A half-day circular ride very near to Glasgow.
Bridge of Weir owes its existence to the establishment of cotton and flax mills in the late eighteenth century, but it was not until the arrival of the railway in 1864 that the place began to expand. From then on the businessmen of Glasgow and Greenock began to move in. Horsewood Road which you cycle up was considered the exclusive part of Bridge of Weir, being convenient for the railway station yet away from all the noise and dirt. Sustrans has recently bought the railway station.
Castle Semple Loch is a wildfowl sanctuary and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). You can hire bikes at the Visitor Centre and sign up for sport & leisure activities, including archery, orienteering and organised walks along the loch-shore and woodland trails. If you prefer to make your own way, get maps and/or directions at reception.
There is a picnic area with barbecue facilities (bring your own charcoal). This is bookable in advance for ?ú10 at the visitor centre. You can hire a canoe or a rowing boats. Staff are on hand to give advice and guidance, including instruction in a variety of aquatic sports such as dinghy sailing.
Weaver's Cottage, Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan.
This typical 18th-century handloom weaver's cottage houses the last of the 800 looms working in the village in the 1830s. Most Fridays and weekends, the sound of a weaver at work brings the cottage to life again. Locally woven shawls cover the box beds. There are displays of looms, weaving equipment, domestic utensils, local historical and weaving items. Portraits of former spinners and weavers look at home in the midst of their tools of trade.
This 'circular' route is really a triangle. Two sides of the triangle are on cyclepaths the other is on quiet back roads. The route is on the fringe of the Glasgow conurbation, where the city streets turn into the rolling countryside of the Clyde Valley. This means it's convenient for Glasgow but there are some great views. The route is described starting from Bridge of Weir, but if you want to travel by train start from Lochwinnoch which has a train station nearby.
Join the cycle path (National Route 75) in Bridge of Weir near the point where it passes under the A761. A convenient access point is by the Railway Tavern (Freeland Church and Post Office opposite). Turn right (west) on to the cycle path and cycle for a very short distance to a steam-engine sculpture made out of a barrel. Immediately after this turn left off the cycle path - don't cross the bridge over the road.
Turn left on to the public road, then immediately sharp left up a steep hill (Horsewood Road). Keep straight on at the crossroads to enter Lawmarnock Road. You pass a golf course on the left, after that keep straight on for two miles.
Eventually you pass under two electricity lines, you have to take a right turn shortly after the second electricity line. This is a staggered junction, be sure to take the first right, not the second. After this there is a lovely rolling road with lots of descent and views of Castle Semple Loch.
Go straight over at the next crossroads then turn right at a T junction with a broken wall. Turn left at the B786, then left in Lochwinnoch signed Castle Semple Country Park. There is a visitor centre near where you enter the park, this has toilets and a tea room.
A short ramp leads from the park to the cycle path, cycle north-east with the loch visible on your right. This section is a very gentle uphill. Currently it has a dirt surface but Sustrans, the cyclepath charity, has recently received funding from the Scottish Executive to convert it to tarmac. This work is expected to be complete by May 2003.
Initially the path runs through woodland but towards Kilbarchan the countryside becomes more open. You pass a small temple on a hill, but this is not really a religious building just a folly. Kilbarchan is named after a 6th century holy man: Barchan, the 'Kil' part meaning church. Kilbarchan was a weaving centre and the National Trust have a preserved weavers cottage in the appropiately named Shuttle Street.
After Kilbarchan the cycle path crosses over the A737 then runs near it for a little way. There is a pelican crossing. Shortly after this you come to a striking looking sculpture made of welded steel. This is painted many colours and is intended to represent the Aurora Borealis. This is the point where you have to turn left leaving Route 7 and going on route 75. 'To Greenock' is painted on the ground and you should go that way. The other direction takes you to Bells Bridge in central Glasgow via Paisley and various public parks (16 miles).
The final section is mostly through attractive countryside and again being on converted railway line is fairly flat. When you pass under the A761 you'll be in Bridge of Weir.