Spring has come early to Scotland. It’s allowed the perfect opportunity to dust off the mountain bike from the cupboard for an adventure. I’d been wanting to explore the Whitelee wind farm for a long time. Whitelee is one of the largest on shore wind farms in the United Kingdom with over 200 turbines. Generating a capacity of almost 550 megawatts, the sheer size and scale of the site was amazing to see. Getting around by mountain bike is a great option for those looking to explore deeper into the site.
Getting to Whitelee wind farm
Whitelee wind farm is located about 10 miles outside of Glasgow. Sitting just south of the main towns of Newton Mearns and East Kilbride, its accessible from the M77 motorway. A short drive of under half an hour makes Whitelee a great option for a morning or afternoon outing into the countryside. There is plenty of free parking available on site, although it did get busy by mid morning as its a popular location. Come early if possible.
Things to do at Whitelee wind farm
There isn’t a shortage of things to see and do at Whitelee wind farm. On arrival you park near to a visitors centre that has excellent facilities. There’s nice clean toilets available and a great cafe on site. I stopped for a coffee and cake after my ride, the perfect way to relax and take in the views.
The centre isn’t just for adults, there are plenty of child and family friendly options. Talks are held on a regular basis to explain lots of detail about how renewable energy works, with plenty of time for questions. I wish I’d had a school trip here when I was younger.
Hands on exhibits showed the awesome power the turbines generate. I was literally blown away by the power of the scaled down fans and exhausted myself attempting to generate my own electricity. One of the highlights of my visit was dawning virtual reality goggles and exploring the high heights on top of one of the wind turbines. For those not keen on heights it’s a good way of seeing the viewpoint with no fear of falling. No entry fee is charged for any of the activities so its perfect for those on a budget.
Biking across Whitelee wind farm
The first thing to strike me about Whitelee wind farm was not surprisingly the wind. At 300m above sea level the designers really did pick the best location to get the turbines spinning. Fortunately it wasn’t dangerous enough to have to cancel the trip but it did make cycling tougher going than usual.
Tracks and roads across the site are huge in number. Don’t be worried about getting lost as they are well sign posted and lead back to a central spin road. It was simple to navigate my way around on the bike and I didn’t feel intimidated about escaping the crowds on foot into the wild. All of the paths were really well maintained, providing a great trail centre for those new to mountain biking. There aren’t any technical features to navigate but if you’re looking for a leisurely day out with the family its a good choice.
I was literally blown away by the size and scale of the wind turbines at Whitelee. These things are truly massive and make a huge roar when up to full speed that needs to be experienced. Along the trails there were plenty of quiet open spaces to stop and have lunch or snack. Its the sort of place that’s nice to spend time taking in everything around you and fully appreciate the engineering that’s on display. I spent longer than I’d like to admit listening to the sound of the blades turning, they have a hypnotic charm.
In the absence of man
Exploring the tracks around Whitelee there is a real lack of development other than the turbines themselves. With a void of activity on the site at night, it generates a natural habitat for animals. Lots of information is provided near the visitors centre on what different species that have moved in.
There’s a variety of birds and small mammals to spot during your visit. An ideal place to check out for photographers and wild life enthusiasts. The flat terrain helped to give wide fields of view allowing lots of animals to be spotted at long range. Avoiding disturbing the subject is the key to a good photo and it was easy to observe from a far. Small nearby lochs made a focal point for landings and water hole trips. Another great spot to spend time in nature.
Renewable energy is the future
My visit to Whitelee wind farm was impressive. Scotland is investing heavily in generating power using its own natural resources. For a country that has its fair share of rain and wind we should be harnessing it as much as possible to power our cities. The fact that Scotland is leading the way in providing the biggest wind farm in the United Kingdom is a great achievement.
If you are passing from Glasgow to the Ayrshire coast or fancy a cheap day out I would recommend a visit. There was plenty of places to explore so that the hours passed quickly. Combining the visitors centre with a bike loop or long walk could stretch to a full day out.
You will learn all about how a wind farm operates and go home well fed. Whats not to enjoy with that?! I intend on making a return visit to enjoy the trails on my mountain bike. The terrain really does offer a good testing area for breaking in a new bike and getting to grips with its ride. Perhaps I’ll check the wind strength next time before I arrive.