Southern Upland Way

Southern Upland Way Route

This is our suggested Southern Upland Way route. Click on Itineraries and Prices for more route options.

Day 1: Arrive in Portpatrick
Travel to the pretty pastel-coloured village of Portpatrick, nestling under steep cliffs on the west coast of the Rhins of Galloway, where you can dine al fresco overlooking the Irish Sea.

Day 2: Portpatrick to Stranraer 
(10.5 miles / 17 km)
Start your journey across the country with a short coastal walk to Killantringan Lighthouse along the rocky west coast before turning inland climbing Broad Moor. The trail winds its way through Knockquhassen Reservoir, south of Loch Ryan, then descends into the seaside town of Stranraer.

Day 3: Stranraer to New Luce (11 miles / 17.5 km)
From Stranraer you will briefly join the Mull of Galloway Trail, before reconnecting with the Southern Upland Way and following quiet woodland paths towards Castle Kennedy. Visit the enchanting Castle Kennedy Gardens, famed for their colourful displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. From Castle Kennedy the route is mainly on forest tracks and country roads, crossing fields and gentle wooded hills as it makes its way through farmlands and heather-clad moorlands, before reaching the picturesque village of New Luce.

Day 4: New Luce to Bargrennan (18 miles / 29 km)
The route traverses open moorland, passing a newly erected wind farm and a conifer plantation. As the thick plantation opens up, you will emerge at the ancient standing stones of Laggangarn. The path ascends Craig Airie then follows a windy road to the hamlet of Knowe. The smaller summit of Ochiltree awaits with its iconic white trig point. From here the path gently rolls downhill into Bargrennan village where accommodation and food are available.

Day 5: Bargrennan to Craigenbay (16 miles / 25.5 km)
Today’s walk will take you to the heart of the Galloway Forest and Dark Sky Park below the rugged Galloway hills, through a mixture of forest and wild moorland with some fine mountain views. The terrain is wilder and more remote than encountered so far, taking in majestic hills as well as Loch Trool, Loch Dee and Clatteringshaws Loch.

Your accommodation is nearby in charming St John’s Town of Dalry, nestling in the Glenkens. Teaming with wildlife and home to the Galloway Red Kite Trail around beautiful Loch Ken, Dalry will be your base while in the Galloway Forest Park.

Day 6: Craigenbay to Stroanpatrick (15.5 miles / 25 km)
From Craigenbay continue uphill, as the fellside opens up the views should improve and take in distant hills. After a short climb up Waterside Hill, picturesque St John’s Town of Dalry is just a short walk away in the valley below, where you can enjoy a leisurely pub lunch before setting out again. The way leaves town behind and starts ascending grassy Ardoch Hill, then crosses Butterhole Bridge, before arriving at Stroanpatrick.

Day 7: Stroanpatrick to Sanquhar (18.5 miles / 29.5 km)
More challenging walking awaits today as you start climbing through remote country, first Manquhill Hill, on a gradually ascending path, then the steep summit of Benbrack (1902ft) - the highest point on the Southern Upland Way to date, rewarding you with stunning 360 degree panoramic views of the Galloway Hills. Another stretch of excellent hillwalking awaits as you approach Sanquhar, nestling in rural Nithsdale, surrounded by exposed hilltops.

Day 8: Sanquhar to Overfingland (13 miles / 21 km)
A wonderfully scenic day through the rolling hills of Lowthers with superb views. This section traverses the highest hills reached on the Southern Upland Way with a challenging high-level walk along an undulating ridge. You will have an opportunity to visit the fascinating Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead, Britain’s highest village, once known as “God's treasure house”.

Day 9: Overfingland to Beattock / Moffat (15.5 miles / 25 km)
Once the Lowthers are behind you, the path heads into Daer Reservoir following forest tracks, then climbs Beld Knowe on route to Evan Valley and Beattock through dense forest. Accommodation is found in the historic spa town of Moffat, lying on the River Annan.

Day 10: Beattock / Moffat to St Mary's Loch (21 miles / 33.5 km)
One of the last really long, remote stages on the way as you head northeast from Beattock and into the Scottish Borders, populated with quaint villages and towns. The route travels through a mixture of farmland, high moorland and forestry, crawling onto the Ettrick Hills, before descending to St Mary's Loch, the largest natural loch in the Borders area.

Day 11: St Mary's Loch to Traquair (12 miles / 19.5 km)
The route follows the eastern banks of St Mary’s Loch on a gentle footpath offering picturesque views of the surrounding hills and calm waters, to reach the fortified towers of Dryhope and Blackhouse, then continues along the exposed ridge of Black Muir, before descending into the small village of Traquair. Home to historic Traquair House, built in 1107, known as the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland.

Day 12: Traquair to Melrose (17.5 miles / 28 km)
Today’s walk starts with a short climb up Minch Moor with splendid views of the valley below. What follows is a superb high level ridge walk above the Tweed Valley, as you pass meadows of windblown heather and wild flowers, before reaching the impressive three cairns on the summit of Three Brethren. From here the path descends into Yair, crossing River Tweed, as it winds its way to the outskirts of Galashiels. Follow the River Tweed into lovely Melrose. At its centre stands the magnificent ruins of 12th century Melrose Abbey.

Day 13: Melrose to Lauder (10 miles / 16 km)
A relatively short day of walking as the route makes its way through attractive farmland, gradually climbing Woodheads Hill, with just a touch of wilderness here and there. The principal town of Lauderdale, Lauder lies on the old established route between the Scottish capital of Edinburgh and England, dating back to the Roman Empire.

Day 14: Lauder to Longformacus (15 miles / 24 km)
From Lauder, the Lammermuir hills provide open views, as you cut across rolling, windswept moorland to reach the summit of Twin Law (1466ft). Two impressive stone cairns adorn the summit, a grand viewpoint, rewarding the tenacious climber. From here the route continues downhill to Watch Water Reservoir, before the final descent to the tiny village of Longformacus.

Day 15: Longformacus to Cockburnspath (18 miles / 29 km)
On the final leg of your Southern Upland Way walk, the major challenges of the trail is behind you. The way runs through pleasant woodland and prosperous farm country, before reaching the east coast, a wonderful sight after weeks of walking!

Some excellent coastal walking carries you the last mile, past Pease Bay and the wee village of Cove, before the route takes you inland to Cocksburnpath - the final steps after 212 miles of adventure and endurance. A well-deserved rest awaits you in the nearby town of Dunbar where accommodation, food and drinks are available and plentiful.

Day 16: Onward travel