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Southern Upland Way

The Southern Upland Way is one of Britain’s 18 official National Trails and is Britain’s first official long-distance path to run coast to coast.

Situated in Southern Scotland, the Southern Upland Way runs from Portpatrick on the west coast through varying countryside and terrain to Cockburnspath, some 212 (340km) miles away on the east coast.

Coming in to Lauder
Lauder © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Luckily, you don’t have to tackle the whole 212 miles in one go - the Southern Upland Way is effectively comprised of series of smaller, more manageable walks.

Start of the Southern Upland Way
Start of the Southern Upland Way © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Even so, with the breathtaking scenery can come breathtaking weather. Whether walking one of the shorter sections or tackling the entire Southern Upland Way, the weather can change dramatically and can catch you out.

St Mary's Loch in the distance
St Mary's Loch © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Some of the sections are particularly exposed so walkers are advised to take the same precautions they would when starting out on any challenging outdoor route.

This includes strong boots, water and windproof clothing, detailed map and compass, emergency equipment and food supplies, as well as letting people know of your planned itinerary.

The Southern Upland Way followed the Water of Minnoch
The Water of Minnoch © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Most people walk the Southern Upland Way west to east. There are numerous advantages in doing this, not least that the sun and wind will tend to be behind you for most of the way.

Some of the sections are quite long and remote, for example, those around St. John’s Town of Dalry.

Castle Kennedy's ruins seen from the Walled Garden
Castle Kennedy © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

There are various local pubs and hotels along the route which offer backup services, effectively shuttling you between the Southern Upland Way and their establishments. Additionally, the route is served by various bothies and youth hostels

Tackling the entire Southern Upland Way in one go is recommended for fit, experienced walkers only.

Pease Bay Panoramic
Pease Bay © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

It’s estimated that between 10 and 20 days would be required to do this, depending on your pace, the weather, how much local sightseeing you do and so on.

For the casual walker, day-tripper or weekend rambler, the diversity of the Southern Upland Way’s comprising sections means there’s a walk to suit all tastes and abilities.

The trail is well served by a local ranger service and information shelters. Southern Upland Way management would prefer you not to take your dog with you, or indeed to use mountain bikes.

Berwick panoramic
Berwick-upon-Tweed © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Each section has its own character, offering its own rewards and sightseeing highs to the walker. Here is a summary of the main Southern Upland Way waypoints, running west to east:




The start point of the Southern Upland Way National Trail.

Things to do near Portpatrick

Portpatrick - Castle Kennedy

Length: 13 miles
Total since start: 13 miles

This first section of the Southern Upland Way is mainly along flat open fields, after a contrasting steep climb up the cliffs out of Portpatrick.

Things to do near Castle Kennedy

Castle Kennedy - New Luce

Length: 11 miles
Total Since Start: 24 miles

There some steep climbs over such hills as Craigairie Fell on the way to New Luce. As such, the going is more challenging than before and you should be appropriately equipped and prepared for mountain walking.

Things to do near New Luce

New Luce - Bargrennan

Length: 18 miles
Total since start: 42 miles

The pathway runs across open moorland initially before entering forestry land and so, wooded sections.

Things to do near Bargrennan

Bargrennan - Dalry

Length: 21.5 miles
Total Since Start: 63.5 miles

Continuing initially through forested land, this challenging but scenic section runs past Lochs Dee and Clatteringshaws and on to St.Johns Town of Dalry. (St. John's Town of Dalry should not be confused with Dalry Ayrshire, which is not part of the Southern Upland Way!)

Things to do near Dalry

Dalry - Sanquhar

Length: 25.5 miles
Total since start: 89 miles

The longest section of the Southern Upland Way. The trail takes you through scenery varying from forested undulations of Dalry through to higher moorland as you approach Sanquhar.

Things to do near Sanquhar

Sanquhar - Wanlockhead

Length: 7.5 miles
Total Since Start: 96.5 miles

With plenty of walking at height on this section, you should be sure of your mountain preparation and equipment on. Despite exposed moorland, there is lots to see from grouse moors to relics of Wanlockhead's gold and lead mining heritage.

Things to do near Wanlockhead

Wanlockhead - Beattock

Length: 23.5 miles
Total since start: 120 miles

The pathway makes its way down from the Lowther Hills through forestry and down into lower land as it approaches Beattock.

Things to do near Beattock

Beattock - St Mary's Loch

Length: 20 miles
Total Since Start: 140 miles

Lowland walking, yet with some climbs, from Beattock to St. Mary's Loch via Moffatt.

Things to do near St Mary's Loch

St Mary's Loch - Traquair

Length: 12 miles
Total since start: 152 miles

An easier route, this scenic section of the Southern Upland Way continues along St.Mary's Loch through woods and moorland and on to Traquair.

Things to do near Traquair

Traquair - Melrose

Length: 18 miles
Total Since Start: 170 miles

The Southern Upland Way's only section through developed land as you pass from woods and moorlands through Yair and into Galashiels then on to Melrose.

Things to do near Melrose

Melrose - Lauder

Length: 10 miles
Total since start: 180 miles

Another of the Southern Upland Way's easier sections as the trail passes through less rugged woods and farmland.

Things to do near Lauder

Lauder - Longformacus

Length: 15 miles
Total Since Start: 195 miles

Open, rolling farmland abounds here, but the route is quite exposed, so be sure to take proper outdoors equipment and protection.

Things to do near Longformacus

Longformacus - Abbey St Bathans

Length: 7 miles
Total since start: 202 miles

The Southern Upland Way's shortest section and effectively a continuation of the previous section.

Things to do near Abbey St Bathans

Abbey St Bathans - Cockburnspath

Length: 10 miles
Total Since Start: 212 miles

Here the route runs out of the Whiteadder Water valley and on past Cove to Cocksburnspath and the completion of the Southern Upland Way. The route varies from woodland through to more rocky, open ground as the trail nears the coast.

Things to do near Cockburnspath

You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.

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