Places to Visit in Scotland
- Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park
Wilderness - Fifteen Miles from Glasgow
One of the great advantages of Scotland is that there are wide open spaces where the hurly-burly of modern life can be left behind and you can enjoy the peace and solitude of the countryside. While many will travel to the Highlands of Scotland for that experience, there are also places within the more heavily populated central belt where locals and visitors alike can escape into a wilderness (safe in the knowledge that there are also feeding and watering facilities to fall back on).
Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park is one of these special areas. Opened in 1970 and covering 106 square miles of woodland, moorland, lochside and coastal scenery, the park extends from Greenock in the north down the Clyde coast and inland to Lochwinnoch (which is only a 10 minute drive south west from Glasgow Airport). There are a number of visitor centres at various points around the park providing information, refreshments, children's corners, toilets and meeting rooms. There are also covered barbecue areas near the visitor centre, which can be booked in advance.
This feature page is illustrated with photographs taken at the Muirshiel Centre, near Lochwinnoch.
Great Walking Country
There is a great variety of walks available in the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park including mixed woods and conifer plantations. While those who have come prepared with walking boots and don't mind rough country can march off in any direction, those who are less experienced can follow the well-marked trails and paths.
Within you forest you may come across an original or a reconstruction of a Hut Circle. These were dwellings used in the Stone Age (3,000BC) when this area would have looked very different but would probably have been covered by trees.
Windy Hill is the top of an old volcanic plug that offers great views of the surrounding countryside. In this illustration, Ben Lomond can be seen away to the north. Not in this picture, but to the west of this viewpoint, the city of Glasgow is visible on the horizon.
In other parts of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park the Cornalees Centre, beside Loch Thom provides access to the Greenock Cut, a popular walk past the loch and offering lovely views of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Bute. On the way to the Muirshiel Centre, there is another visitor centre at Castle Semple, beside Lochwinnoch, which specialises in water sports and sailing.
Flora and Fauna
The Park has five "Sites of Special Scientific Interest" (SSSI's) which are protected areas for plants and animals. When Muirshiel was a private country estate, lots of rhododendrons were planted. These can be invasive and although they are attractive in the spring, dotting the landscape with their pink flowers, the Park is removing large numbers of these as part of their conservation work. Later in the year, the heather comes into its own.
Woodland areas are great for seeing wildlife including birds (goldcrests and coal tits) and animals such as wood mice, rabbits, hares, stoats, foxes and field voles. The river Calder goes along the edge of the park and at Browney Linn Waterfall you may see birds such as the dipper and grey wagtail. Out on the moorland there are also lots of birds to be seen with regular sightings of kestrels, buzzards and red grouse. Sparrowhawks and tawny owls, nest in the area and crossbills can be found in the winter months. If you are very lucky, you may see some roe deer.
In addition to the more obvious birds and animals, it is sometimes worth having a look at the pools of water out on the moors, where damselflies and dragonflies flit around and the pond skaters use the surface tension to support themselves on the water and scavenge for the small bugs that stray into the water - see the illustration!
In addition to the more common butterflies such as Peacocks, there are Small Heath and Green Hairstreak Butterflies. At Locherwood and Ladymuir Woodland (a few miles from the Muirshiel Centre, heading towards Kilmacolm) the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary Butterflies can be seen in the summer and in May there are Green Hairstreak Butterflies.
How To Get There
The Muirshiel Centre is best reached from Glasgow by going west along the M8 and taking the slip road to the A727 just past Glasgow airport. Follow the signs thereafter to Lochwinnoch. There are good signs from there to Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park - with encouraging mile markers along the three-mile stretch of single-track roads! See also the Location Map (you can enlarge the scale of this map, if required) and the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park Web site.
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