Castle Semple in Lochwinnoch is a hive of activity
Although you may be familiar with the name and its glorious views, we’d bet that you might not know the full extent of what’s on offer at Castle Semple.
Whenever someone says Lochwinnoch, images of the stunning Castle Semple Loch likely materialise in your mind. Formerly known as Castletoun, this estate is so vast that at one time, it even had its own private railway station.
Described in George Crawford’s 1710 publication A History of Renfrewshire as consisting of “a large court, part of which seems to be a very ancient building, adorned with pleasant orchards and gardens”, this locale in the greater Clyde Muirshiel park area has persevered through the ages to become the sight of fun-filled days out for generations of local residents.
Visited by over 80,000 people annually, there is so much scope for activities that even the staff deem it difficult to narrow them down.
“Oh that’s tricky,” proclaimed senior instructor David Hill during an exceptionally busy day in the midst of the heatwave. “So, there’s oodles of walking and cycling routes for all different abilities and distances, which is a key one.
“There’s also the café as well as all of our outdoor activities stuff. Granted, you can’t just turn up as they all require booking and often quite far in advance, but we’re always amazed by the response that they get. It can sometimes be six months ahead.
“In terms of those courses and activities, we do everything from ranger walks to nature-based things and trails for the kids as well as coaching for kayaking and sailing.
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“I suppose the thing that’s great about where we are is that it’s an untapped green space with loads of different trails and areas which is right on the doorstep of so many people.
“On a warm day, there’ll be thousands of folk down here who are content to just walk about, sit on the grass, buy ice creams, take in the view and just watch the world go by.
“There’s so many routes mapped on our website,” he said of their trails. “With our bike-based ones, you can actually download the GPS files and there’s everything from simple family rides to big road journeys which are upwards of 60-100 kilometres.”
Although they’re eager to stress that while the activities they oversee are a massive draw, Castle Semple is ultimately for everyone to make the most of.
“Folk come down all the time with their own paddle boards, kayaks or bikes and the like and they’re more than welcome to come down and just use the place,” he continued. “You don’t need to come down and tell us, as there’s so much room.
“Right now, we’ve got kids down here for multi-activity summer camps amid everything else that’s happening. Ultimately, we just want people to come here and have a nice time in the outdoors, whatever they’re doing.
“There’s no shortage of familiar faces and it’s very well used by the locals including those from the likes of Howwood and Beith. They use it as a short trip with the dog or a bike ride.
“For those who’d maybe like to take up a new hobby, there’s rowing, sailing, windsurfing and paddle board clubs which are all native to Castle Semple.
“If you’d like to get involved and try any of these sports, then just get in touch with them and find out whether they can accommodate you. They’ve all got different sessions for beginners and even up to advanced classes.
“Elsewhere, there’s plenty of people who just come down and admire the view every single day. There’s always something different to look at, particularly with all of the different clubs that we have.
“Even in the wintertime, there’s loads going on and we have events across the calendar,” Dave concluded. “So, no matter the time of year, there’s plenty of reasons to come down.”
Top 5 Things To Do at Castle Semple
- FIND a lookooterie or two on the Semple Trail.
- WALK (or cycle) the 4km Johnshill Loop taking in Parkhill Wood and the lochside.
- VISIT by bicycle! The Centre is on Sustrans off road cycle route 7 Glasgow – Irvine. Seasonal bike hire also available on site.
- FEED the ducks or enjoy a family friendly event with the Countryside Rangers – advanced booking on event days essential.
- ENJOY a coffee or an ice cream and the lovely view from the Visitor Centre Café.
To find out more about what Castle Semple may have in store for you and your family, please visit the website.