Walk 188 – Castle Semple Loch & Parkhill Wood, Lochwinnoch- 3.2 miles

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There was ample parking at the Visitor Centre, toilet facilities and a shop/cafe for refreshments. During our visit there were also A LOT of ducks around the edge of Castle Semple Loch!

An easy and varied walk taking in cycle track, woodland and gravel paths. This is a figure of 8 route with lots of historical interest and peaceful scenery along the way! To get the most out of your walk, be sure to pop in to the Visitor Centre for a trail guide before setting off.

orange circle with white dog icon inside Dog-friendly route

Parking available at Castle Semple Visitor Centre, Lochwinnoch (PA12 4EA ). Lochwinnoch train station is approx 1 mile away.

Route: From the visitor centre, look for the ramp onto the National Cycle Network and head up onto the path. Turn right and follow it along until you come to the entrance to Parkhill Wood on your left (there is a wooden information board). Follow the trails through the woods – there are several you could take but we chose to follow signs for the Maze. After a very short de-tour along to see the Ice House and Ice Cave, return to the main track and you will soon pass the impressive Castle Semple Collegiate Church. A short distance further along there is a right turn through a gate, which takes you back onto the cycle path (can be muddy here). About halfway along, when you reach the point at which you entered Parkhill Wood earlier on, turn left (signposted for Castle Semple Loch) and follow the loch-side path back to the Visitor Centre.

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It was my birthday and my hubby and I were heading to the Lochwinnoch area for a child-free spa day courtesy of my sister! Naturally I wanted to take maximum advantage of being in an unexplored area to fit in a bit of a wander so after some research I decided on this one: a combination of a tiny section of the Semple Trail and a bit of the Johnshill Loop – both of which can be found on the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park website.

I loved the entrance to the National Cycle Network!

Now, walking along part of an NCN route is easy and nice and all that, but for me I do tend to find them a little boring after a while since they are usually fairly long and straight (much more interesting to cycle along of course!)….. This one was no different, however on the plus side because I made it a figure of 8 walk, the cycle path was cut in half and we did half on the way there and half on the return. This made the walk perfectly balanced and varied!

The entrance to Parkhill Wood was pretty easy to spot. It came at a crossroads on the cycle path and the woods were nicely signposted with an information board at the entrance.
There were loads of path options to choose from in here. Where there are major forks in the path we found large stones with metal sheets on the face of them, indicating which direction to head in for different points of interest. We were intrigued by the maze option so headed for there!
Following the route towards the maze took us uphill and the maze itself was brilliant! Naturally cut into the shrubs and trees, a good path meandered its way in and out and round-a-bout. I had no idea where I was going but had great fun getting lost! It is probably very simple if you know it well, but since this was my first visit it was exhilarating choosing a way through and wondering where I’d end up. Big kid…. If you’re not keen on that idea, stick to the main path which is signposted for the Collegiate Church.

Heading out of the woods, we picked up a rough track past the Collegiate Church and on towards the Ice House and Ice Cave. The church, built in 1505 and one of only 42 such churches in Scotland, was undergoing some restoration during our visit, so the only photo I could take sans-scaffolding was of the front. I am sure you will get a much better view when you go! To reach the ice house and ice cave required a short de-tour off-path and it was amazing to see these historic buildings and ponder what it must have been like back in the days when they were in use! Here is also where the Category B listed cascades are – basically an 18th century garden water feature! We didn’t know what they were at the time – best to pick up a Semple Trail brochure at the Visitor Centre before you set off (or download one here).

From here it was back onto the cycle path for a little while before turning off to pick up the trail along the loch-side. We were treated to lovely views at this peaceful spot. There were areas with picnic benches on the hillside and also some skillfully carved seating areas, which I believe are POSSIBLY situated (according to the map) on the original site of Castle Semple.

Have you tried this walk? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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