Guidebook to the Southern Upland Way, a coast to coast walk through Galloway and the Scottish Borders. One of Scotland's Great Trails, the 347km (215 mile) route links Portpatrick on the west coast to Cockburnspath on the east, through diverse landscapes and rich natural and historical interest. It can be completed in around a fortnight.
SeasonsApril to September, with May and June the best months of all
CentresPortpatrick, Castle Kennedy, New Luce, Bargrennan, St John's Town of Dalry, Sanquhar, Wanlockhead, Beattock/Moffat, Traquair, Galashiels, Melrose, Lauder, Longformacus, Abbey St Bathans, Cockburnspath
DifficultyThe route is waymarked throughout, and paths are mostly good, but much of the hill country is remote and little frequented and in places the path is faint. Self-reliance and some navigation skills are required. For backpackers, the route has 5 bothies and unlimited wild camping possibilities. For walkers, maximum daily stages of up to 19 miles (30km) are assured by using vehicle pick-up services, as detailed in the book.
Must SeePortpatrick coast path; Loch Trool; Lowther Hills; Minch Moor drove road; Lammermuir Hills; new official high-level route through the Ettrick Hills; Castle Kennedy Gardens; Wanlockhead Lead Mines; Melrose Abbey; Thirlstane Castle
The Southern Upland Way is Scotland's coast-to-coast walk and the longest of the nation's Great Trails. 215 miles long, it links the pretty harbour village of Portpatrick on the west coast with Cockburnspath, a little south of Dunbar, in the east. The walk is at times a strenuous one, crossing the remote high moorland of the Galloway Hills, Carsphairn range, Lowthers, Ettrick Hills and Lammermuirs, calling for competence, fitness and self-reliance.
This guide presents advice on how best to plan and tackle this challenging but highly rewarding journey. The waymarked trail is presented in fourteen stages of 9–19 miles and suggestions for a rest day exploring Moffat and its environs are also included. It is possible either to backpack, taking advantage of five bothies and unlimited wild camping possibilities, or to stay in towns and hill villages, B&Bs and inns (facilitated by vehicle pick-up to avoid excessively long walking days).
The guide covers all the practicalities, with tips on planning, transport, accommodation, luggage transfer and vehicle support services. Clear step-by-step route description is provided for each stage, accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and notes on local history and points of interest. A trek planner and useful contacts can be found in the appendices.
The Southern Upland Way showcases the wild beauty of southern Scotland, taking in rugged moorland, rolling hills, wooded river valleys, lochsides and coast, as well as some of the attractive border towns that scatter the region. There are also numerous historical sites, offering an insight into a fascinating past – from ancient cairns to bastles, Covenanters' memorials and literary connections – plus opportunities to visit local attractions, including Castle Kennedy Gardens, Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, Traquair House, Melrose Abbey and Thirlestane Castle.
The Southern Upland Way
West to east or east to west?
When to go
Ways of tackling the SUW
Luggage transfer and drop-off/pick-up services
Getting to and from the SUW
Planning and preparation
Waymarking and navigation
Access in Scotland
Completion certificates and SUW badges
A high-level alternative coast-to-coast route
Using this guide
Stage 1 Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy
Stage 2 Castle Kennedy to New Luce
Stage 3 New Luce to Bargrennan
Stage 4 Bargrennan to the Glenkens
Stage 5 Across the Glenkens
Stage 6 The Glenkens to Sanquhar
Stage 7 Sanquhar to Dalveen Pass
Stage 8 Dalveen Pass to Beattock (Moffat)
Rest day – Moffat and environs
Stage 9 Beattock (Moffat) to Ettrick
Stage 10 Ettrick to Traquair (Innerleithen)
Stage 11 Traquair (Innerleithen) to Melrose
Stage 12 Melrose to Lauder
Stage 13 Lauder across the Lammermuir Hills to Longformacus
Stage 14 Longformacus to Cockburnspath
Appendix A Itinerary planner
Appendix B Bothies along the SUW
Appendix C Bibliography
Appendix D Useful contacts
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Reader/walker Sarah Robertson supplies updates Spring 2019
Stage 5: After Dalry the waymark posts have been replaced so no current problem in navigating.
Stage 6: Polskeoch bothy is currently well equipped with a comfy sofa and plenty of tables and chairs. it has a stove (but not necessarily any fuel). There is no campsite in Sanquhar.
Stage 8: Coming through the forestry north of Beattock there is now a bunkhouse, Rivox - for all accom check www.southernuplandway.gov.uk for current situation.
Stage 11: the 'Point of Resolution' sculpture eyepiece is broken.
Stage 14: There is once again a cafe (Riverside Bakehouse) at Abbey St Bathans
Stage 4 start: alternatives (p67)
An excellent roadside footpath has (in 2019) been made from the House o' Hill at Bargrennan to Glentrool village. This would allow you to take advantage of any facilities at Glentrool, although there are currently none. Continuation would be by a roadside footpath east to Stroan Bridge, and downstream to left of Water of Minnoch to rejoin the SU Way by a footbridge over Water of Trool. However the riverside path of the SU Way is a better route.
Stage 10 end: continuation to Innerleithen
Most walkers will need to continue from Traquair to Innerleithen to find accommodation. There is now a pleasant footpath from the war memorial at Traquair running through fields and woods to left of the road to the edge of Innerleithen, replacing what was a nasty road walk. A similar path for the main SU Way between Kirkhouse and Traquair is much to be desired.
Appendix D, accommodation providers offering luggage transfer:
New for 2019, a string of B&Bs / hotels offer piecemeal baggage transfer covering the entire route (provided you stay at their places) – see the official website at www.southernuplandway.gov.uk.
Some updates to the accommodation listing column in Appendix A: but please refer to www.southernuplandway.gov.uk for the most current information.
184km Brattleburn bothy (near): Bunkhouse (Rivox)
220km Scabcleuch: B&B (Cossarshill) – see previous update!
247km Traquair: no accomm (but Innerleithen does have)
251km Minch Moor: B&B at Yarrowford
322.5km B6355 Lodge Wood: B&B (Greenhope)
Page 122 The unofficial high-level line above Ettrick glen, Stage 9 'Alternatives', is covered in full on the Harvey Maps route map of the Southern Upland Way.
Accommodation update: the 2018 revisions to the official website at www.southernuplandway.gov.uk have uncovered lonely B&Bs at New Luce (end Stage 2), at the foot of Ettrick glen (end Stage 10) and Longformacus (end Stage 11). The second of these in partricular will make it possible for energetic walkers to complete the Way without needing vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs. Please check the official website for details.
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Alan Castle has trekked and cycled in over 30 countries within Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australasia. A member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, he has written 18 guidebooks, several on long-distance mountain routes in France. An erstwhile national secretary and long-distance path information officer of the Long Distance Walkers Association, Alan now lives at the foot of the Moffat Hills in Scotland.View Guidebooks by Alan Castle
Ronald Turnbull writes regularly for TGO, Lakeland Walker, Trail and Cumbria magazines. His previous books include Across Scotland on Foot, Long Days in Lakeland and Welsh 3000ft Challenges. He has written many other Cicerone guides, including Walking in the Lowther Hills, The Book of the Bivvy and Not the West Highland Way.View Articles and Books by Ronald Turnbull