Parkhill Woods/Johnshill Loop, Lochwinnoch

by Rona Simpson

Length: 4K (each section)
Duration: 1-2 hours – depending on stops and which route you decide to take.
Rating: Easy
Points of Interest: Grotto, remains of Collegiate Church and Betty McKeller poetry viewpoints
Nature spotting: Tawny owls, great spotted woodpeckers, chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps.

Park at the electrical substation. Then cross the meadow pausing to stop at the viewpoint where is inscribed lines by Lochwinnoch’s famous poet, Betty McKellar.
Continue down into the woods where you can decide which loop to do. The Hill trail will give you the best views, but all areas of this lovely woodland are worth exploring including the collegiate church and the grotto.
If you wish to do the Johnshill loop continue along the woodland trail and follow the exit towards Castle Semple, where you join the cycle path and walk back through the visitor centre, back into the village and up to the car park again.
A beautiful woodland walk at all times of year.

The Collegiate Church

Founded in 1504 as a place of worship and learning. Inside you can see the ornate tomb of its founder John, First Lord Sempill. It was served by a college of priests whose main duty was to pray for the souls of the Sempill family.

Betty McKellar – Poet

Betty moved to the Lochwinnoch over 50 years ago where she married a local sheep farmer and stayed, teaching in the local school for 30 years. She began writing in retirement and had her first book of poetry published when she was 65. The Muirshiel, the hills, the legends and the history of the area are her inspiration.

Grotto

This was originally built by the MacDowall family in 1758 as a picnic spot and used as a symbol of the family’s wealth. It was considered very fashionable in its time.