I wouldn’t normally feature a power station on this blog but in the case of Cockenzie, I’ll make an exception. Its towering structure was such a prominent and regular fixture on the landscape during our time in Edinburgh that to exclude it would be to omit a key part of our time away. I first spotted its modernist outline as we drove past Edinburgh on the way to our accommodation and got my first proper view from the top of North Berwick Law. Despite being several miles distant it was still clearly visible on the banks of the Forth of Firth yet even from this distance it was clear that all was not as it seemed. The main building was slim, too slim, and it appeared almost as if one could look right through it in places to the other side.
As it turned out that was exactly what we were doing as Cockenzie power station is generating no more. Operating on coal since 1967 the writing was on the wall following the WWF’s declaration in 2005 that it was the UK’s least carbon-efficient power station. Closure followed in 2014 and since then the main structures have been painstakingly demolished by machinery, hand tools and a series of controlled explosions. A gas turbine replacement might one day rise from the dust but for now the casual observer is left with a pretty unique sight. After all, how often can you say that you’ve looked right through a power station and seen the very skeleton that for years has supported its four 300MW generating units?
Walking around the perimeter was a strange experience. I couldn’t help feel a pang of sadness and regret, both for the loss of an engineering achievement and for those livelihoods which it once maintained. A building cannot have feelings I know but the inescapable sense of dejection that surrounds this place is unmistakeable. Saying that if you are in the area I highly recommend a visit but hurry, before too long there won’t be anything left to see.