Southern Upland Way

  • Culmark, GallowayHills
  • Portpatrick seafront
  • Craigmichen Scar, Ettrick Hills
  • Twin Law cairns, Lammermuir Hills
  • Eildon Hills from the Southern Upland Way
  • River Tweed near Weirhill
  • Cove Harbour, Cockburnspath
Distance (km) Ascent (metres) Number of days
338 7775 12 - 16
Start: Portpatrick Finish: Cockburnspath
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Annandale Way Berwickshire Coastal Path Borders Abbeys Way Cross Borders Drove Road Mull of Galloway Trail Romans and Reivers Route St Cuthbert’s Way
Books

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The Southern Upland Way

Alan Castle | Cicerone - 2007

£12.00

Route type and direction

Linear: Portpatrick to Cockburnspath

Traditionally walked from west to east, crossing the Southern Uplands from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, but this can be reversed.

Overview

Opened in 1984, the Southern Upland Way is the UK’s first officially recognised coast-to-coast long-distance route. It differs from many other classic walking routes by cutting across the lines of the hills, rather than following the line of least resistance along valleys. It offers superb and varied walking in landscapes that are home to an interesting mix of wild nature and human history, including several ruined abbeys and castles. Due to the remote and sparsely populated area traversed, completing the entire Way is a major challenge. However, many parts of the route can be walked in manageable sections.

Highlights

  • Portpatrick, with its views across the Irish Sea to the Mourne Mountains
  • Rhins of Galloway, with views to the Isle of Man, Ailsa Craig and the Kintyre peninsula
  • Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere
  • Loch Trool, St Mary’s Loch and the River Tweed
  • Wanlockhead – Scotland highest village at altitude 410m/143ft
  • Views from the Three Brethren – 3 hilltop cairns built in the 1500s
  • Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, visited by 27 Scottish monarchs
  • Abbotsford House, the home of writer Sir Walter Scott, with his personal and historic treasures

Be aware

  • there are some very long, strenuous stretches: be prepared and well equipped
  • weather conditions in the hills can change rapidly depending in any season: map-and-compass skills are essential

The challenge

Walkers tackling the entire Southern Upland Way in a single expedition should be very fit and experienced. There are some very long, demanding stretches in exposed open upland, so you should be well-equipped and prepared for emergencies. The route is well waymarked, but when visibility is poor you need to be able to navigate reliably with map and compass. The time taken to complete the Way will vary according to individual fitness, season, weather and conditions underfoot. For most walkers, this will fall in the range of 12 to 18 days, and the majority will complete it within 16 days. A typical 12-day itinerary has 3 consecutive days each of 25-27 miles (40-43 km) which many walkers may find too long. The Way can be treated as a physical challenge, or enjoyed in sections, at a more leisurely pace, as a hike through Scotland’s ‘southern Highlands’.

Accommodation

The Way passes through or close to villages and towns with a selection of welcoming B&Bs and hotels.  Walkers should plan and seek their accommodation in advance, because places to stay are sparse in some sections of the Way. Information on camping sites, bothies, B&Bs and hotels which lie on or near the Way can be found on the official website.

There are camping options, both at commercial and at free campsites (basic or no facilities). Wild camping is legally allowed in Scotland if practised responsibly under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Support services

Public transport

Consult the official website for information about getting to and from the route.

For further details, visit Traveline Scotland, or, for the entire UK, Traveline. For travel from anywhere to anywhere, try Rome2Rio.

Downloads

Visit the official website for a range of useful downloads, from an accommodation list to leaflets on history, geology, wildlife and placenames.

List of downloads Download
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