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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Wigtownshire Ramblers - Summer Solstice away day to Lochwinnoch - June 2014

Saturday the 21st of June 2014
Wigtownshire Ramblers Away Day Solstice Walk.
After meeting up at the Riverside Car Park in Newton Stewart, I was thankful to get a lift from Shorty and A O'K.
An early start to get ourselves up to Lochwinnoch for the walk start.
Shorty is today's report author and his report will follow the pictures. 

My first picture was from the car window in North Ayrshire just before crossing into Renfrewshire.
The 'Tatio' would probably bring in more customers than the 'Station Inn'.

For the walk start we met up at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.
Various activities were already underway.

Today's walk leader has a nickname, but I can't remember it. Since there's nothing he doesn't know about old steamers and Clydeside vessels I'll re-christen him 'The Boatman'.
We began walking clockwise around Castle Semple Loch. We number 23 walkers at the start, but as often happens we were 24 when the Ayrshire Blogger joined us.

The 'Boatman' has extensive knowledge of the area and is soon telling us snippets of recent and past history.
This is a memorial to Andy Jackson who died of pneumonia, aged 33.
Here's his story. The Scottish Canoe Association. 

A lovely wood otter sculpture was next.

Interwoven branches make a tunnel.

The 'Boatman' lead the way.............

.............we followed.

Here's one the 'Boatman' took of me.

At these ruins our leader gave us an insight into the Macdowall and Semple Family.

This is also part of the National Cycle Network and there are lots of waymarkers.

The route took us up into Parkhill Wood with views over four lochs to the south.
We learn that this was a heavily industrialized area and in days gone by there'd be plenty of tall chimneys pouring out long plumes of smoke.

Next we came to the Castle Semple Collegiate Church

We spent quite a while here.

One of our walkers wondered how it would feel to be entombed.
There's a sad tale on some headstones of the Harvey Family of an early death and a broken heart.

Some of today's walkers allow me a photo opportunity.

Here we stand on a disused railway line, closed in 1966 according to our leader.

Next we passed an ornate bridge and an architecturally fine looking house.

Someone spotted this gorgeous wild orchid for me to photograph.

The 'Temple' was next to come into view.

This was as close as we came to the remaining east wing of Castle Semple house.
There's a history of the estate on this Castle Semple PDF

All throughout the walk, planes leaving Glasgow City Airport flew over us. I took more pictures than I realized. A couple I could make out were 'Go Fly' and 'Emirates'

A short climb took us up to the 'Temple' where we enjoyed our lunch.

I zoomed long to get the distant metropolis and closer to snap a one time mental institution.

Coal carriages to Hunterston passed on a regular basis.
We walked on into Howwood. We learned the name was shortened from Hollowwood (the wood in the hollow)

One of the local watering houses.

Next we visited Howwood's War Memorial and Garden.
This is unique in War Memorial terms as it's situated on the site that was originally the district nurse's house.

We walked through the well kept grounds of Christ The King Church

Now on the Southern side of the loch, a gradual uphill road climb brought us views to Ben Lomond, while we looked back down on the Temple.

Back on the level we took a break outside the gates of the Bowfield Hotel and Country Club

We took a break from road walking on a path alongside the Linnister Burn. 

 The weather was almost perfect.

The path led to a minor road which led to Earlshill and Newton of Belltrees.

We were soon back on the A760 into Lochwinnoch.

At the Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve we spent some time watching the birds.
This is almost like a preview to my next post which will probably be my pictures from Slimbridge. 

Here's just a few I took.

That was a very pleasant diversion.

There was still a lot of activity on the loch as we made our way back to the cars.

Here's a nice way to conclude the photographs.

We meet nae mair aneath the rowan tree, 
But hallow'd thoughts around thee twine o' hame and infancy. 
Oh Rowan Tree.

After tea and coffee in the cafe we then made our way to the Gateside Inn  where 'Two Sticks' had negotiated a great group price for a two or three course dinner.
The food and drink was par excellence 
That was a great day's outing, thanks to the organizers and walk leaders.

Here's Shorty's report.

Wigtownshire Ramblers – Saturday 21 June 2014 – Lochwinnoch Circular

To celebrate the summer solstice the ramblers decided to travel further afield than usual.  Accordingly about twenty members assembled at either Stranraer or Newton Stewart to arrange transport at not quite the crack of dawn.  We had originally intended to travel by train but the timetable and connections were not practical.  We set off north and eventually assembled at the busy car park at Castle Semple Country Park near Lochwinnoch.  The sky was overcast and a westerly breeze ruffled the surface of the water.  The site was very busy with groups preparing for rowing, sailing, kayaking, cycling and model yacht sailing.  

We set off along the shores of Castle Semple Loch.  The path soon entered woodland and we turned away from the loch via a willow tunnel and entered the Parkhill Woodland trails.  The woodland trail led us across a busy cycle track and then up a shallow valley to an ornamental grotto, recently restored by the Semple Family Trust.  The Semple Family once owned large estates in this area and the woodlands are a remnant of the policy woods around their mansion.  The house itself was destroyed by fire in the 1950s but evidence of its opulence can be seen in design of the various lodges and bridges around the site.

We then climbed the hill behind the grotto and were rewarded with fine views down the Garnock valley towards Beith and  Kilbirnie with the three lochs sparkling in the bright sunshine which had emerged as we walked.  The path took us down the northern slope of the hill and lead us to the ruins of the Collegiate Church.  This substantial ruin was originally constructed in 1504 by John Semple, the first Lord Semple;, “built to the Glory of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the prosperity of his Sovereign Lord King James IV, and Queen Margaret, his Royal Consort” and his ancestors and descendants.  Both King James and Lord Semple were killed soon afterwards at the battle of Flodden.  The tombs of many of the Semple family remain within the walls of the church.

Beyond the church we followed the road back to the cycle track which had been built on a derelict railway track.  We walked along the busy railway trackway eastwards for some distance and then turned down a path which circled Kenmure Hill with its tower on the summit.  Having rounded the hill we climbed up the more gentle western slope and soon reached the tower where we rested for lunch.  There were fine views eastwards towards Paisley and Glasgow and westwards over Castle Semple Loch.  The octagonal tower was well built in classical style in 1758 by the Macdowall’s of Garthland who once owned the Castle Semple Estate.  This provided us with a local link with the Macdowalls of the Rhins of Galloway.  The tower, or Temple, is believed to have masonic connections and is built on a strict north-south, east-west orientation.

After lunch we retraced our steps to the valley floor where several youngsters were trying their luck at fishing in the Black Cart Water, apparently with little success but much enjoyment.  A little further along the path we reached the Garthland Bridge, an old stone bridge over the Black Cart built in 1767 and still in daily use for road traffic.  Beyond the bridge we entered Howwood village and climbed towards Bowfield.  On the way we passed an unusual war memorial.  Instead of the usual monument the villagers decided to erect a home for a district nurse with a commemoration plaque on the wall.  When the house was no longer required it was demolished and the site converted to a garden of remembrance.

Beyond the smart country club at Bowfield we dropped down the hill a little and took a grassy path and crossed a small burn and ruined cottage.  The path became a road and led us to the pretty hamlet of Belltrees and onwards towards the large mansion house at Auchengrange.  From there the road went down to the busy A737 which we crossed and continued back towards Lochwinnoch.  On reaching the RSPB visitor centre we paused to watch the local wildlife.  A swan and her three cygnets approached the windows searching for food.

On leaving the visitor centre we followed the path back to the cars.  After a quick change we drove to Gateside to complete a most enjoyable day with a lovely meal at the Gateside Inn.
Next week’s event will be a strenuous walk to Billy Marshall’s Cave and the Nick of the Saddle.  A less strenuous walk around Murray’s Monument, Loch of the Lowes and the Black Loch is also available.  Meet at the Breastworks Car park in Stranraer at 09:00 or the Riverside Car Park, Newton Stewart at 09:30 to share transport.  The walks will start from the Talnotry Car park at 10:00. (NX 487 716)  New walkers are welcome, but please contact the walk leader on 01776 700926(strenuous walk) or 01671 402733(moderate walk) for full details.


  1. Pretty inns, lovely view and beautiful birds!

  2. As always a great day out with this group. The photos of the birds are superb especially the one of the goldfinches. See you again in the near furture.


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