Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Polphail – abandoned village redevelopment announced

A sudden jump in last week’s site activity was explained when the detailed stats for the week arrived this morning, and identified the single cause as our Portavadie page, with more than four times the usual number of page views for the whole site being directed towards this single page on Tuesday, and almost the same on Wednesday. Then things returned to normal.

On Tuesday, June 23, the BBC carried a news item on Reporting Scotland, with a video from the village, reporting on an announcement by the owner that the derelict accommodation at Polphail was to be demolished, and construction of 270 houses on site would be completed by 2019.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The area has already seen a number of other developments and changes in recent years, although it would appear that all previous plans for development of the Polphail village area have failed to materialise.

Polphail was built as accommodation for construction workers, when Portavadie was chosen as the site for a construction yard for concrete oil platforms, but the demand the government of the time had hoped to cash in from the oil boom of the 1970s simply never materialised, and after creating what one report described as the largest and most expensive man-made hole in the world, it abandoned the site.

We’ve seen two reports on the hole – excavated to form the dry dock where the platforms would have been constructed – and one has to have a misprint, as each has a different cost figure, £4 million and £14 million. We’d really appreciate it if anyone could point us at a definitive figure or report, so that we could quote the correct figure with some confidence

The slipway for the Portavadie to Tarbert ferry has been moved from the area of the dry dock, and relocated just to the north – a modification that has yet to be caught by some of the online mapping services, which still show the old road leading into the water there. The former dry dock is now a marina, which was completed and opened recently, and will be looking forward to the arrival of the homes which will eventually occupy the old accommodation area. The sheltered coastal area has also seen the creation of a fish farm.

Update – June 2012

It looks as if the above story was just one more to be added to the list of development announcements for Polphail that have vaporised with the passage of time.

On Friday, June 22, 2012, three years (almost to the day) after the above story was published, the BBC carried news that the buyers were being sought for the ‘ghost village’ of Pollphail (sic) in Argyll and Bute.

While the adjacent settlement of Portavadie has seen some success as it has been redeveloped over the same period, the area of Polphail remains little more than a haven for bats.


June 29, 2009 - Posted by | Civilian | , ,


  1. I was brought up near Portavadie, and remember the original construction as a child. In the late 1970’s, I accompanied my father to the displenishing sale of the works, where he bought a shed at the auction. At the time it was described by locals as the “13 million pound hole”, so I would certainly go with the 14 million figure.


    Comment by David McN | September 15, 2010

  2. Thanks for the hint David – I had almost forgotten about this one, so it’s nice to get a bit of feedback that goes towards clearing up the typo in the original article I found.


    Comment by Apollo | September 15, 2010

  3. I’ve been researching the oil-related history of Pollphail and Portavadie for some years (I first visited the village in the 1990s and was fascinated by the place) and have just produced a Kindle ebook charting the development of Pollphail from construction through to the present day. I managed to find a great collection of images of the village from around 1978 and have included these. For more info visit


    Comment by jamescarron | March 17, 2012

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