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.
|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.
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.
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. A short distance further along the trail from Traquair is the Minch Moor bothy.
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.
There are 150 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 26 public walk reports for the route. These are ordered below with the most popular ones first.