Whitelee history

Learn about the windfarm's varied and interesting history.

Parts of Whitelee used to be heavily used by people to live and work. From farmers to foresters, crofters to Covenanters, people have used the area for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Archaeological remains, ruins, cultural artefacts and local tales give clues to its previous use and its inhabitants who lived and worked in what's considered by many a difficult landscape to live in.

During the 15th century, unhappiness with how the Church was ran spread throughout Europe and with the nailing of a 'protest' to the doors of a Church in Germany by a monk (Martin Luther) in 1517, it led to a new religious movement - Protestantism. This new movement reached Scotland and became adopted by the Scottish Parliament in 1560.

Around 1578, however, King James VI came to the throne, marking the start of troubles in Scotland. James went against his Presbyterian teaching and approve the Episcopal belief of the 'Divine Right of Kings'. This allowed the King of the day to act as if appointed by God and therefore only answerable to him, which didn't fit with the Presbyterian view. James followed by his son Charles (and his son) are said to have used this to suit their own goals, resulting in almost 100 years of unrest in Scotland.

When King Charles tightened his grip on power and ordered that ministers had to apply for re-admission to their parishes and accept the ultimate rule of the King, 300 ministers decided to leave their parishes rather than subject themselves and their parishioners to the rule of the King, and went into the countryside, or to safe houses, to hold illegal 'Conventacles'.

Eventually, with the strict new laws from the Crown, Covenanters could be killed on the spot, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 18,000 people at a time when the population of Scotland was only around 800,000 - giving this time in Scotland's history the title of the 'killing years'.

Lochgoin Farm within the windfarm was one of the Covenanters safe places.

A small museum to the Covenanters attached to the farm contains information, relics and manuscripts, including a bible and sword from Captain John Paton who was killed as a Covenanter. There's also a flag for the parish of Fenwick and a drum, both said to have been at the ill-fated battle of Bothwell Bridge where in 1679 the Covenanter rebel army was defeated,  effectively ending the Covenanters rebellion.

The museum is open most days between 10am and 4pm, and is an easy walk from the Whitelee visitor centre, taking around 20 minutes.

The cave isn't within the windfarm, but found off the track leading from Airtnoch Farm to Craigendunton reservoir. Located on a craggy rock outcrop on the Dunton Water burn it's situated approximately half way between the farm and Craigendunton. The cave isn't visible from the track so visitors should leave the track before reaching the conifer trees and follow the burn downhill. The cave is on the north-west facing crag face.

The cave is located approximately 10 meters up the crag face and is said to have been created by Covenanters as a bolt-hole or hide out. The cave is very small and could probably only have hidden 1 or 2 people.

Please note, caution is needed if visiting the cave as it's not easily reached without climbing.

This steep sided hill is believed to be the site of an Iron Age hillfort or fortified dwelling that's thought to have been occupied sometime between 1200BC and 400AD. The site's listed with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and parts of the hills former use can still be seen today. Visiting the site makes a great walk and provides great views from the windfarm.

The Weavers Trail is a trading route between Darvel and Newmains and Eaglesham. Lace products were woven up until power looms arrived in 1872, and the manufactured products were carried over the moor to be sold in markets at Paisley and Glasgow. Yarns were then brought back for manufacturing into finished products.

Staging posts, such as Park Farm in Eaglesham, were used for people to meet before making the trek over the moors and one tale tells of a weaver who disappeared when crossing. He's thought to have possibly disappeared after going into a peat hag and being sucked under.

The route's still walked by residents from Eaglesham and the Irvine Valley and is due to be upgraded to a surfaced route.

Located between turbines F192 and F194. Head past F192 towards F194 until reaching a culvert over a stream (Bucht Burn). A memorial cross is visible from the trackside, marking the crash site. Leave the track at the culvert and head alongside the Bucht Burn, keeping it on the right (north), side and walk for approximately 100 meters.

This is the unfortunate crash site of a World War 2 Hurricane of 770 Squadron, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, flown by 21 year old Sub. Lieutenant Walter Maw. The crash took place on the 17th of January 1944. The reasons for the crash are unknown but low cloud and bad weather were present that day. 

The memorial is found just off the array road near turbine 67, close to Padonochie Burn.

The memorial site surrounds a wrought iron fence enclosing an obelisk style memorial to Euphemia Whyte and her husband William Smith of Townhead. Little is known of Euphemia Whyte but she and her husband William Smith are thought to have been married in Stonehouse. William Smith was said to be a commissioner of supply for Ayrshire

Located near Laigh Alderstocks farm, visitors should head across the fields towards the trees, then to the top corner of the woods where small white route markers lead the way to the memorial.

The memorial is to James Watson, his son Private Thomas Watson and his wife Margaret Reid Allison. The Countryside Rangers spoke with a living family member and discovered that on the 14th May 1840, Alexander Watson took over High Allarstocks Farm. Alexander's son James Watson who is buried at High Allarstocks was born on 1st April 1865. James had married Margaret Allison who's also buried at High Allarstocks on the 18th June 1889.

The area of Bessie's Neuk is located on the east side of the Spine road in the windfarm, near the entrance off the B764, and before the first array road.

In old Scot's a 'neuk' is a corner or nook and in this case it's said to be the spot where a witch named Bess or Bessie was burned alive during the witch trials of the 1800's.

Her burned bones are said to have been uncovered in the 19th century by the farmer from Greenfield Farm a short distance away. The farmer is said to have removed her bones and one version of the tale says her bones were taken to a local church while another tells her bones were buried in the garden at Greenfield Farm, not far from where they were found, and the ground was then consecrated by the local minster.

The Carlin Stane is situated on Cameron's Moss near Craigends Farm, (near Waterside in East Ayrshire) just outside of the windfarm. To reach the stane, enter the mixed woodland belt and search for a track running (north to south) along the east side, giving good access. Enter the wood at the 'passing place' sign then stay left when moving through the wood.

The stane is on the opposite side of the water, just within the tree line. The burn can be crossed by moving between turf and stone islands in the water near the east side of the woodland next to a water gate.

Carlin Stone's or Stane's is the name given to a number of prehistoric standing stones and natural stone or landscape features in Scotland. The stone is thought to have been much visited in the past.

Located at the North East side of the windfarm, outside its boundary, and accessible from a road off of the B764. 

The current dam at Dunwan is thought to have been built around 1939 to 1940, replacing an earlier dam that was breached. During a period of drought in 1966 the dam keeper found an almost complete pot or vessel on the shore of the dam near the boathouse. The pot's currently stored at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre in Nitshill under accession number A.1997.25.

Found not far from Carrot off of one of the forestry roads, go through the trees via a firebreak and over the peatbog and the cairn is found at the top of the rise.

This sizeable cairn is known to some locals as the 'Viking Princess Cairn'. No-one knows the origins of the cairn, and there isn't thought to be any connection with the Vikings, but interestingly there is a bottle of whiskey embedded in the cairn, and its position gives great views out towards Glasgow.

Numerous farmsteads can be found within the boundary of Whitelee, some dating back hundreds of years.

Extensive archaeological surveys have been carried out of the farms by local historians and are available in local libraries. Most the farms are little more than rubble now, but several do remain, and the remains of lazy beds and rig and furrow farming can still be seen on the ground alongside them.

If looking to explore the farms it's recommended to use an OS map of the site.

Whitelee contains a number of man-made reservoirs that have historically provided a source of (water) power for mills as well as drinking water for the surrounding towns and villages through the years. The 3 main reservoirs are Lochgoin, Craigendunton and Dunwan. As well as the reservoirs there are a mosaic of small pools and burns throughout Whitelee and the source of the White Cart River can be found within the boundaries of the windfarm.

In the 1960's the wholesale introduction of forestry brought about huge change to parts of Whitelee as a dense evergreen blanket moved down on the area. Whitelee forest is an important part of the landscape that changed the area and the people who lived there forever.

Visit the Forest Research website (opens new window) for more information.

The newest addition to the landscape of whitelee is of course the 215 turbines of the windfarm. With the turbines have come roads and buildings further illustrating the impact of humans on this landscape but also opening up the vast Whitelee area to enthusiastic walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

Humans have travelled through Whitelee for generations, along the Weavers Trail from Darvel to Eaglesham for example, but crossing the peatbog was a difficult journey. The introduction of the tracks and roads has therefore made travelling in the area much easier and of course safer.


Last modified on 24 October 2022