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walking the southern upland way complete

The Natural Adventure Company

Self Guided Walking Holidays and Cycling Holidays

Southern Upland Way Complete

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walking the southern upland way complete
Rating
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Country
Scotland
Activity type
Self Guided Walking
Duration
16 days & 15 nights
Difficulty
Moderate to Strenuous
Accomodation
Comfortable
Availability
April - September

Itinerary

Day 1: Portpatrick
Day 2: Castle Kennedy
Day 3: New Luce
Day 4: Bargrennan
Day 5: Craigenbay
Day 6: Stroanpatrick
Day 7: Sanquhar
Day 8: Wanlockhead
Day 9: Beattock/Moffat
Day 10: St Mary’s Loch
Day 11: Traquair
Day 12: Galashiels
Day 13: Lauder
Day 14: Longformacus
Day 15: Cockburnspath
Day 16: Departure

Overview for Southern Upland Way Complete

The Southern Upland Way is Scotland’s first and only official coast to coast long distance footpath. It runs 212 miles (340 km) from Portpatrick on the south west coast of Scotland to Cockburnspath on the eastern seaboard. Opened in 1984, it offers superb and varied walking country, still undiscovered by many walkers outside of the UK.

Walking the complete Southern Upland Way will take you through an enormous variety of scenery and will give you a tremendous sense of achievement on completion. With us, independent walkers can walk the Way without carrying luggage or worrying about arranging accommodation each night.

Thru hiking the complete Way may provide a challenge for the less experienced walkers and takes 16 days to complete, that is why we are also offering as separate itineraries the East and the West sections of the Southern Upland Way, suitable if you are less ambitious or if you only have a week to spare.

Itinerary for Southern Upland Way Complete

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Day 1: Arrive Portpatrick

Today you arrive in the town of Portpatrick on the south west coast of Scotland. It is easily reachable from Glasgow by bus or train (4-5 hours).

Day 2: Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy

This is a fairly easy warm-up walk on clifftops and beaches, then across farmland and heather moors. From Portaptrick the route moves along the coast where you can enjoy stunning views out onto the North Channel, views of Knock Bay and stunning coastal cliffs to the north. At Black Head the route turns inland towards the outskirts of Stranraer and towards Castle Kennedy.

Walking for the day: 13.5 miles (22.5 km), highest point: 156 m

Day 3: Castle Kennedy to New Luce

This section includes some gentle walking, mainly in forest. The Way now starts to climb into less populated areas and passes through forestry as well as open moorland.

Walking for the day: 9 miles (14.5 km), highest point: 200 m

Day 4: New Luce to Bargrennan

From Strathyre, the trail heads north through Strathyre Forest, requiring a 150 metre climb before descending off the hill at Kingshouse and back across the main road.  At this point, the route follows an old railway line along Glen Ogle, providing fantastic views of Loch Earn and the hills surrounding the glen. At the head of the glen, the path again crosses the road and descends towards Killin for around 3 miles through some thick forestry woodland. The spectacular and raging Falls of Dochart mark the arrival into the village of Killin.

Walking for the day: 17.5 miles (28.5 km), highest point: 250 m

Day 5: Bargrennan to Craigenbay

Walk into the mountains around Glen Trool. The route starts off along the bank of the River Cree and follows the river system up the Minnoch and the Trool until it reaches Loch Trool. From here the path heads up onto the hills offering some of the best views of the Southern Uplands that you will get. Transfer to Dalry for an overnight stop as there is no appropriate accommodation at Craigenbay.

Walking for the day: 17.5 miles (28 km), highest point: 320 m

Day 6: Craigenbay to Stroanpatrick

More fine walking in forest and on the open hill, through the pretty village of Dalry – transfer to Dalry for an overnight stop.

Walking for the day: 15.5 miles (25 km), highest point: 400 m

Day 7: Stroanpatrick to Sanquhar

This section includes a demanding ascent to 580 metres (1,900 feet), mainly on the open hill, winding up towards the summit of Benbrack Hill. This will reward you with an amazing 360 degree panorama of the Galloway Hills. The way passes Andy Goldsworthys Striding arches before descending into the woodlands down to the Chalk Memorial Bothy at Polskeoch. From here the Way heads back up into the hills and down into the Nith Valley and the town of Sanquhar. The historic town of Sanquhar has many places of interest including Sanquhar Castle, the town’s historic walk, the Tolbooth Museum and the oldest Post Office in the world.

Walking for the day: 18 miles (29 km), highest point: 580 m

Day 8: Sanquhar to Wanlockhead

Today there is a steady uphill walk to the highest village in Scotland. From Sanquhar the Way winds up through farmland, passing the Black Loch and then a strenuous climb onto the hills. Dipping slightly down to Cogshead, a perfect spot to stop for lunch you will then ascend back onto the tops before go. This is a short and relatively easy section of the route that experienced walkers should be able to complete in half a day. This gives you time to look around the village of Wanlockhead with it’s museum of lead mining.

Walking for the day: 8 miles (13 km), highest point: 480 m

Day 9: Wanlockhead to Beattock/Moffat

This is one of the most demanding sections of the Way including Lowther Hill, the highest point on the whole walk, at 726 metres (2,400 feet). Leaving Wanlockhead it is a steep climb up to the summit of Lowther Hill, with its giant golf ball radar station. This is the highest point on the Southern Upland Way and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. From here the route hops from hilltop to hilltop before it descends and crosses the Dalveen Pass. It then skirts around Daer reservoir before heading into Ae Forest and passing the Brattleburn Bothy. Upon leaving the forestry the Way joins a quiet road and descends steeply into Beattock.

Walking for the day: 20 miles (32 km), highest point: 726 m

Day 10: Beattock/Moffat to St Mary’s Loch

This is the last of the long and arduous sections. Enjoy fine open views, finishing at the fabulously situated Tibbie Shiels Inn. From Beattock the Way crosses first the motorway and then three rivers before climbing up out of the farmland and into more forestry. This is a short section on the forest road and soon you have the opportunity to climb up onto the hills towards Ettrick Head. This is the border between Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. It is also the watershed of Scotland. Every drop of water that falls on the land behind you ends up in the Atlantic. From here on everything drains into the North Sea.  From Ettrick Head the Way soon joins a track which follows the Ettrick Water until Scabcleuch where it again heads up into the hills and heads towards St Mary’s Loch.

Walking for the day: 21 miles (34 km), highest point: 525 m

Day 11: St Mary’s Loch to Traquair

This is a shorter section that should provide a welcome break after the last few days.The walk starts off along the side of St Mary’s Loch, Scotltish Border’s largest inland loch. It then heads cross-country through the hills before descending into the Tweed valley and joining a minor road into Traquair. Enjoy walking through farmland, forest and open hill, ending near the castle at Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house.

Walking for the day: 12 miles (19 km), highest point: 476 m

Day 12: Traquair to Galashiels

Fantastic ridge walking along the famous Minchmoor road, then down to the Yair valley and over hill farmland to the biggest town on the route.

Walking for the day: 13 miles (21.5 km), highest point: 520 m

Day 13: Galashiels to Lauder

Along the River Tweed to historic Melrose, then along a Roman Road to the quiet village of Lauder, with its several fine inns.

Walking for the day: 15 miles (24 km), highest point: 500 m

Day 14: Lauder to Longformacus

Today’s route winds through the Lammermuir hills. All the large uplands are now behind us, so this section is gently rolling hills and high moorland walking, mainly on good tracks.

Walking for the day: 15 miles (25 km), highest point: 440m

Day 15: Longformacus to Cockburnspath

The last walk is good mixture of scenery – farmland, woodland and open moor, with a clifftop walk near the end. Once past Longformacus, the route goes through arable farmland towards the coast where it follows the cliffs for a mile or so before heading into Cockburnspath and the end of the Way. Overnight in Cockburnspath.

Walking for the day: 18.5 miles (30 km), highest point: 400m

Day 16: Departure

Departure by bus or train to Edinburgh (1.5 hours) or on to Glasgow. Additional nights at the end of the walk can be arranged.

Hotels for Southern Upland Way Complete

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Nice hotels and B&Bs, all offering comfortable en-suite double or twin rooms. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Sample hotels:

Note that hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel from the ones pictured above is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Each hotel and B&B has been hand-picked to ensure you enjoy the most welcoming, comfortable and value-for-money experience on this route. A warm welcome awaits all walkers and hikers, with hotel owners keen to hear stories of the day’s adventures. Evening meals and packed lunches for the onward journey are available throughout, however, please note that they are NOT included in the holiday package. Breakfasts are included each day.

Travel for Southern Upland Way Complete

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  • To Glasgow – There are excellent air, train and bus services, allowing easy access from anywhere in the UK and overseas.
  • To Portpatrick – There is a bus line from Glasgow to Portpatrick (4 h) or you can take the train (5 h).
  • From Cockburnspath – The main routes are by bus and train (from Dunbar) to Edinburgh; journey takes 1.5 – 2 h (and on to Glasgow if required). There is also the option to travel north to Inverness if looking to extend your holiday.



Another great website useful specifically for public transport planning within Scotland is Traveline Scotland.

Private Transfers

Connecting transfers by public transport (train or bus) are recommended for this trip, as they are much cheaper compared to private car transfers.

Luggage Transfers

Each walker will be allowed one bag, of up to 20 kg in weight, which will be transferred between accommodations.

Scotland: Country Info

Some funny but useful travel advice on Scotland is available here 🙂

Trip Info for Southern Upland Way Complete

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Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous

Although daily elevation gains are not very big,  you should be prepared to walk on average 15 miles (24 km) or 6-8 hours per day. Some days will be more challenging than others and the terrain will be varied with some rough and rugged footpaths (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

The route is generally well signposted throughout, however, walkers must be vigilant at all times as there are paths and junctions along the way which deviate from the main route and sometimes the trail is obscure. As well as the Guidebook, your package includes detailed map of the full route. We highly recommend that at least one member of your party is a competent map and compass reader. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to Go

This trip is available to commence every day from 01 April till 30 September.

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.

  • Good hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Several t-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
  • Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Hat/Baseball cap
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)

Included for Southern Upland Way Complete

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  • Pre-booked accommodation as per the itinerary on 15 nights in B&B’s, small hotels and guesthouses
  • 15 Breakfasts
  • Door-to-door luggage transfers on all walking days
  • Transfers from Southern Upland Way to accommodation and return, as indicated on itinerary
  • Maps & Guidebooks (one set per booking)
  • Info on transport and local services
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office / representative

Options and Extras

  • Single-room supplement (this applies to members of a group who require single-room accommodation)
  • Solo traveller supplement (includes single room accommodation)
  • Extra nights along the route or in Glasgow or Edinburgh

Please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above to see the price of the holiday and the different options, extras and supplements for your desired dates.

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers to start and end point
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks & snacks
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Entry fees (payable on site)
  • Any items not specifically mentioned in the programme above as “Included”

Gallery for Southern Upland Way Complete

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