Southern Upland Way

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Southern Upland Way
Portpatrick start of southern upland way.JPG
The start of the Southern Upland Way in Portpatrick.
Length344 kilometres (214 mi)[1]
LocationSouthern Uplands, Scotland
DesignationScotland's Great Trails
TrailheadsPortpatrick (54°50′35″N 5°07′12″W / 54.843°N 5.120°W / 54.843; -5.120)
Cockburnspath (55°55′55″N 2°21′47″W / 55.932°N 2.363°W / 55.932; -2.363)
UseWalking, horse riding, cycling
Elevation gain/loss7,775 metres (25,509 ft) gain.[1]
Hiking details
SeasonAll year
Typical marker

The Southern Upland Way is a 344-kilometre (214 mi) coast-to-coast long-distance footpath in southern Scotland.[2] The route links Portpatrick in the west and Cockburnspath in the east via the hills of the Southern Uplands.[1] The Way is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by NatureScot and is the longest of the 29 Great Trails.[1] The Southern Upland Way meets with seven of the other Great Trails: the Annandale Way, the Berwickshire Coastal Path, the Borders Abbeys Way, the Cross Borders Drove Road, the Mull of Galloway Trail, the Romans and Reivers Route and St Cuthbert's Way.[3]

The path is maintained by the local authorities of the two main council areas through which it passes: Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council;[4] a short section in the Lowther Hills lies in South Lanarkshire.[5] It is primarily intended for walkers, but many parts are suitable for mountain bikers;[6] some sections are also suitable for horse riders.[7] About 80,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 1,000 complete the entire route[8] and a completion certificate can be applied for through the Southern Upland Way official website. It is considered the most difficult of Scotland's Great Trails but also one of the most rewarding to complete passing through some of the UK's most remote land. A popular and less challenging option is to walk it in two stages: typically Portpatrick to Moffat, then Moffat to Cockburnspath at a later date.


It was one of the original four formally designated long-distance routes in Scotland,[9] and when it opened in 1984, it was the UK's first officially recognised coast-to-coast long-distance route.[3] Since opening, there have been improvements to the path with improved signage, drainage work, landscaping and path construction. When the route was planned, it was only designed for walkers, but in recent years many stiles have been replaced by gates for horseriders and cyclists. In 2010, "The New Hoard" treasure hunt was created, which features land art and sculpted containers, or kists, which contain coins, known as 13ths, which walkers can collect.[10] In 2014 the way was named one of "the top ten best ever British hikes" by Rough Guides.[11]

The current fastest time to complete the route is 55 hours and 42 minutes by Jack Scott, set in October 2020.[12] The women's record is 62 hours and 20 minutes, achieved by Jo Zakrzewski in August 2021.[13] Woody Felton became the first person to complete the out and back from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath and back to Portpatrick completing the 428 miles in a week.

The route[edit]

The path visits Castle Kennedy, New Luce, Bargrennan, St John's Town of Dalry, Sanquhar, Wanlockhead, Beattock, St Mary's Loch, Traquair, Galashiels, Lauder, Abbey St Bathans, and Longformacus en route. The Sir Walter Scott Way shares the last five places with the Southern Upland Way. The Annandale Way[14] running through Annandale from the source of the River Annan to the sea joins the Southern Upland Way briefly at Beattock.[15] The route features more than 80 summits over 2,000 feet (610 m), but it does not have any above 3,000 feet (914 m).[2]

Between Stranraer and Melrose, the Southern Upland Way forms part of the E2 European long distance path, which runs for 3,010 miles (4,850 km) from Galway to Nice.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Trails". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Route Information". Southern Upland Way government website. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Southern Upland Way". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Team SUW". The Southern Upland Way. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50000 map. Sheet 78 (Nithsdale & Annandale).
  6. ^ "Cycling". The Southern Upland Way. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Equestrian". The Southern Upland Way. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Scotland's networks of paths and trails: key research findings" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. August 2018. p. 6. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ Long Distance Walkers Association's page on the Southern Upland Way
  10. ^ "Walking the Southern Upland Way". BBC News. 14 October 2010.
  11. ^ "The top ten best ever British hikes". Rough Guides. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  12. ^ FionaOutdoors (2 November 2020). "Runner Jack Scott sets new Southern Upland Way record". Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  13. ^ "Zakrzewski and Holland set new records in Race Across Scotland". runABC. 19 August 2021. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  14. ^ Annandale Way website
  15. ^ The Long Distance Walkers Association – Annandale Way
  16. ^ "E2 Atlantic – Mediterranean". Ramblers Association. 2012. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2018.


  • Smith, Roger. The Southern Upland Way, Official Guide. Edinburgh: Mercat Press. ISBN 978-0-11-495170-2.
  • Writing the Way – A collection of Journeys along the Southern Upland Way, published to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the route in 2005, available from the Southern Uplands Partnership or from

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°28′N 3°12′W / 55.467°N 3.200°W / 55.467; -3.200