“ Address: Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre, Moor Road (B764), Eaglesham, G76 0QQ „
Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre is brilliant on several counts:
* There is lots of outdoor space and loads of fresh air
* It's both educational and fun
* It's FREE!!
* The coffee shop makes a more than adequate hot chocolate
But rewind....what is it and where is it?
Whitelee Windfarm is situated about 20 minutes from Glasgow on the B764 Moor road that runs from Eaglesham to the M77. You really need your own transport as the nearest bus and train connections are East Kilbride and Eaglesham. Their own website has a good link for giving directions (http://www.whiteleewindfarm.co.uk/about/location) and if you are Sat-Nav reliant, their post code is G76 0QQ.
Apart from the 140 wind turbines that make it the largest windfarm in Europe, there are 70km of trails, an exhibition room, a small shop and a coffee shop.
The trails are accessible all year round and the Visitor Centre housing the interactive exhibits, the shop and the coffee shop re-opened on 1st March after being shut over the winter months.
There are also seasonal bus tours round the wind farm (£3 for adults, £2 for children) with a duration of 45 minutes. We have not done this but I am led to believe that they are both interesting and informative.
First of all a top tip - don't assume that the weather in Glasgow will necessarily be the same as that which you encounter once you get to Whitelee. East Kilbride and the surrounding area seem to have their very own weather system and this area is at a higher altitude than Glasgow itself. Take extra warm clothing, hats, gloves, scarves etc., if you intend to explore the trails. It's a windfarm - it's pretty exposed and it tends to be WINDY. (A no brainer, really, given that it is a WINDfarm!)
These are not lovely smooth tarmac paths either - they are a bit on the rough and stony side, so no to flip flops and yes to stout footwear or trainers at a minimum.
Also on that point, the trails are good for bikes and fine for pushchairs and prams, but a bit on the rough side for scooters and toddler-type trikes. I would advise against bikes/scooters for very young children unless they are extremely proficient on two wheels. Horses are welcome and the area is extremely popular with dog walkers.
The turbines are MASSIVE up close. And you can indeed get right up close to them. They are all numbered so your walks can be varied to try to "bag" new turbines each time you visit.
The trails tend to be undulating rather than hilly, but some slopes would possibly be a bit challenging for wheelchair users.
***The Visitors Centre***
The Visitors Centre has a small exhibition area with half a dozen or so hands-on interactive educational activities. Can you select the six turbines and the weather conditions for optimal power production? And find out how much you know about wind power technology with the TV-style quiz show.
On our most recent visit there was an Arts and Crafts table where children could design and decorate their own cardboard windmills.
There is an information film showing on one wall and an interesting display of the winners of a recent photography competition - some of the pictures are very innovative and inspiring. (A selection of entries and the winners can be seen here: http://www.whiteleewindfarm.co.uk/about_windfarm/photography_competition?side)
This area of the visitors centre also houses an Education Hub for visiting school trips etc.
The visitors centre is run by Glasgow Science Centre and, in my experience, the staff have always been very friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.
The toilets and baby-changing facilities are clean, spacious and well appointed. They adopt eco-friendly practices where possible including using rainwater collected on the roof for toilet flushing and the energy-efficient Dyson hand-dryers.
This is a small area adjacent to the cafe which sells some scientific and educational toys, resources and books as well as the bog-standard souvenir pens, pencils, postcards and other stationery. Prices are on a par with those normally charged at these sorts of establishments and I have occasionally spotted some unusual and quirky gift ideas.
Positioned with a panoramic view of the turbines and trails, it's just the place to enjoy a reviving and refreshing snack and drink after a bracing walk out on the moor.
There are about a dozen tables seating four and a highchair is available.
It's generally well-staffed and the tables are cleared and cleaned in an efficient manner.
The fare consists mainly of light snacks, hot and cold drinks, cakes, biscuits and crisps. We tend to stick to hot chocolate (lovely!), tea and fruit shoots but I did spot a very appetising-looking panini and salad on the next table the last time we were there. I can't remember the exact prices but I would say that it is average value for money for this sort of facility.
Further enhancing the eco-friendly credentials of the place, there is an electric car charging point just outside the front door and there are display boards round the foyer detailing the various energy saving initiatives and techniques that have been adopted in both the design, construction and running of the site. There is ample bike-parking and I believe that there are also showering facilities available.
We love going out here at the weekends. Although we are not short of parks and green spaces closer to home in Glasgow itself, this is a convenient place to meet my in-laws who live in Ayrshire. The girls like the open-ness of the trails where they can get a good run on their bikes and our in-laws' dog seems to enjoy the interesting smells and the muddy bogs that are there to be explored.
I find something quite hypnotic about the windmills themselves and that "swoosh" their enormous blades make as they slice their way through the air.
Yes, the weather can be a bit on the "fresh" i.e. Baltic side but as my Dad is fond of saying "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!" So layer up and get out and appreciate the freshest of fresh air. (Nothing quite like it for ensuring your children sleep for 12 hours a night...)
I know windfarms are not welcomed by everyone and that many do consider them to be a blot on the landscape; however I do feel that this facility has done its best to put a positive spin on the issue by opening up the area to the public for recreation. The visitors centre with its free educational attributes is a huge bonus - and they sell great hot chocolate!
Highly recommended - FIVE stars.
Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre
Moor Road (B764)
0141 614 0851
Open 10am-5pm, 7 days a week, March to November
Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre is managed on behalf of ScottishPower Renewables by Glasgow Science Centre.
Located on the edge of Europe's largest windfarm, the visitor centre is the place to learn all about renewable energy and is the access point to over 70kms of trails for cycling, walking and other outdoor activities.