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Southern Upland Way

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Walkers usually tackle the Southern Upland Way from west to east in order to keep the prevailing wind to the rear. Its 212 miles runs from Portpatrick on the southwest coast of Scotland through relatively unknown and superbly unspoilt and varied countryside to the village of Cockburnspath on the eastern seaboard. Despite its outstanding beauty, the trail is exceptionally quiet and is a marvellous route for those seeking peace, solitude and wide open spaces.

Southern Upland Way

Overall, the landscape is one of rolling hills rather than mountains, although there are plenty of stretches over 2000 feet in elevation and the remote nature of much of the route combined with the sometimes serious Scottish weather makes this a serious undertaking for those aiming to walk the entire length or the more isolated sections. The distances between accommodations can be quite long, over twenty miles in places, so many people choose to camp or arrange for collection by car at various points.

The trail begins with a gentle introductory section from Portpatrick along the beautiful coastline for a few miles before turning west across fields to Castle Kennedy. Here is where the true character of the trail becomes apparent with a long section over open moorland and through coniferous forests. Although a few roads are crossed en-route, this is essentially a wild and lonely place until you reach St. John's Town of Dalry. Keep an eye open on the way for the Beehive Bothy and White Laggan Bothy as places to shelter or overnight. The section through the Glen Trool forests by the side of the river and the loch is a scenic highlight of this part of the trail.

The next section, over to Sanquar, is more than 25 miles in length and most will need to give some thought to the logistics of completing this. Great views over the vast swathes of forest are available from the top of the hill at Benbrack before dropping down to the bothy at Polskeoch. The last stretch leaves the road and goes over the hills again on the way to a long descent into the town of Sanquar on the River Nith. Spend some time exploring the museum and castle here before moving onwards for the short upland crossing to the old lead mining village of Wanlockhead nestled in the hills.

Climbing out of the valley the trail soon passes the incongruous radar station on the top of Lowther Hill on another long stretch of high ground over to the village and railway line at Beattock, made famous in Auden's poem, Night Train. Next, comes a section of upland stream valleys and wooded slopes on the way to Ettrick Water and, further on, St. Mary's Loch. After crossing the hills around Blake Muir, the trail drops into the quiet village of Traquair. A short diversion to the nearby town of Innerleithen might be in order if you need to top up on supplies or simply feel the need to see some people for a change.

Climbing over Minchmoor leads to a crossing of the Tweed by the Yair Bridge and the twin towns of Galashiels and Melrose further down the river. The trail then follows much gentler terrain through farmland to Lauder before a final section of woodland opens out at the coast. From here it's a just a short hop along the cliff to the finish at Cockburnspath. 








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