On our first trip to Scotland back in June, our friend Helen told us we should go for a walk through the Whitelee Windfarm. She might have said this upon catching me staring out the car window with my head craned skyward and my mouth slack. I may have even bumped my head on the glass in an attempt to get a better view of the giant windmills.
It's not like you can't see them everywhere in Scotland - because you can. They dot the horizon like miniature soldiers on a toy battlefield, their arms fly up from behind distant hills, their long torsos hidden from view. You can see windmills in Scotland everywhere for two reasons. One reason is that Scotland has proclaimed a goal of getting 100% of their power from renewable energy by 2020. The second reason is that it's bloody windy here.
Sadly we missed a walk through Whitelee Windfarm on our first trip to Scotland, but now that we are back and have a little more time, we decided to drive on out and have a walkabout. Here is what we learned.
5 Tips for Visiting the Whitelee Wind Farm
#1: Wait for a Clear Day
You should wait for a clear day as the views are spectacular from nearly all aspects of the park. You can see out to the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Crag and beyond. And this really is a park. It just so happens that the entire thing is dotted with huge wind turbines. Weather is a huge consideration in general, and storms can pop up out of nowhere. Luckily you can see them coming.
#2: The Wind Farm is...WINDY
Of course it's windy. That's why they put wind turbines here in the first place. But what this means is a different thing completely. It means that it's going to be colder. It means that if there is a little rain it will be the famous horizontal rain that Scotland is famous for. It also means you should bring a rain jacket or wind cheater. An umbrella would be generally useless.
#3: Visit the Whitelee Visitor Center
The Whitelee Visitor Center has some interactive displays, one of which features Bob Barker for some reason. I skipped this one, but had a good time guessing which blade design performed best, adjusting the power grid based on weather and energy usage and choosing the best wind turbine placement.
There can be large groups of kids present, and this may make it difficult to navigate.
#4: The Wind Farm Has No Trees
While I'm used to taking care of business in the wild, know that there is absolutely no privacy on the wind farm. There are no trees. Sure you could hide behind a wind turbine, but you'll still be visible to anybody walking on the trail. So make a stop at the visitor center first!
#5: Wind Turbines Sound Cool
I wouldn't have thought this to be the case mainly because I had never been close to a wind turbine before. But check this out. I would recommend visiting the Whitelee Wind Farm just to hear the turbines rotating in the wind!
Random Wind Farm Facts
--The walks are along chunky gravel roads used to access each turbine, so when you wander about, you are actually walking next to and under the wind turbines.
--There are a ton of turbines. 215 to be exact. This is the largest onshore wind farm in the U.K., and the energy captured here powers over 300,000 homes.
--The Whitelee Wind Farm has more than 130km of trails to explore. That's a LOT of walking. But you can take sections of the trail, do a short loop, or wind up taking the Spine Trail which is 17km (one way) and could take up to 7 hours if you are returning. There is more information about the trails on their site, and at the visitor center.