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.
GPS app Strava data shows that Scots are clocking up the miles on tracks built for wind farms and hydro stations.
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 some time that people are putting renewable energy 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, and show how renewable energy developments have benefits way beyond their economic and environmental contributions.”
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.
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.
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.
The 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 Lochawe, Argyll
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.”
Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow is the UK’s largest and was actually designed to encourage public access. It has more than 90 miles of tracks to explore.
Since 2009 more than 400,000 visitors have been through the doors of the windfarm’s Visitor Centre, and many more thousands have directly accessed the wind farm for recreation.
Cycling is one of the most popular pursuits, and Whitelee also has dedicated mountain bike trails, designed by the experts who created the Beijing Olympics mountain bike course and the trail for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and developed and managed by East Renfrewshire Council.
There is also a cycling group which was ‘born’ at Whitelee. The site also hosts the British Horse Society’s riders and a regular parent and baby walking group, the Whitelee Stroller Striders.
Kenny Peberdy, UK Director for ScottishPower Renewables said: “Whitelee created 90 miles of new tracks across Eaglesham Moor, and opened up parts of the countryside that weren’t accessible before the wind farm was there.
“Thanks to the efforts of a range of partners we have been blown away by the number of people who now use the site for recreation
“Cyclists have taken to the windfarm in large numbers and it is fantastic to see so many people, from families having fun to experienced riders, taking advantage of the tracks and trails.”