The Southern Upland Way is Britain's first official coast to coast long distance foot-path. It runs 212 miles (340 km) from Portpatrick on the south-west coast of Scotland to Cockburnspath on the eastern seaboard. It offers superb and varied walking country, still undiscovered by many enthusiasts.
After my last weekend trek of The Southern Upland Way from Sanquhar to Beattock last July, I didn't plan on returning due to the amount of hills which were encountered between Wanlockhead and Beattock. I also had one hell of a trek back down from the hills into Beattock on the Sunday after torrential rain overnight, which turned paths into rivers. However, a real adventurer does not give up so easy, and after a long winter spent watching past episodes of Man vs Wild and Survivorman I decided it was time to return to the route and start from where it all begins at Portpatrick.
Planning things out beforehand I decided we (my friend and I) would start from Portpatrick on the Friday afternoon and walk about 8 miles of the route before finding a wild camping spot. On Saturday, we would pass through Castle Kennedy and aim to reach Beehive Bothy by the evening where we would spend Saturday night, before the last few miles to Bargrennan on the Sunday. We would be carrying all our gear in our rucksacks.
We had 40 miles to cover...
and so we set off...
Friday 16 May 2014 - Portpatrick to Knockquhassen Reservoir
My chauffeur (father) dropped us off at Portpatrick Harbour about half past 3 where we took a few snaps before making our way up the cliffside.
Start of the walk
Heading off on the trail - Onwards and Upwards
View of Portpatrick from the clifftop
Small cave in the rocks
Many ups and downs along the coastal path
Final view of the coastline before heading inland
We walked along the coast for about two and a half hours before heading East onto a minor road, passing some farmland and crossing through some fields. It turned out to be a nice evening.
Heading into the countryside
One of the many waymarkers
We kept on walking like there was no end in sight, keeping an eye out for a place to set up camp, and by about 9pm we eventually reached a track leading to Knockquhassen Reservoir (in the opposite direction of the Southern Upland Way).
We followed the track to the reservoir not knowing what to expect, however it turned out to be a perfect spot for some wild camping. There was a little shelter hut with some chairs inside which we used while sitting out to have our much anticipated Barbecue and Beers. First Barbecue of the season.
Tents up, Barby fired up, Tins out ready
First BBQ of 2014
Attempts at getting a fire going
We enjoyed our Burgers, Bangers and Beers before retiring for the evening, it was a calm and peaceful night and nobody bothered us. It stayed dry until the early hours.
Saturday 17 May 2014 - Knockquhassen Reservoir to Beehive Bothy
We were up at the crack of dawn, the rain had returned overnight, light showers mostly but unfortunately light showers doesn't mean light bags.
Tents in the morning
Anglers Hut in the background
We got the tents down and everything packed away then made our way to the anglers hut to keep dry while we made Breakfast. Oat Burst Porridge Pot and 3-in-1 Nescafe Coffee.
We then set off in the rain, leaving the reservoir track and returning to the Southern Upland route (less than a mile). The rain soon stopped and it kept dry for the rest of the day.
The Belted Galloway
A couple of hours passed and we reached the outskirts of Stranraer, then it was country roads and some woodland trails before shortly arriving at our first destination, Castle Kennedy.
Traipsing through the woods
Arriving at Castle Kennedy
We picked up some supplies from the Petrol Station before stopping for a quick rest and a snack at Castle Kennedy Gardens.
Castle Kennedy Gardens
We then set off again on the long hike to Beehive Bothy, passing through more farmland, woodland and some moorland, and fields for pretty much the rest of the day... we also saw some old ruins.
Passing through the forest
The eerie woods
lots of forest on this stretch
Crossing the river
Cows can be dangerous in these parts
Coming across an old ruined cottage/farmhouse
Closer look at the ruined farmhouse
Once a cosy livingroom
The only two other SUW walkers we encountered the whole weekend, walking the opposite direction towards Castle Kennedy.
boggyish moorland not to be encountered after heavy rain
One last stretch of forest before we call it a day
First view of Beehive Bothy in a clearing in the forest
After a long hike we eventually reached Beehive Bothy around 7.30pm, in plenty of time to get set up and have a bite to eat before dark. We were pleased that we found it in good time and that nobody else was around so we didn't need to share it.
Beehive Bothy (in the middle of nowhere!)
Making myself at home
As it got dark we attempted to get a fire going as the previous occupants had left a firepit and some dry wood behind but the wood must have been too damp as we couldn't get the fire going. So we just lit the bothy up with some candles and glowsticks then sat up for a few hours and enjoyed a few drinks and some tunes before a peaceful nights rest.
Sunday 18 May 2014 - Beehive Bothy to Bargrennan
Up bright are early and full of beans we had a Coffee and a quick snack in the bothy before heading off on the final stretch towards Bargrennan. It had stayed dry through the night and it by some miracle it actually stayed dry for the remaining hours. We must of had about 13 miles left to go...
The Laggangarn Stones
So then it was a walk through to the end of the forest trail (where the path was partially blocked by trees) before joining a forest track then a minor road, taking us through the Hamlet of Knowe, and into another forest.
It was then more farmland, a deforested forest (where we got totally lost for a bit) and two stretches of moorland before a short descent through even more farmland into the village of Bargrennan.
The path through the deforested-forest here is partially missing due to careless forestry workers destroying the environment so it's advised to take a compass and follow directions until you spot the next waymarker. I'd say that a couple of the waymarkers have also been ripped down here. Once a forest now a boggy moorland.
Free Leaflet with every hike
The Hamlet of Knowe
The temptation to phone a Taxi
Got to keep going, we're almost there
Cows huddling together, thought they were going to stampede
The southern uplands is rich in wildlife
Lost the waymarkers in the fields shortly before Bargrennan, and ended up walking through a ladys back garden, the lady soon came out and corrected us though. I did try to tell my mate it was someones garden but would he listen? No...
Finally approaching Bargrennan
Info board at Bargrennan
reached our destination
The Chauffeur waiting for us
So overall it was a good weekend, the weather was better than reasonable and the route was long but has plenty of variety in terrain and scenery. Hills weren't too bad, certainly not as bad as last time and although it can be tough going carrying all the camping gear, I'll definitely be returning at some point to continue from Bargrennan to Dalry, Dalry to Sanquhar, and then from Beattock all the way to Cockburnspath (hopefully in good weather).
Photo gallery here>