The Southern Uplands run north of the border with England, from Portpatrick on the Atlantic coast, in the south- west, to Cocksburnpath, on the North Sea, in the north-east. It is the only official coast to coast Great Trail walk.
The route is across country and covers a total distance of 212 miles (340km) and although some routes are challenging, others are quite short and are suitable for beginners to long distance walking.
The start of the walk gives you an opportunity to explore Portpatrick, which is a pretty port. It used to ferry post and people to and from Scotland, across to Donaghaddie, in County Down, Northern Ireland, and on a clear day you can see the Northern Irish peninsula. You can catch a ferry over to Ireland from Stranraer, only 7 miles along the coast from Portpatrick.
The route along the Southern Uplands Way is steeped in history and on your way across the Uplands you will see various memorial stones dedicated to Scotland’s Covenanters.
Whilst the Presbyterian Scots may have accepted the English rule of the Tudor Kings, they could not accept the Episcopalian church of the Tutors and a year after King Charles I introduced the Book of Common Prayer, many of the people of Scotland signed the National Covenant confirming their opposition to King Charles’ interference. This led to fifty years of repression and violence against the Covenanters, who were brutally tortured and killed. In 1666 a group of Covenanters were involved in an uprising that began near Dalry, but they were crushed by government troops on the edge of the Pentland hills.
Back to the present day, and your walk will also provide you with a tantalising glimpse of the wonderful wildlife. Red Grouse, Roe Bucks, Blackface Sheep and Belted Galloway Cows on the farms and moorland, whilst Owls, Skylarks and Crossbills fly above your head and slow worms and Lizards hide beneath rocks and plants in the woodlands. At the end of your long journey you can take in the views from the cliffs at Cove Harbour and maybe spot a porpoise before heading into Cocksburnpath for a well- earned rest!
Southern Upland Way
|EST TIME||5-6 hours||12-13 hours||12-13 hours||10-12 hours||4-5 hours||8-10 hours|
|DISTANCE||21 km||40 km||40 km||40 km||12 km||31 km|
Southern Upland Way
|EST TIME||8-10 hours||6-8 hours||6-8 hours||4-6 hours||7-9 hours||6-8 hours|
|DISTANCE||23 km||18 km||28 km||15 km||24 km||28 km|
To get to Portpatrick you need to get the bus from Stranraer, which has a railway station, a ferry port and a bus station. The buses to Portpatrick run frequently throughout the day from Monday to Saturday, but on a Sunday there is only one in the morning and two in the afternoon.
At the end of the walk in Cocksburnpath there is a bus to Edinburgh and another service through to Eyemouth, where you can then catch a bus to Berwick and use the bus or train to connect with Scotland or England.
The Southern Upland Way is a hilly walk, with a lot of the summits rising to above 2000 feet (610km) and a few at 3000 feet (914m). It is not a hard walk, but if you choose to do it over 12 days then you have to walk an average of 8 hours a day and sometimes more.
Scottish weather is notoriously changeable, but the weather is normally dry in April, May and June and in the autumn months of September and October. In the summer months of July and August whilst the weather is dry, there are a lot of midges. Colour from the plant life and vegetation is spectacular in the autumn when the colours range from deep red, golden and orange. In June and July the countryside is scattered with yellow iris and in May pink Thrift are abundant.
It is possible to walk with your pet along the Southern Uplands Way, but dogs must be controlled at all times. Take care during the calving seasons, as cows can become aggressive whilst looking after their young. Keep a look out for nesting birds on the ground and don’t let your dog trample over planted fields or attack livestock .Clear up any dog mess and keep your dog on a short lead as much as possible.
The sheer length of the walk means that some days you can be walking for up to 12 hours, but, if you can make more stops along the way, so that the distances on the route are shorter. Some walkers take two or even, three weeks to complete the walk. There is plenty of accommodation along the route and the Southern Uplands are ideal for wild camping. You can also use the numerous of bothy’s for shelter or overnight stays.