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.
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.
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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).
- Accommodation: Ardchoille B&B in Portpatrick or similar
Day 2: Portpatrick to Stranraer | 13.5 mi / 22.5 km
This is a fairly easy warm-up walk on clifftops and beaches, then across farmland and heather moors. From Portpatrick, the route moves along the coast to enjoy stunning views on 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 Castle Kennedy.
- Walking for the day: 13.5 miles (22.5 km), highest point: 156 m
- Accommodation: Lakeview House B&B in Stranraer or similar
Day 3: Stranraer to New Luce | 9 mi / 14.5 km
This section includes some gentle walking, mainly in the forest. The Way now starts to climb into less populated areas and passes through forestry and open moorland.
- Walking for the day: 9 miles (14.5 km), highest point: 200 m
- Accommodation: Lakeview House B&B in Stranraer or similar
Day 4: New Luce to Bargrennan | 17.5 mi / 28.5 km
The route takes you on tracks and paths across open moorland, past the waterfall at Barnshangan and Laggangarn Stones before entering plantation woodland for much of its length. Please note that whilst most of the Way is fairly easily followed in this section, the last few miles into Bargrennan cross open moorland with few markers except field-walls and waymarks.
- Walking for the day: 17.5 miles (28.5 km), highest point: 250 m
- Accommodation: The Crown Hotel in Newton Stewart or similar
Day 5: Bargrennan to Craigenbay | 17.5 mi / 28 km
Walk into the mountains around Glen Trool. The route starts along the River Cree bank 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 your accommodation in Dalry.
- Walking for the day: 17.5 miles (28 km), highest point: 320 m
- Accommodation: Clachan Inn in St Johns of Dalry or similar
Day 6: Craigenbay to Stroanpatrick | 15.5 mi / 25 km
More fine walking in the 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
- Accommodation: Clachan Inn in St Johns of Dalry or similar
Day 7: Stroanpatrick to Sanquhar | 18 mi / 29 km
This section includes a demanding ascent to 580 metres (1.900 feet), mainly on the open hill, winding up towards Benbrack Hill’s summit. This will reward you with an amazing 360-degree panorama of the Galloway Hills. The way passes Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding arches before descending into the woodlands down to the Chalk Memorial Bothy at Polskeoch. 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
- Accommodation: Newark Farm B&B in Sanquhar or similar
Day 8: Sanquhar to Wanlockhead | 8 mi / 13 km
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 complete in half a day. This gives you time to look around the village of Wanlockhead with its museum of lead mining.
- Walking for the day: 8 miles (13 km), highest point: 480 m
- Accommodation: Hopetoun Arms in Leadhills or similar
Day 9: Wanlockhead to Beattock/Moffat | 20 mi / 32 km
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 to Lowther Hill’s summit, 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
- Accommodation: Buchan Guest House in Moffat or similar
Day 10: Moffat to St Mary’s Loch | 21 mi / 34 km
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
- Accommodation: Gordon Arms in Yarrow or similar (return transfer included)
Day 11: St Mary’s Loch to Traquair | 12 mi / 19 km
This is a shorter section that should provide a welcome break after the last few days. The walk starts along St Mary’s Loch’s side, Scottish 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
- Accommodation: The Cornerhouse Hotel in Innerleithen or similar
Day 12: Traquair to Galashiels | 13 mi / 21.5 km
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
- Accommodation: Craigielea B&B in Galashiels or similar
Day 13: Galashiels to Lauder | 15 mi / 24 km
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
- Accommodation: Lornebank Homestay B&B in Lauder or similar
Day 14: Lauder to Longformacus | 15 mi / 25 km
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: 440 m
- Accommodation: Green Hope B&B in Ellemford or similar
Day 15: Longformacus to Cockburnspath | 18.5 mi / 30 km
The last walk is a 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 Dunbar.
- Walking for the day: 18.5 miles (30 km), highest point: 400 m
- Accommodation: Royal Mackintosh Hotel in Dunbar or similar
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.
What to expect
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.
Click to view default hotels for this tour
*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.
Breakfast is included on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. You can have dinner at the guesthouse you are staying at or at the village pubs and restaurants.
Difficulty & terrain
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). The route is well signposted throughout; however, walkers must be vigilant as there are paths and junctions along the way that deviates from the main route. As well as the Guidebook, your package includes a 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 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 1st April till 30th September. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Click to view travel options and route planner
Our recommended airport for this tour is Glasgow.
By train or bus
- Glasgow: There are excellent air, train and bus services, allowing easy access anywhere in the UK and overseas.
- Portpatrick: There is a bus line from Glasgow to Portpatrick (4 h) or you can take the train (5 h).
- Cockburnspath: The main routes are by bus and train (from Dunbar) to Edinburgh; the 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.
- A great website useful specifically for public transport planning within Scotland is Traveline Scotland.
- 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
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme
Options, extras & supplements
- Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights along the route or in Glasgow or Edinburgh