Mobile app shows Scots use green energy routes to conquer great outdoors
Scottish renewable energy tracks have helped cyclists and runners clock up more than 13,000 miles in less than four years – the distance from Glasgow to Sydney.
They’ve also climbed and descended more than 290 miles – the equivalent of conquering Mount Everest 54 times, or 358 ascents of Ben Nevis.
The statistics were collected from outdoors app Strava, and only include 82 tracks at 23 Scottish wind farm and hydro developments with significant levels of activity.
Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager, Onshore Renewables at Scottish Renewables, said: “We have known for quite some time that people are putting these tracks to good use but this is the first time we have been able to quantify it.
“This snapshot of how people are using the tracks around wind farms and hydro power stations is a good indicator of just how popular these routes have become. We believe many more miles have been covered not just by runners and cyclists but also walkers and horse riders too.
“These 82 routes at 23 sites are all examples of how access to Scotland’s great outdoors has been opened up to thousands of people across the country.”
The tracks are given names by users on the popular site, including “Alpe d’Cruachan”, a comparison between an infamous Tour de France stage and the gruelling 2.6 mile climb to Cruachan hydroelectric dam near Lochawe, Argyll.
Others include ‘Doonhill Blast’, as well as more prosaic monikers like ‘Turbine 8 to 24’ and ‘Substation to Spine Road 1’.
Strava allows users to record their routes using GPS devices or smartphones and then compare their timings for certain sections with other competitors online. The site, which started in 2009 in California and came to the UK around January 2012, is now thought to have more than eight million users.
The most popular route in Scottish Renewables’ study was a segment dubbed ‘Whitelee Blue & Red’ at Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow, which has been attempted 1,025 times by 351 people, and takes in dedicated mountain bike trails which opened in 2014.
A 5.4 mile route which climbs 539ft up a hill past the electricity sub-station at Crystal Rig wind farm, near Duns in the Scottish Borders, has been climbed 316 times by 171 people – more than 1,700 miles in total.
Some tracks have been visited by 420 outdoor athletes, while in contrast a 4.1-mile route which climbs almost 1,400ft uphill to Allt Dearg wind farm near Lochgilphead, Argyll, has been ridden by just one cyclist.
Green energy sites surveyed in the study include:
- Dalswinton, a 30MW wind farm near Ae, Dumfriesshire
- Braes O’Doune, a 72MW wind farm near Doune, Perthshire
- Black Law, a 124MW wind farm near Carluke, Lanarkshire
- Glendoe, a 100MW hydro scheme near Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire, which opened in 2009
- Whitelee, a 539MW wind farm – the second-largest in Europe – near Eaglesham, Lanarkshire
- Crystal Rig, a 138MW wind farm near Cockburnspath, Borders – the 5.4-mile path here winds past the project’s electricity sub-station
- Fairburn, a 40MW wind farm near Contin, Inverness-shire
- Hagshaw Hill, a 42MW wind farm near Douglas, Lanarkshire
- Long Park, a 39MW wind farm near Galashiels, Selkirkshire
- Loch Sloy Hydro-Electric Scheme, Scotland’s most powerful hydro station, whose tracks are used by hikers to access Beinn Ime and Ben Vorlich
- Kilbraur, a 67MW wind farm partly owned by the community in Golspie, Sutherland
- Clachan Flats, a 15MW wind farm near Inveraray, Argyll
- Kelburn, a 28MW wind farm near Largs, Ayrshire
- Cruachan Power Station, the country’s top pumped-storage hydro station near
- Allt Dearg, a 10MW wind farm near Ardrishaig, Argyll which is partly owned by the local community
- Auchmore, a one-turbine, 500kW wind turbine development owned by a local farmer near Muir of Ord, Ross-shire
- Bowbeat, a 31MW wind farm near Peebles, Borders
- Beinn Ghlas, a 14-turbine, 8MW wind farm near Taynuilt, Argyll
- Nant, an underground 15MW hydro scheme near Kilchrenan, Argyll.
Louise Martin, Chair of sportscotland, said: “Being physically active is an important factor in being able to enjoy healthy lifestyles, and it is very positive that many people have been benefitting from cycling, running, and walking on these Scottish renewable energy paths.
“There are now more and better opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity right across Scotland, and sportscotland is continuing to work closely with our partners to implement a world-class sporting system for everyone.”
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Outdoor activities play an important role in the visitor experience, with millions coming to Scotland to explore our diverse and rich landscape. Scotland has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and with spectacular paths and trails through our majestic countryside, there are adventures on foot or by bike to be had at every turn.”