Neilston & Castle Semple Loch
- Distance: 42km/26 miles
- Time: 4 hours
- Grade: Challenging
- Ordnance Survey Explorer OL342; Landranger 64
- Start at The Bank GR NS478572
This is a cycle of 2 halves. The first 14 miles are relatively straightforward but the return journey from Lochwinnoch has several major climbs (there is over 1800 feet of ascent in total). Some remarkable scenery adds to the delight of this demanding ride.
From The Bank follow Main Street onto Neilston Road. A steep descent makes its way out of Neilston along Neilston Road. After passing Nether Kirkton Avenue a shared use cycle footpath can be used to drop down to Kelburn Street at Barrhead.
Turn right then take the first left onto Gertrude Place. Make a right onto Kerr Street and as it sweeps left bear right onto a cycle footpath, which leads into McDiarmid Park. At a junction go right and continue out of the park onto Gladstone Avenue. At Cogan Street go left then right onto John Street, which soon veers right to gain Cross Arthurlie Street in the centre of Barrhead.
Go left, cross the bridge over the Levern Water then turn left onto Chapell Street. This turns right through a railway arch. Once through go left then right to Graham Street.
Opposite is Laurel Way and another cycle footpath. Follow this to Bellfield Crescent, cycle to its end then bear right and descend a paved track past a row of flats. It then turns right through a small car park to reach Paisley Road. Turn left then immediately left again onto Quarry Road.
This veers right as it rises onto Fern Drive and passes Cross Arthurlie Primary School. At Boylestone Road go straight on and follow Gleniffer Drive to Brownside Avenue. Keep right to Caplethill Road (B774).
Turn left onto the shared use cycle footpath, which climbs parallel with Caplethill Road and then descends to a side road at Brownside. An off-road cycle footpath then continues beneath Brownside Braes to Glenfield Road. Go straight across and descend to Glenburn Road.
Bear left from where the shared use path rises to Braehead Road. Once across drop down through an area of parkland to Braeview Drive. Go right then left onto Glenburn Road then left onto Gleniffer Road (B775), on the outskirts of Paisley.
Climb to Foxbar Road and turn right. Once through a roundabout keep right onto Amochrie Road, descend for 0.35 miles to Gleniffer High School then take a shared use cycle footpath as it drops down through a strip of woodland to Brediland Road.
Turn right then left onto Morar Drive and just after Lauren Way take the cycle footpath on the left that runs parallel with Morar Drive. At a crossroads keep straight on, wind downhill to Dee Drive, turn right then left onto Fulbar Road. Before an old railway bridge turn right onto the National Cycle Route 7.
Turn sharp left for Johnstone and follow the superb cycle path for 0.3 miles then bear left down to the B789. Cycle through Elderslie for 0.5 miles. At traffic lights go right then left onto Canal Street, follow this to its end where a cycle path on the left is picked up. This makes easy progress through Renfrewshire.
After 1 mile, having past a waterfall cascading down the Black Cart Water, go left at a fork for Lochwinnoch. Keep on to the B789 on the outskirts of Johnstone. Go straight across from where the cycle path soon reaches another fork. Keep right, cross a bridge over the A736 after which the route heads through pleasant countryside. In due course there is an option to divert into Kilbarchan, home to the Weaver’s Cottage, which is worth a visit.
For Lochwinnoch keep on as the path rises gently for 2 miles to a split. Go right and continue past Kenmuir Hill.
The distinctive structure on its summit is known as the ‘Temple’. This was built about 1760 for the McDowall family and was possibly used as a lookout post for the estate’s white deer.
The route soon offers glimpses of Castle Semple Loch. In a whiletake a waymarked track on the left and descend to the loch. The track then proceeds alongside the loch to reach a visitors centre.
Sitting within Clyde Murshiel Country Park, Castle Semple Loch is a birdwatcher’s dream; bullfinch, goldeneye, goosander treecreeper, tufted duck and whooper and mute swan are just a small selection of what might be seen during the seasons. Much of the woodland surrounding the loch can be discovered on foot and Lochwinnoch, a lovely village with plenty of facilities, is worth exploration.
Once through a car park a cycle lane continues to the A760. Turn left and climb this busy stretch of road to a roundabout. Carefully cross the A737 then take the very steep climb up Auchengrange Hill. At the top go left onto Belltrees Road where your reward is a superb view of Castle Semple Loch.
Take the next road on the right where another long stiff pull climbs high above Renfrewshire and offers further far-reaching views. Be aware of tight bends on the approach to, and beyond, Burnthills, from where the road drops quickly.
After another sharp rise the ride undulates through scenic countryside,
eventually dropping to a t-junction. Go left, climb steadily for 0.5 miles then bear right onto the B776, which is followed for 1.2 miles to a crossroads.
Go left and climb the B775 for 1.3 miles. As it swings sharp left keep straight on and follow a narrow road, enjoying fine cycling, to a crossroads at Middleton Farm.
Turn right and after a steady climb a fantastic descent (again watch out for tight bends), drops to the busy A736 at Shillford. Carefully go left then right onto a side road, climb to Uplawmoor Road, turn left and take the final 2 miles back to Neilston.