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A pleasant walk around one of the quieter areas of forestry within the UK’s largest onshore windfarm. Starting at the parking area just off Ardochrig Road (near Strathaven), you soon find yourself on a mossy track through the trees. In this area it is possible to spot jay, bullfinch, merlin, peregrine, roe deer, and occasionally goldeneye ducks on the ponds!
No public transport to start point. Small parking area off Ardochrig Road (click here for Google Maps pin)
Route: Start from the small parking area off Ardochrig Road next to the windfarm substation. Go through the gate at the end of the parking area and onto the Spine Road. After passing the power station turn right (West) at the fork, onto the track signposted for Cleughearn Forest. Along this track keep a look out for a small pond where dragonflies can sometimes be spotted! After 800m turn right (North) onto a narrower track where on a clear day there will be a nice view down towards East Kilbride. Ignore a path on the right 480m along, continue ahead to reach a clearing in the trees. Here the pleasant track crosses a stream then heads back into the forest. Continue along this mossy and sometimes muddy footpath until you emerge out onto open moorland with a view across to several wind turbines. Turn left here (South East). 200m along turn right (South) onto a narrow grassy track which heads across the moorland. After passing some ponds you will emerge onto Cleughearn Road, a wide gravel windfarm track. Turn left (North East) and follow this road all the way back to the Spine Road. Turn left (North East) to return to the parking area off Ardochrig Road.
WALK REVIEW: 5th March 2017
My relationship with Whitelee began over 5 years ago when my baby and I became regulars at their Tuesday morning Stroller Striders walk. Since stopping that (both my sons are now too big for prams) I have returned many times both to enjoy the landscape and to take part in events held at the Visitor Centre. In July 2016 I was introduced to the Ardochrig Road entrance when I parked up to enjoy a 15 mile traverse across the windfarm as part of the National Ranger Day celebrations. It was an area of the windfarm I had never explored before and personally I found it to be the more scenic, tranquil and interesting side.
Following that hike I heard via Ranger Rennie Mason that a new path was being prepared off Ardochrig Road and I was excited to try it out. It somehow took me 7 months to get around to it (!) however it was well worth the wait. Why did it take me so long? Giving it some thought, I think I had made up my mind that Ardochrig Road was a pain to get to from where I live in Ayrshire; that the journey was so much longer than that to the visitor centre. In reality it was super easy! Google Maps saved the day when it planted the idea of going via the A71 through the Irvine Valley. If you are thinking of doing this walk and live in Ayrshire then I would recommend heading toward Strathaven and onto Ardochrig Road from the A71. It takes slightly longer but it is so simple.
Onto the walk itself….. What really struck me was that for the most part I wasn’t aware of being in a windfarm. My mum refuses to come to Whitelee with me because she finds the walks around the visitor centre uninteresting: she would (and will when I bring her!) enjoy this one! You do get the occasional glimpse of some wind turbines, but for the most part it is an area rich in forestry and that brings with it a multitude of possibilities when it comes to spotting wildlife and plants. My friend Nicola and I weren’t lucky on this visit, we didn’t spot anything. Actually, being honest it was nothing to do with poor luck; we had lots of catching up to do and were therefore being far too noisy!
Other things I enjoyed about this walk: the mossy footpath which gave me the impression I was walking on a carpet; the fact that nobody else was using it or even seemed to be aware of it’s existence; walking alongside the ponds in the middle of the moorland; the sense of adventure I got from exploring a new place!