Park may face challenges in reducing damage to its natural heritage from this industrial development. Considerable thought and debate are essential. Without the National Park, what will happen to the natural heritage of the Loch Awe area?

Objectives of our National/Regional Park

The prime objective of the Park would be:

Ensuring the preservation of pristine freshwater and a healthy environment is paramount, achieved through the protection, improvement, and restoration of the local ecology. This concerted effort aims to safeguard this unique and invaluable region for the benefit of future generations. A recent survey conducted in the Loch Awe area revealed the presence of hundreds of freshwater insect species, including butterflies, dragonflies, and a rich variety of flora and fauna. Remarkably, many of these species are on the verge of extinction in various parts of the UK. The survey underscores the ecological significance of the Loch Awe area, likening it to a seed bank reserve crucial for maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance.

The findings emphasise the urgent need to recognise and preserve the ecological richness of Loch Awe, as it serves as a sanctuary for endangered species and plays a vital role in sustaining the broader biodiversity landscape. Efforts to protect and enhance this natural reservoir contribute not only to the local ecosystem’s resilience but also to the larger mission of biodiversity conservation in the United Kingdom.

Development within the Park

An essential element of potentially funding would be to further link successful renewable energy project applications of which there are many, possibly to make it mandatory that renewable energy developers contribute substantially towards the costs of running environmental and park infrastructure projects, the council see this as the only way that they would give support . Argyll and Bute Council has apparently no budgets to support this kind of innovation, Argyll & Bute council’s position is that the proposal for a National or Regional Park would have to accept that further development is inevitable and the designation would not be an automatic restriction. Most day to day planing decisions would be retained by Argyll & Bute Council.

Farming and Crofting in the National Park

Farmers in Scotland are being told to decarbonize their activity and to put biodiversity firmly at the center of their farming practice. Livestock hill farming is the most common farming activity in the Loch Awe area. Recognizing the poor returns from hill farming, this area, like a lot of Scotland, is designated an LFASS area and receives a small grant towards assisting the continuation of these farmers’ activity for obvious food security and health reasons. Farmers often struggle to break even financially, yet are facing more and more regulatory costs and desk activity heaped upon them.

These farmers are becoming an endangered species! Ironically, the landscape and natural heritage of the Loch Awe area have evolved over hundreds of years under the stewardship of these very farmers! The New National Park would look to have a representative from the local NFU on the board so that farming and land management are firmly respected and supported.

Crofting is very much an opportunity area to help address keeping young agricultural workers within the community. It has been suggested that using the rank and unused land around the proposed park, up to a hundred crofts could be created directly targeted at younger agricultural workers. Perhaps a hybrid crofting concept could be developed specially for this purpose and a close relationship formed with the Crofting Commission.

Ranger Service

The Ranger Service’s role would be to deliver the objectives of the National/Regional Park. Including the following:

  • Work with landowners to improve landscape and biodiversity.

  • Promote the area – perhaps through additional marketing.

  • Promote the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and help landowners to manage the negative impacts of visitors.

  • Educational activities for local schools, guided walks for the public.

  • Work with volunteers to achieve these objectives.

  • Provide a basic water safety presence on Loch Awe, advising users rather than trying to provide a comprehensive rescue service.*

  • Work in partnership with FLS, Historic Environment Scotland and NatureScot staff.

* This could involve patrolling on the water encouraging people to wear life jackets, etc. Fire & Rescue Scotland would continue to provide the rescue service although some joint working might mean that suitable boats could be based near Dalmally and Ford for the volunteer crews from Dalmally and Ardfern/Lochgilphead to use when required.

National Park Base

It has been suggested having a number of bases in what would be a very large area would be logical and to consider using existing facilities in the area. The now redundant Kilchrenan School could be brought back into service as a National Park base and education centre ( two of the specialist water safety potential rangers live by the school)

Another proposal is to initially feature the National Park information and contact points at for example the Drax visitor centre at Ben Cruachan Power Station if this could be negotiated, Kilmartin Museum has again facilities and an empty church immediately next to the newly refurbished museum which may make a good southern base to the park. FLS has had recreational rangers in the area and has some buildings. FLS may be willing to provide offices and equipment storage or their rangers could work in partnership with and be part funded by renewable developers. Rangers should be mobile, based and ideally living in communities around the area. They could use village halls or rent “offices” from local businesses perhaps with a presence in Dalmally, Taynuilt, Kilmartin and Dalavich. A degree of imagination will be required, however by using existing buildings and working in partnership, costs could be kept down.

Jobs created by the formation of a National Park

It would be expected that over 60 quality jobs would be created by the formation of the National Park. This would have a significant positive effect on the working community and the local economy.

Kilchurn Castle

If the funding became available and HES were willing to support the idea, a principal visitor centre at Kilchurn Castle could be built. The visitor numbers are considerable and unmanaged at this location, Kilchurn is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland and the facilities apart from a vast car park built from waste stone and tar scalping’s alongside the rail line are non-existent. A proposed Loch Awe visitor centre at this location the head of the loch with the castle set behind the centre would be stunning. whether or not this could be made to happen depends on the energy and enthusiasm that can be brought to this project, the main single track rail line stops very near by bringing visitor without their cars right to the heart of the park. Drax will have large quantities of surplus granite stone available from the Ben Cruachan major expansion project and would probably be willing to create a platform, perhaps between the A85 and the Car Park, on which a visitor centre could be built.

It has been observed that to progress, it is necessary to establish a working group drawn from the community. It has been also been suggested that it would be useful to take working group members to visit the at least one existing National Park, Loch Lomond is the obvious choice, the staff there will have a great deal of knowledge and experience to share with the proposing team.

It is also suggested we will need to get funding to employ a consultant to develop ideas and speak to communities and stakeholders about the proposed park.


This is a consultation to the public about the Scottish government New National Park initiative, specifically about Loch Awe area as featured or expanded becoming a National Park.

  • 1

    If this area was chosen, would you feel it important to include Inverary and Loch Gilphead in the park area? It has also been suggested Oban with its spectacular setting should be included what are your thoughts about this?

  • 2

    Do you realise that property prices will most likely rise within the park area and that tourism though better organised will most likely increase?

  • 3

    What kind of projects would you like to see the New National Park authority prioritising?

  • 4

    It has been established that planning control would be kept with Argyll and Bute council, do you feel that is correct?

  • 5

    Do you think the creation of over 60 new quality local jobs is a good thing for our community.

  • 6

    What do you feel would be the most important function of the Loch Awe National Park?

  • 7

    Are you comfortable with the continued expansion of renewable energy facilities within this proposed park or do you think the ability to export 2GW is enough given the necessity to protect the Natural Heritage? (2 GW is enough to power the city of greater Glasgow)

  • 1

    Live stock farming – can the park help farmers work towards a sustainable business both for the farmers livelihood and the environment?

  • 2

    Assisted housing- Can the park help younger people to find homes, could the Park set up Loch Awe NP Assisted Housing scheme in partnerships?

  • 3

    Forestry – can the park acquire a substantial stake in the forestry Scotland portfolio and implement a much more sustainable and healthy replanting project?

  • 4

    Mental health – Does a large beautiful natural landscape help with our mental health and does that warrant protection?

Loch Awe