Castle Semple Country Park

Castle Semple Loch from Parkhill

Castle Semple Park, near Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire, is based on a large estate created many centuries ago by the Sempill family. The original Castle (c. 1500) is no more, but the remains of a later mansion have been incorporated into private residences which are not accessible to the public. However, there are plenty other hints as to what the landscape might once have looked like.

The park has a Visitor Centre (including café) and a loop trail for walkers and cyclists totalling 9 miles. We cut a bit out and walked about 7 miles. Here are some highlights.

Throughout the trail there are unusual seating areas and “Lookooteries” or viewpoints. The stone structure I am sitting on is the Grotto in Parkhill Wood, a once fashionable accessory to any country estate.

Another must-have would have been a water feature and, between 1727 and 1730, garden expert William Bouchert diverted the burn behind Castle Semple to create a series of cascades for then-owners the MacDowall family. Although allegedly restored recently, you can see my puzzlement as I searched for the water flow. The burn is badly overgrown!

Close by is the Collegiate Church which was founded in 1504 by John, Lord Sempill. A collegiate church was not controlled by a bishop, but was served by a college of priests whose chief duty was to pray for the souls of the Sempills. John Sempill was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and his son extended the church to house his father’s tomb. Although not used for worship after the Reformation it survived as a burial enclosure.

Finally, before turning back, we climbed Kenmure Hill to the folly known as Kenmure Temple. This was built in 1758 to provide the MacDowalls and their guests with a vantage point over the estate. It seems graffiti artists have also visited!

Castle Semple is an attractive park which, although just over half an hour’s drive from home, we’ve only visited once before. It’s maybe not as spectacular as other places we visit, but we had a pleasant afternoon out and I think we’ll now add it to our repertoire of regular walks.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in the Azores – a must see!


  1. That view shown in the top photo of Castle Semple Loch with the heavy black clouds would make a wonderful painting. So green and yet so ominous.



  2. I am late here but I love those benches you and John are sitting on:) What a lovely way to spend the day to just walk the old castle grounds


  3. I can just imagine you saying ‘lookouteries’ in your ( presumably) Scottish accent. I am not sure why this post didn’t appear on my feed earlier. Luckily I picked it up via Jo’s Monday walks list.


  4. Seems like a very pleasant afternoon especially with it being so close to home. I do really like that photo of the castle semple loch. Looks like a beautiful painting, especially with the dark clouds above. I really love and appreciate the stone work of the collegiate church. We saw walls that were built like that in Northern Spain last year…



    • Very sorry, Peta, I’ve just fished you out of spam! I don’t know why WordPress suddenly takes a scunner (good Scottish word) to friends for no reason. Anyway, yes, it was a lovely afternoon with quite a lot of variety in a smallish area.