The lush 88-acre meadow that is circled by the tops of the Pentland Hills, Tinto and Goatfell is, to Colin MacKinnon, a field of dreams.

And just as the Field of Dreams movie mantra would have it, an intrinsically intuitive Colin knew that if he built it, they would come.

Yet, the aviator is a long way from fully realising the bold vision he had when, five years ago, he bought the land in Strathaven from which aircraft soar.

The Lanarkshire Live app is available to download now.

Get all the news from your area – as well as features, entertainment, sport and the latest on Lanarkshire’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic – straight to your fingertips, 24/7.

The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories, and allows you to customise your page to the sections that matter most to you.

Head to the App Store and never miss a beat in Lanarkshire - iOS - Android

Although he and his family own that land on which sits the oldest, continually used airstrip in Scotland and the dream home that captured the imagination of armchair design enthusiasts when it starred in the Channel 4 show, Grand Designs, the MacKinnons are of the firm belief that it’s not only their natural habitat – it’s that of the entire community of Strathaven and the abundance of wildlife that contributes to its ecological wealth.

With Spanish wife, Marta, who’s a graduate of Madrid’s School of Art, visionary Colin knew that when they issued the brief to design a home that would complement the airfield and its environs, it had the potential to attract submissions from renowned architects from around the world.

Colin and Marta's flight of fancy was to build their dream home by the runway

“One of the reasons people use an architect is to give a distinct identity to a place,” said Colin who, along with Marta, decided to sell the family home in Jordanhill, Glasgow, with the aim of building a house without a mortgage, 850ft above sea level, on their sprawling Strathaven land.

“The area has a futuristic landscape, with the wind turbines at Whitelee and views all around. It has to be functional. It has to work. It is a huge amount of effort. But we didn’t want to take something off a shelf. We wanted something that is ours.”

The commission to design the house, situated parallel to Strathaven Airfield’s 530m grass runway, was awarded to acclaimed Edinburgh-based architect Richard Murphy – himself a keen aviator who frequently flies his microlight above the imposing aluminium-clad house whose materials give a respectful nod to the cladding of adjacent farm structures and the airfield’s vast hangars.

The MacKinnons' home was designed by architect and microlight enthusiast Richard Murphy

The family home and the airfield have also recently been used as a location for films and music videos, with recent shoots including videos for Lil Rass’s new Drill album, and Grime-influenced rapper, Ambush.

Although the home’s design resonates with its surroundings, it does not betray the story behind the airfield’s past.

Strathaven’s is, behind Prestwick and Glasgow Airports, the third oldest operational airfield on the west of Scotland mainland.

It was founded on the derelict Couplaw Farm by The Scottish Flying Club in the early 1960s after a decade of searching for a site to replace its former base at Glasgow’s Renfrew Airport.

Colin has aviation knowledge of an encyclopaedia

The airfield – on which Colin and colleagues commissioned the building of two hangars in 2008 and 2011 – is now back in the hands of the revived club and is trading as not-for-profit company, Strathaven Airfield Ltd.

It is undergoing complete refurbishment – and members are determined to retain its traditional, grass runway flying club characteristics.

With the easing of coronavirus restrictions, work is resuming at the airfield, as are flying lessons.

And although the dreams of self-confessed experimenter Colin know no bounds, he remains true to his obligations to protect the environment, reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and protect picturesque surroundings in which wildlife and woodland can flourish.

The Piper Vagabond, built in 1946

Of the airfield’s 32 aircraft, only the limited flights of a vintage two-seat Piper Vagabond – an elegant, dignified lady of the sky built in 1947 – are fuelled by traditional aviation fuel. All others have modern, efficient engines that run on standard, unleaded car petrol.

Under construction in the main, 100ft X 100ft hangar is a flight simulator housing a real aircraft cockpit with 220-degree floor-to-ceiling vision.

Proud of the airfield’s impressive, environmental credentials, Colin says the facility will develop students’ skills in their quest to obtain a recreational leisure licence, while reducing their tuition time in the air by around two hours.

The 'motorbike of the sky'

With support from the Scottish Government’s CARES at Local Energy Scotland scheme, and South Lanarkshire Council’s Renewable Energy Fund, Strathaven Airfield switched at the end of March to a new solar PV and battery storage system.

“Between April and May, our electricity bill was just £25,” said Colin, who is proud that the airfield joined giants like Diageo to last year win a VIBES Scottish Environmental Business Award.

“That shows how much energy we are generating. We are self-sufficient. We are generating enough to offset winter consumption.”

But the ambitious investments – such as the £25,000 spent on the hangars’ solar panels – are just as significant as the modest spends, like the £25 picnic tables made from recycled plastic bottles that are dotted around the airfield’s entrance for community use.

The Ceva weighs just 260 kilos

Also, Strathaven’s airfield has become the first to have its acres of grass cut by a robot mower that uses electricity rather than diesel or petrol.

That’s one of the many firsts the progressive limited company has notched up. But then, its manager and microlight flying instructor, Colin MacKinnon – who co-owns with his wife three aircraft – is a pioneer and adventurer who has a few firsts of his own under his belt.

Having paid £1600 for a 1in sq piece of fabric from the world’s first aircraft, the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, he became the first man to fly himself and that fragment of aviation history coast-to-coast in an ultralight over the US bible belt.

What’s more, the man who adopted the moniker The Flying Scotsman completed the mammoth two-month journey from Florida to Kitty Hawk – where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flight in 1903 – and on to California, wearing a tartan flying suit made especially for him by Gore-Tex.

“When I was flying the microlight across the US, everyone knew I had a Scottish accent,” said raconteur Colin, a former national newspaper journalist who penned an entertaining account of the highs and lows of his stateside adventure in a hardback, titled ‘On a Wing and a Prayer.’

The airfield is tucked up a single track farm road in Strathaven

“The three questions I got asked were: ‘What’s your favourite whisky'? ‘Have you seen Braveheart'? which had just been released at the time, and ‘Have you seen the Loch Ness Monster'?”

From his tartan flying suit in which a pal likens him to a haggis, Colin is a thoroughly likeable character with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of aviation.

With self-deprecating humour, he doesn’t shrink from admitting that he has to ask another member of the airfield team to scale the pole to erect his prized saltire windsock – because, ironically, he’s afraid of heights.

Colin shows his true colours

Although itching to get his head back into the clouds with the renewal of his licence, Colin is also a man whose feet are firmly on the ground when it comes to sustainability and responsible business practice.

He recently announced that a £500 grant is winging its way through the trust funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery to enable Strathaven Airfield to erect signage to promote and protect its varied wildlife.

A grant from the UK Airfield Development Advisory Fund has taken him a step closer to realising his ambition of building the UK’s first hangar homes on his Strathaven land.

Planning applications are underway for up to five hangar homes on the Mackinnons’ eight-acre field that would appeal to “a bunch of neighbours with a common interest,” who would like to set up home on an airfield, with their own aircraft snug in a heated hanger underneath their living space.

And the way he sees it, speculating to accumulate would secure the future of the airfield.

Colin is committed to ensuring the airfield's future

“There is much to do to create the perfect airfield,” said Colin, who likes nothing more than flying over to the Isle of Bute in his “motorbike of the sky,” and stopping off for a hearty pub lunch.

“The hangar homes would give us money to make the runway flatter. It has bumps on it, you see.”

Owning the land is, for Colin and Marta, a privilege they are delighted to share. They offer it up to the community, who use it for everything from early evening boot camp fitness sessions, to a storage space for use by Strathaven Hot Air Balloon Festival organisers and local aero modelling enthusiasts.

Blue sky thinker Colin MacKinnon looks to the future

He is also in the process of setting up a community interest company with a view to creating an apple tree orchard that will not only be a beauty spot for locals to enjoy, but will also be effective in absorbing carbon dioxide.

“I am a great experimenter,” declares Colin.

“My attitude is let’s find out what people want by doing it. And if we find that’s not what they want, let’s try something else instead."

**Don't miss the latest headlines from around Lanarkshire. Sign up to our newsletters here.

And did you know Lanarkshire Live had its own app? Download yours for free here.