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Foyers, British Aluminium Factory

Aluminium Smelter (19th Century)

Site Name Foyers, British Aluminium Factory

Classification Aluminium Smelter (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Aluminium Plant; Foyers, Aluminium Works; Foyers Hydroelectric Scheme

Canmore ID 12322

Site Number NH42SE 4

NGR NH 49699 21051

NGR Description Centred NH 49699 21051

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Boleskine And Abertarff
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Inverness
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NH42SE 4.00 centred 49699 21051

NH42SE 4.01 4999 2138 Foyers Pier

Not to be confused with Foyers Power Station (NH 50306 21774), for which see NH52SW 41.00.

For associated Loch Laggan reservoir and dam (NN 37241 80786), see NN48NE 9 and NN38SE 7 respectively.

For associated workers' housing, see:

NH42SE 5 NH 4965 2094 1-6 Park Terrace

NH42SE 16.00 centred NH 49948 20166 1-60 Glenlia

NH42SE 17 centred NH 4965 2100 Foyers village

Works [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1975.

(Location cited as NH 497 211). Aluminium works, Foyers, founded 1896 by the British Aluminium Co Ltd. The surviving part of the works is an eight-bay rustic single-storey range with crow-stepped gables on each bay. At the W end is a lower wider bay in the same style, and at the E end are two narrower bays at right-angles. No longer an aluminium works. Nearby is the quay at one time used for shipment through the Caledonian Canal.

J R Hume 1977.

Built 1896, presumably by Cameron and Burnett; closed 1970. Very sturdy in hammer-dressed rubble, the front a parade of round-arched windows in crowstepped gables.

J Gifford 1992.

Formerly a Power House associated with the first aluminium works, this structure was, at the time of a RCAHMS photographic survey, February 1997, being partially converted to a fish farm.

Visited by RCAHMS (MKO), February 1997.


Publication Account (1995)

This early aluminium refinery is built on a terrace above the shore of Loch Ness, and was powered by the first major commercial hydro-electrical scheme in Britain. The fine stone building has a row of eight tall gable ends to the front, with crowsteps so designed as to give a distinctly castellated

appearance. Most of the interior is open-plan, with rows of cast-iron columns and girders supporting the roof, but the range at the back of the building is partly floored over, with access by a somewhat 'art nouveau' iron spiral staircase. Here was the old hydro-electric plant, where nine Swiss-made turbines were powered by water piped from the River Foyers and augmented from a reservoir in Loch Mhor in the hills above. Lord Kelvin was electrical consultant during the station's construction. One of the old turbines and generators has been kept in the factory, and these,together with another turbine kept in the new power station, are certainly the oldest of their kind still in existence in Britain.

The factory was built by the British Aluminium Company in 1896 as its first aluminium reduction works. By 1908 it employed some 600 people. At first local bauxite was processed at Lame in Northern Ireland, and the alumina brought by sea and canal to Foyers, but later the bauxite came from Ghana and was processed at Burntisland in Fife. From Foyers, aluminium ingots and rolling slabs were sent to rolling-mills in Cheshire. Sadly the works, which for long provided employment in the area, are now closed down and the building belongs to the Hydro Board (group visits can sometimes be arranged; contact the Public Relations Officer, NSHEB, 16 Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh 3). A number of cottages in Foyers were built for the British Aluminium Company, including rows of single-storey cottages at NH 496209 and 499201, all harled and painted white, some with dormer windows.

A new hydro-electric pumped-storage scheme was begun in 1969, and a new power station built on the shore of Loch Ness east of the old works. It makes use of the old Loch Mhor reservoir with an enlarged catchment area. When generating, water flows from Loch Mhor through more than 3km of tunnels and shafts to the new power station. At other times, off-peak energy from the Highland Grid is used to drive the turbines in the reverse direction and pump water from Loch Ness back up to Loch Mhor. The turbines and generators are housed in huge shafts sunk in the rock below the power station. The old dam and embankment at Loch Mhor (NH 513181; close to the B 862) were retained. The dam has a small castellated structure over its sluice, similar in style to the works.

Foyers was not the earliest hydro-electric scheme on Loch Ness. As far back as 1890 a small water turbine was installed for St Benedict's Abbey, Fort Augustus, which soon served part of the town as well, and was the first public hydro-electric scheme in Britain. It was supplied by an iron pipeline from a reservoir (NH 370052) on the Connachie Burn and continued until the Hydro Board took over in 1951.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).

Publication Account (2007)

(Institute Civil Engineers Historic Engineering Works no. HEW 2537)

Foyers Power Station

Foyers is a 300MW combined conventional and pumped storage project which redeveloped the original catchment of Britain’s first sizeable hydro-electric project built on the south-east side of Loch Ness in 1895 by the British Aluminium Company. The company’s former power station building still exists.

The new scheme was promoted by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in 1968 and work began in 1969. The scheme utilises the 586 ft difference in head between Loch Mohr and Loch Ness. When the station is generating, water flows from Loch Mohr through 2 miles of tunnels and shafts to the power station on Loch Ness-side. When pumping, the two 150MW turbines are driven in reverse to replenish Loch Mohr. This is done using surplus electricity from elsewhere when the load on the system is


R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.

Field Visit (2010)

This building formed the powerhouse and smelter for the British Aluminium Company factory. The building originally contained 5 Girard turbines and Oerlikon DC generators, with two additional auxiliary sets. The building went out of commission in 1965, and is currently used for large plant storage for the nearby Foyers Pumped storage plant. A small 5 MW turbine is still in operation using the original infrastructure for the BAC factory retaining the functional use of the site. This site is highly significant as it represents the earliest large scale commercial application of hydroelectric generation in Scotland. The site retains a large amount of original built fabric of early date, although generation has now largely ceased at this site (apart from one small turbine). The building is largely in use as a large plant store for the nearby pumped storage facility. The scheme was highly influential with BAC developing both Kinlochleven and Lochaber as a result of the successful application of HEP to aluminium smelting as pioneered at Foyers. The architectural scheme, inspired by nearby castellated and baronial styles was developed at a direct response to the objections raised to the impact which the development would have on the scenic amenity of the area. As at Kinlochleven the development included a community of approximately 250 people at its height, housed in the adjacent village built at the same time as the smelter. J R Hume, 1977; PL Payne, 1988; E Wood, 2002; J Miller, 2002.


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