The Southern Upland Way

The Southern Upland Way is Scotland's first and only official coast-to-coast long distance route, running across the country from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea. From Portpatrick on the west coast the route runs 341 kilometres to Cove and Cockburnspath on the east coast.

The Southern Uplands make up the southernmost part of Scotland, just north of the border with England, and runs from south-west to north-east. The hills are mostly made of a type of sandstone called greywacke that forms gentle, rolling moorlands. However intrusions of granite in the Galloway Hills in the western Southern Uplands and metamorphic rocks in the Tweedsmuir Hills in the heart of the area make for steeper, higher and more rugged terrain.

The way starts in the west by heading north along the edge of rugged cliffs before turning east to cross sheep pastures, low moorland and forests to the first big hills, rising above Glen Trool. However the route stays low through the Galloway Hills, following paths and tracks through the Galloway Forest Park, before crossing moorland and running through forests to the little towns of St John's Town of Dalry and Sanquhar. Higher, rougher hills are then traversed to St Mary's Loch beyond which classic Borders country of heather-clad hills and big rivers is crossed to a final cliff-top walk that mirrors the start. Along the Way there are many historical artefacts from prehistoric standing stones to Victorian mansions as well as modern art works (including kists holding waymerk coins - the whereabouts of these is indicated by the word ultreia on signposts) and rich natural history. This is a living landscape, reflecting the past and changing with the present.


The Southern Upland Way is waymarked throughout but involves moorland crossings which could be tricky to navigate in mist. The main difficulty is the length of some of the stages and the lack of regular facilities - though the longer stages can be further broken down if required - see the accommodation section below.

Stage descriptions Length Time Done
1: Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy 21.25km 4 - 6 hours
2: Castle Kennedy to Bargrennan 43km 9 - 12 hours
3: Bargrennan to Dalry 39.75km 9 - 12 hours
4: Dalry to Sanquhar 41.5km 10 - 12 hours
5: Sanquhar to Wanlockhead 12.5km 4 - 5 hours
6: Wanlockhead to Beattock 31.25km 8 - 10 hours
7: Beattock to St Mary's Loch 33.5km 8 - 10 hours
8: St Mary's Loch to Traquair 18.75km 6 - 8 hours
9: Traquair to Melrose 28km 6 - 8 hours
10: Melrose to Lauder 15.75km 4 - 6 hours
11: Lauder to Longformacus 24.25km 7 - 9 hours
12: Longformacus to Cocksburnpath 28.75km 6 - 8 hours


Click to find organised Southern Upland Way walking holiday packages and baggage transfer providers.


There is bed and breakfast accommodation at the end of each of the stages listed above, though some may find a couple of the stages very long - a pick-up could be arranged by your accommodation provider part way through as indicated in the text. Another option is to use one of the open bothies along the route - these are unlocked shelters that offer four walls and a roof but no other facilities; again they are mentioned in the text. The greatest flexibility is afforded to those carrying a tent along the route - the Southern Upland Way is very suitable for wild-camping. See the official Scottish Outdoor Access Code website for details on responsible wild-camping.

Portpatrick offers a wide choice of bed and breakfast accommodation as well as several hotels or inns. There are also limited shopping facilities.

Castle Kennedy is a small village with an inn and bed and breakfast, and a small shop.

The next stage can be split by stopping either at New Luce - 2km off route but only a short way through the stage, by camping, or by staying at the beehive bothy (sleeping and cooking gear required as with all bothies, no facilities). Bargrennan has a single hotel, and there is a bed and breakfast just offroute in Glen Trool village.

The following stage is another very long one; it can be broken with a stay at the White Laggan bothy, or by arranging to be picked up by your accommodation provider from the road end above Clatteringshaws Loch. St John's Town of Dalry has an inn and a choice of bed and breakfasts, as well as a shop.

Heading from here to Sanquhar is perhaps the toughest stage of all to complete in a single walk. It can be broken with a stay at Polskeoch bothy; this point is accessible by car so again you could arrange to be picked up by your B&B. Sanquhar itself offers a choice of hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation, as well as shops for supplies and a campsite.

Wanlockhead is a small village but has several bed and breakfasts and an inn. In the summer the mining museum has a cafe.

Beattock is a tiny village but does offer both a hotel and B&B; the nearby town of Moffat offers a wide choice of facilities.

En route to the next stage is an open bothy at Over Phawhope. St Mary's Loch is an isolated spot, but has a popular inn and campsite.

Traquair is another tiny village; there are a couple of bed and breakfasts here, with a wider choice of accommodation and facilities 2km off route in the town of Innerleithen.

Melrose is a popular small town with all facilities - including a choice of hotels and guest houses.

Lauder is another town, again offering a choice of accommodation and shops for supplies.

Longformacus is an isolated village with a single bed and breakfast.

Cocksburnpath has a newly-opened bed and breakfast as well as a small shop.



Portpatrick has bus links to the nearby town of Stranraer, which - being the port for the ferries to Northern Ireland - is well served by both long distance coaches and trains. Cocksburnpath has a local bus service.

Longformacus has no public transport, but all the stage start and end points as described do have some sort of bus service (and Sanquhar has a rail station). However, most stage end points are only very circuitously linked by road so very few stages offer the chance to return by public transport back to the beginning of that stage.

Timetables for all the routes can be found on Traveline Scotland.


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Users' walk reports for the Southern Upland Way

There are 197 Walkhighlanders who have completed the Southern Upland Way. To record if you have completed the route, you must register and be logged in. Our users have contributed 29 public walk reports for the route. These are ordered below with the most popular ones first.

Title AuthorDate walked Likes
The SUW backpacking all the way  Anne Jan Pool 07/08/2015  26
Southern Upland Way - June 2017  Horizontigo 10/06/2017  7
SUW - DAY 1 - Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy - May 2017  bargee 08/05/2017  4
The Southern Upland Way - Sanquhar to Beattock  andrewl7642 26/07/2013  4
SUW - Memories of a trip long-long time ago....  Northguy 01/07/1998  4
The Southern Upland Way - Portpatrick to Bargrennan  andrewl7642 16/05/2014  3
A Soggy Southern Upland Way  whiteburn 28/09/2012  3
Bargrennan to Sanquhar in 2 days  Charles Wallis 17/09/2019  2
SUW - DAY 12 - Lauder to Longformacus - May 2017  bargee 17/05/2017  2
SUW - Day 5 - Dalry to Sanquher -May 2017  bargee 13/07/2017  2
SUW - DAY 2 - Castle Kennedy to New Luce - May 2017  bargee 07/05/2017  2
Southern Upland Way - Dalry to Sanquhar  andrewl7642 07/08/2015  2
Sanquhar to Daer Reservior  Charles Wallis 08/08/2020  1
Partway Across Scotland  bkrey 01/04/2019  1
SUW - DAY 13 -Longformas to the end or nearly - May 2017  bargee 18/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 11 - Galashiels to Lauder -May 2017  bargee 16/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 10 - Traquair to Galashiels - May 2017  bargee 15/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 9 -Glen Ettrick to Traquair - May 2017  bargee 14/05/2017  1
SUW - Day 8 - Beattock to Glen Ettrick -May 2017  bargee 13/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 7 - Wanlockhead to Beattock - May 2017  bargee 12/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 6 - Glen Pollmullach to Wanlockhead - May 2017  bargee 11/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 4 - Bargrennan to Dalry - May 2017  bargee 11/05/2017  1
SUW - DAY 3 - New Luce to Bargrennan - May 2017  bargee 08/05/2017  1
Southern Upland Way - Beattock to St. Mary's loch  andrewl7642 17/06/2016  1
Southern Upland Way: the eastern marches  nxmjm 31/05/2014  1
Southern Upland Way - Bargrennan to Dalry  andrewl7642 01/05/2015  0
Southern Upland way: the western marches  nxmjm 11/08/2013  0
Southern Upland Way: the middle marches  nxmjm 30/10/2013  0
Southern Upland Way: one day at a time  nxmjm 09/08/2014  0

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.