To get there
Take your favourite route out of Glasgow (probably via the Clyde Tunnel) to join the M8 towards Greenock. Exit the M8 at Junction 28A onto the A737 going south towards Johnstone. Continue past Howwood and turn right onto A760 (Lochwinnoch). At the box junction turn right into Lochlip Road (over Calder Bridge). Continue until the sharp left hand corner where you turn right into the car park. Parking is free.
The Walk: The Semple Trail – 10.0 miles (Options: 5.0 miles from Howwood; short additional extensions)
The walk starts at the car park and is well signed. Follow the cycle track southwards to the end of Castle Semple Loch, cross the bridge and turn left . The track joins the pavement just before the RSPB reserve. Continue on the pavement over the railway bridge at Lochwinnoch Station, past The Loch House (where we will be eating) and up to the roundabout at the junction with the A737. Carefully cross the A737 and take the small road opposite. The road climbs gently to Belltrees Road where you turn left. Continue on this road past Newton of Belltrees until High Trees where you take a smaller track to the right. Follow this country track to the end and go through the gate opposite onto a grassy path with the sound of the Linnister Burn to the right. Cross the burn using the bridge. The path gently climbs to join a minor road at North Muirdykes. Turn right for 200m and then turn left onto the B776 and follow the pavement downhill. On a good day there are wonderful views across the valley and to the mountains to the north. Just past the Catholic Church (on the right) take a small path to the left (signed Beith Road). This joins the B787 (Main Street) at the Church of Scotland. Cross the road and turn right for 100m and follow the road left (Station Road) towards the railway station.
Continue on this road over the railway line, the main road and Black Cart Water. Just past a parking area on the left turn left over a stone style to follow a track across farmland. Note the Temple on the hill to your right which can be accessed by an optional detour once the track swings to the right as it approaches the north end of Castle Semple Loch. Follow the path until it joins the cycle track (NR7) at a gate and turn left towards Lochwinnoch. Cross the bridge at Castle Semple and take the path down to the right. At the gate turn left. Pass and/or visit the Collegiate Church which is on your left and the cascades on the right. Continue on this track until an obvious split. Go right through a gate and into woodland (Parkhill Wood). Take the first obvious path to the right and follow this (generally keeping right when there is a choice) as it climbs and wends its way through the trees. The path skirts the northern edges of the wood with views over the trees below. Where the path splits at the southern end of the woodland take the path that rises slightly to the left and then another rising path to the left shortly thereafter. The gentle climb takes you to a Lookooterie (a lovely viewpoint) on Parkhill. Follow the path down the other side of the hill. There is a short stepped section before the path swings left. At the path junction turn right and almost immediately right again towards the Grotto. Follow this path to the bridge that crosses Blackditch Burn and turn right. Exit the wood through the gate, cross the cycle path, and walk down to the loch side. Turn right and follow the track back to the cars.
Keep your eyes open: Interesting artwork/seats. Historic buildings, including a folly; the cascades; the ice house. Butterflies and birds.
Après-walk Meal: Arrangements have been made for a meal at The Loch House. The ‘menu’ is attached for information purposes only. It includes parking arrangements, directions and time. Meals cost from £9.50.