Planning your Southern Upland Way walk

Published 19 March 2012. Last updated 6 November 2023

No Access Through the Farm

Of all the walks I’ve done, it’s the Southern Upland Way that I’m proudest of completing. It was a true adventure, walking across a part of Britain that few explore but which is well worth a visit. There’s something quite amazing about spending the day knowing that there’s so few people out there; that you’re probably the only person enjoying these views.

Due to several long stretches without accommodation it’s also an ideal walk if you want to try wild camping or staying in bothies, but thanks to the wonders of the motor vehicle it’s not compulsory. You can easily arrange to stay in a nice B&B and pop to the pub every night too. All it requires is a little organisation.

In This Guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the Southern Upland Way
  6. Guide books and maps
  7. Know how to use a map and compass
  8. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

The Southern Upland Way is a varied walk, with a wide range of scenery. The walk includes moorland and some river and loch-side walking. The western section does include a lot of forest walking, whilst the eastern side passes through the towns of Galashiels and Melrose which adds a different slant to proceedings, whilst the former mining village of Wanlockhead provides an interesting set of industrial scenery. As you’d expect from a coast to coast route, it also involves cliffs and the sea at each end.

Although it passes through two towns, much of the walk goes through a quiet and isolated part of the country and it’s not uncommon to spend a day walking without seeing another person.

For the most part the walk is not particularly difficult. There aren’t many steep climbs, and accommodation can usually be found at intervals deemed reasonable for most walkers. There are a couple of sections which are too long for most people to walk in a day, however lifts can be arranged. The quality of the paths can be varied, with several muddy and boggy sections. Whilst well waymarked, the ability to use a map and a compass is essential.

Don’t forget that you can read my own experiences with the trail.

The route

You can see the route of the Southern Upland Way using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

You can also download the GPX file of the route.

Planning an itinerary


With some long distances, a great way to do the Southern Upland Way is camping. This gives you a wonderful level of flexibility, helped by the fact that wild camping is legal in Scotland. However if you’re not planning on camping, you’ll probably want to work out an itinerary. This is made slightly more complicated because there are several long stretches with no accommodation en-route. There are a couple of ways to break up these long sections, and these are detailed later.

Unless otherwise noted, each town/village has, at very least, a pub and a shop. Locations with a railway station are marked with a 🚂.

Section Guide
Section From To Distance
      Miles Km
1 Portpatrick Stranraer 🚂 16
2 Stranraer 🚂 New Luce 1 11¼ 18
3 New Luce 1 Bragrennan 2 20 33½
4 Bargrennan St John’s Town of Dalry 3 22 34
5 St John’s Town of Dalry 3 Sanquhar 🚂 3 26 42
6 Sanquhar 🚂 Wanlockhead 4 8 13
7 Wanlockhead 4 Beattock 20 33
8 Beattock St Mary’s Loch 5 21 34
9 St Mary’s Loch 5 Traquair 6 12 19
10 Traquair 6 Galashiels 🚂 12½ 20
11 Galashiels 🚂 Melrose 7  
12 Melrose Lauder 10 16  
13 Lauder Longformacus 7 14¼ 23
14 Longformacus 7 Ellemford Bridge 8 4
15 Ellemford Bridge 8 Abbey St Bathans 9 3 5
16 Abbey St Bathans 9 Cockburnspath 10 10 16
  1. After many years of closure, the Kenmuir Arms in New Luce re-opened in 2023, meaning there is once again a pub in New Luce.
  2. Limited accommodation and no shop in Bargrennan
  3. See “Splitting up Bargennan to Sanquhar” section below to break down these two sections.
  4. Wanlockhead has no shop, and limited accommodation, in the form of camping pods at the Wanlockhead Inn. The village is served by a couple of infrequent bus services. The 221 bus connects the village to Sanquhar, Mondays to Saturdays. This gives the option of spending two nights in Sanquhar. The 30 and 31 buses, go to Lanark and several villages in between, where you may also find accommodation
  5. The only facilities at St Mary’s Loch are a basic campsite at the Tibbie Shiels Inn, and a nearby cafe. The pub itself sadly closed in 2015 and shows no sign of ever re-opening as a pub. Alternative accommodation can be accessed in nearby villages by motorised transport.
  6. Very limited facilities in Traquair. Facilities and accommodation can be found in Innerliethen, 1½ miles down the road.
  7. No shop, pub or accommodation at Longformacus. Accommodation can be found a few miles away at Duns, or at Ellemford Bridge. There is no public transport so you will need to arrange lifts or a taxi.
  8. No shop or pub at Ellemford Bridge. Facilities can be found in nearby Duns, although there’s no public transport so you’ll need to arrange lifts or a taxi.
  9. Other than a cafe, there are no facilities at Abbey St Bathans. You can find accommodation off-route at Ellemford Bridge or Duns, and there is no public transport so you will need a lift or a taxi.
  10. No accommodation or pub in Cockburnspath. There is, however, a very good community owned shop.

As the trail goes through some pretty remote areas and moorland, we’d recommend walking it between the months of May and October.

Breaking the walk up for several trips

To do the Southern Upland Way all in one go requires about three weeks and, let us be honest here, not all of us have that amount of free time to dedicate to one walk. If you can, you’ll get a great sense of achievement by doing it that way, but if you can’t then it’s possible to walk the whole route in a couple of stages.

If you want to break it into two stages the best bet is to break at Moffatt – a short distance off the trail from Beattock. This is roughly the half way point. There are regular buses to Glasgow and Lockerbie from Moffat.

To split in to three stages, break first at Sanquhar, and secondly at Galashiels or Melrose.

Sanquhar has train services to Carlisle and Glasgow, both have excellent rail connections for services across the country. Galashiels has hourly train services to Edinburgh, and regular buses connect both Galashiels and Melrose with Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed for other rail connections.

Details of all local public transport can be found at Traveline Scotland.

Splitting up Bargennan to Sanquhar

Unless you fancy walking twenty file miles for two days in a row, you’ll want to break up the long Bargrennan to Sanquhar section.

There are two ways to do this.

First option is to use vehicle support. The section is split over three days. You will be picked up and dropped off at two pick up points, and stay in Dalry for two nights. There are two standard pick up points, marked by a wooden sign (attached to a standard Southern Upland Way finger post) which says “Pick Up Point”, although other options may be available. Vehicle support is available from companies listed on the official trail website, and from some accommodation providers.

The usual itinerary for this option is shown in the table below:

Bargrennan to Sanquar using vehicle support
Section From To Distance
Miles Km
1 Bargrennan Clatteringshaws Loch/Craigenbay 16½ 26½
2 Clatteringshaws Loch/Craigenbay Stroanpatrick 15 24½
3 Stroanpatrick Sanquhar 18½ 30

The alternative option involves walking the section over four days. Between Bargrennan and Dalry, the only accommodation is the White Lagan bothy. Between Dalry and Sanquar you can stay at the Chalk Memorial Bothy at Polskeoch, or two miles further on at the B&B at Polgown Farm.

Bothies are basic shelters with minimal facilities (there’s not even a toilet), available for use for free and without booking. You will need a sleeping bag, and cooking implements and stove if you want hot food. More information about the bothies can be found in the accommodation section below.

Bargrennan to Sanquar using bothies
Section From To Distance
Miles Km
1 Bargrennan White Laggan Bothy (Loch Trool) 11 17½km
2 White Laggan Bothy St John’s Town of Dalry 11 17½km
3 St John’s Town of Dalry Polskeoch (Chalk Memorial Bothy) 16½ 27
4 Polskeoch (Chalk Memorial Bothy) Sanquhar 15

Polgown Farm is 2 miles/3km beyond Polskeoch. Polskeoch to Sanquhar can be easily achieved by most walkers in half a day. If you would prefer a full day of walking, simply continue on to Wanlockhead which is a further eight miles on.

Rest Days or Half Days

If you’re walking for a week or more then you’re probably going to want to factor in a few rest days here, and use the time to check out some of the local tourist attractions whilst resting your legs. The obvious places to do this are:

  • Sanquhar – this small town has an apparently excellent museum (it was closed on the day I was there), as well as train services to the nearby town of Dumfries which has a wide range of museums and attractions, including Robbie Burns’s House.
  • Wanlockhead – the next stop from Sanquhar, this is the highest village in Britain and has the absolutely excellent Museum of Lead Mining. There is also a heritage railway nearby, although check opening times first. A good option is to walk the eight miles from Sanquhar in the morning, then spend the afternoon in the museum.
  • Moffat – near Beattock, you’ll find various local facilities and attractions listed on the Moffat Tourist website
  • Innerliethen – not far from Traquair, there are various things to do including Robert Smail’s Printworks and St Ronan’s Well. There are also shops, and plenty of options for easy day walks in the nearby hills and forest park.
  • Melrose – main attraction is Melrose’s historic abbey. The National Trust for Scotland also has two gardens here, the Harmony Garden and the Priorwood Garden and Dried Flower Shop . Galashiels is also nearby with its shopping centre and other facilities and there are frequent buses between the two. The stretch of Southern Upland Way between Galashiels to Melrose can easily be done in two hours so you can polish that off, then take in the sights.

Finding and booking accommodation

Melrose Abbey

Whilst the Southern Upland Way tends to avoid going through villages and towns itself, it does pass near a reasonable amount of accommodation. For the most part, there is usually something close to the trail itself. However there are parts of the trail where accommodation is in short supply. In particular, the far eastern section has a serious shortage of en-route B&Bs so you may need to travel a few miles to get a bed. In this section it is especially advisable to book accommodation in advance.

The trail officers publish a accommodation guide, viewable on Southern Upland Way website. Printed versions are also readily available, either from Southern Upland Way leaflet boxes en-route, or from local tourist information centres. It also has a list of providers who offer or provide vehicle support for areas of the route where there is a shortage of accommodation.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

A couple of companies will book accommodation for you on the Southern Upland Way. Baggage transfer is usually included in the price. The companies we know about are:

There is – to the best of our knowledge – no one operator who provides a baggage transfer only option for the whole route. Providers who cover sections of the trail can be found be found on the official trial website.

Hostels and bunkbarns

For such a long walk, there’s a disappointing lack of hostels on or near the Southern Upland Way. This follows a series of closures of Hostelling Scotland’s hostels in the borders area. However in 2022 Moffat Independent Hostel opened in Moffat – opened in 2022. This independent hostel sits a short way from the centre of Moffat.

There are other independent hostels in the Scottish Borders, however most will require some travelling in order to visit.


If you fancy being more flexible in your itinerary then the Southern Upland Way is ideal for camping. There are several camp sites along the route, listed in the Southern Upland Way accommodation guide. Some pubs may also allow you to camp in their gardens. Campers can also use the bothies noted below, and you have the option of wild camping. Given the often limited accommodation on the trail, camping definitely has its benefits!

Unlike in England and Wales, wild camping is completely legal as long as you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and because the Southern Upland Way goes through plenty of wild and remote areas, it is an ideal route to try it.

From personal experience however, finding a wild camping spot can be difficult due to livestock grazing, the presence of buildings (you should always camp out of sight of buildings) and lack of water supplies. If you’re prepared to wild camp away from a fresh water source or a short way off the trail then you’ll have more options. However if (like me) you like to camp near water and on the route, here are some ideas of good places I spotted whilst walking:

  • Portpatrick to Stranraer – near the start both Port Moria and Port Kale has some potential, although as both Port Moria and Port Kale had signs of litter and campfires on my visit, it’s likely that both are used regularly. A little further on, Knockquhassen reservoir has some potential sites. Alternatively there’s a proper campsite just outside Stranraer.
  • Stranraer to New Luce – buildings and livestock make this a difficult stretch to find a good camping spot however you may find a place to pitch up near Craig Fell, between the railway line and the Water of Luce.
  • New Luce to Bargrennan – on the map this section may look ideal for wild camping, but on the ground it’s far from it thanks to boggy conditions and too many trees. The best spots are at Laggangarn, near the Beehive Bothy or at Loch Derry. Despite my best efforts, I found no decent campsites beyond Loch Derry, resulting in a long days walk to the campsite near Bargrennan.
  • Bargrennan to St John’s Town of Dalry – in contrast, this section is filled with wild camping possibilities. You’ll find several along the Water of Trool, however if you can, push on to the car park at Caldons. This is the site of a now closed Forestry Commission campsite. Whilst the official camspite has gone, wild camping is perfectly fine and there is lots lovely flat land and lots of water supply options. Also ideal is the land around Loch Dee, either at the loch head before the forest, or near White Laggan bothy. There are also a few possible spots at Clatteringshaws Loch, but you won’t find much beyond there.
  • St John’s Town of Dalry to Sanquhar – farms, livestock grazing and boggy ground make this another difficult section. You’ll find a little land to pitch up at near the Chalk Memorial Bothy at Poleskeoch, but not much else until you’re almost at Sanquhar.
  • Sanquhar to Wanlockhead – best spots are near the ruined farmhouse at Cogshead, or when the Southern Upland Way comes alongside Wanlock Water. Expect lots of sheep.
  • Wanlockhead to Beattock – another tricky section. You’ll find a reasonable spot just at the bridge over Potrail Water (just near the A702 at Nether Fingland. You may also have some success near Brattleburn Bothy, however what cleared land there is, can be boggy. Another option is near the picnic site and car park near Easter Earshaig.
  • Beattock to St Mary’s Loch – farming and forestry again make this difficult. The area around Over Phawhope bothy and the abandoned farmhouse at Potburn offer some options, depending on where the sheep are. Alternatively, just use the bothy. At St Mary’s Loch is the Tibbie Shiels campsite in the grounds of the former Tibbie Shields Inn public house.
  • St Mary’s Loch to Innerleithen – you’ll find some wild camping spots just beyond the yacht club. You’ll also find some possible spots in the area around Dryhope Tower. There’s a proper site at Innerliethen.
  • Innerliethen to Lauder – this is the start of a long stretch which, for a wide variety of reasons, does not offer the wild camper much at all.
  • Lauder to Longformacus – another section which looks like it’s full of spots on the map but isn’t. However it does include the best wild camping spot on the Southern Upland Way, just before the path crosses Blythe Water near Harefaulds. If you go beyond that you’ll be lucky if you can find anywhere with a good water supply until you get to Watch Water stream.
  • Longformacus to Cockburnspath – again, this is a section which, for various reasons, offers next to no wild camping options until Abbey St Bathans. Abbey St Bathans has the last wild camping option of the trail. Just north of the village the Southern Upland Way follows a stream, and there are a couple of excellent spots between the water and the path. Use these streamside spots, rather than heading into nearby fields. About 1km north of Abbey St Bathans the path turns off to the left, still following the stream – near the turn-off to Edgar’s Clough. Don’t go much further on from here as there are very few suitable camping spots.

If you’ve any additions or suggestions, let me know in the comments box at the bottom of the page.


Bothies are simple, unlocked and unmanned shelters and there are six of them on the Southern Upland Way, concentrated on the western section.

The bothies are either maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association or by the Southern Upland Way ranger services. Staying in one is easy – just turn up and let yourself in. You may have the place to yourself, or you may have to share.

You’ll need a sleeping bag, cooking equipment and food. Each has an excellent water source but you’ll still want some way to purify water (a good, cheap option is the Traveltap by Drinksafe systems – see our video review.) None have toilets nor running water so you will need to be prepared. Bothies are normally marked on maps, either by name or just by “bothy”.

The bothies (and their Ordnance Survey grid references as published on the official Southern Upland Way website) are:

  • Beehive Bothy (grid reference NX220715) – sited 8miles/12km from New Luce and 12miles/19½km from Bargrennan, this small, single room wooden bothy is named after its distinctive shape. It’s on the route itself, with the path going right past the door. No fireplace.
  • White Laggan (grid reference NX466775) – old stone building near Loch Trool, White Laggan is almost exactly half way between Bargennan and Dalry (11miles/17½km from each.) It’s a short way off the trail, however has the Scottish flag painted on the side so just head up hill towards it. Has two rooms, a kitchen and a fireplace.
  • Poleskeoch (grid reference NS685019) – a single roomed, pebble-dashed building with a green roof, between Dalry and Sanquhar (it’s 9½miles/15km before Sanquhar). It is directly on the route. No fireplace.
  • Brattleburn (grid reference NT016069) – between Wanlockhead and just 6miles/10km before Beattock, this is a lovely bothy. It’s half a mile off route, but is signposted from the trail. Has three sleeping rooms and a fireplace.
  • Over Phawhope (grid reference NT182082) – between Beattock (ten miles/16km further on) and St Mary’s Loch, this is another lovely bothy. It’s on the trail itself and has two buildings. The main building has two sleeping rooms and a lounge/kitchen which contains a fireplace.

You may find references to Manquill bothy on some web pages, however this is now a private property, so keep on going to Poleskeoch. Minch Moor bothy, near Traquair is also no longer in operation as it was demolished due to structural issues.

If you’d like to know more about the Southern Upland Way’s bothies, along with a glimpse of what’s inside, have a look at our Bothies of the Southern Upland Way video.

When using bothies, do so responsibly. Leave the place clean and tidy and always take your rubbish away with you – these are unmanned buildings, usually maintained by volunteers and they don’t get a bin collection. Something that not all bothy users seem to realise…

Getting to/from the Southern Upland Way

James Hogg Monument

Frankly getting to and from the start and end of Southern Upland Way is a bit of a faff.

On the west coast, Portpatrick has no railway station. The nearest station is 10 miles away at Stranraer. Buses run between the two every couple of hours. Trains run regularly to Stranraer from Kilmarnock, with some running direct from Glasgow. Ferries operate to nearby Cairnryan from Belfast.

On the east coast, Cockburnspath has no railway station. The nearest stations are at Berwick, Dunbar and Reston, all served by the 253 bus which runs between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Both Berwick and Edinburgh have excellent rail connections with the rest of the UK.

Besides Stranraer, there are only two other railway stations on or near the route, at Sanquahar and Galashiels. Both have services to Edinburgh, whilst trains from Sanquahar also serve Carlisle.

All information on railways can be found on the National Rail website, and bus information on the Traveline Scotland website.

Guide books and maps

Weathered Southern Upland Way signpost

Walking the Southern Upland Wayby Alan Castle

For many years, the guide book situation for the Southern Upland Way was – to be blunt – dire. Especially given the trail is an official, government sponsored walking route. So hurray and hurrah that in 2018, Cicerone revised and updated its Walking the Southern Upland Way guide book for the first time in 11 years. The update coincided with some route changes meaning that older guide books (including the 2005 official guidebook published by Mercat Press) are best avoided.

Southern Upland Way XT40 Mapby Harvey's

As well as a new guide book, 2018 also saw a new Harvey’s Southern Upland Way map, at their 1:40,000 scale mapping; a scale which is more than adequate for the trail. It also includes the recent route changes.

If you’d just prefer to use maps, well I’d suggest buying Harvey’s map if you can as you’ll need 8 Ordnance Survey Landranger maps to cover the whole walk, and 13 at the higher Explorer scale (although to be honest, the extra detail of the Explorer isn’t really needed.) Not deterred? Well these are the ones you’ll want:

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 67, 73, 74, 76, 77, 78, 79, 82
  • Explorer (1:25,000): 309, 310, 318, 319, 320, 322, 328, 329, 330, 337, 338, 345, 346

Note that the OS maps have not (yet) been updated to take into account the 2018 route changes.

The Ranger Service publish a wide range of leaflets (some of it based on the contents of the official guidebook) and these are available in tourist information centres and in leaflet boxes on the route. Along with information panels, they tell the walker about history, geography, wildlife and geology. You’ll find much of the information on the official Southern Upland Way website.

And if you fancy some lighter reading, you can catch up with my own exploits on the walk in The Secret Coast to Coast, available for all good e-readers, mobiles and tablets.

Know how to use a map and compass

Over Phawhope

Because the official guidebook doesn’t really have any text based instructions, you’re going to be reliant on signposts and maps to get around. The waymarking on the Southern Upland Way is generally excellent, and the route usually very obvious, however maps still are a must, especially when traversing moorland or trying to find your way to accommodation.

There are several online guides like How To Use A Compass, and you may also find training courses in your area – many YHA hostels host them for example. Check local press for details.

Knowing how to use a map and compass together will really help you and will (hopefully!) stop you getting lost.

And finally, and any questions

Entering Cockburnspath

When I was out on the Southern Upland Way I barely saw anyone, and those that I did were mostly day walkers. This was a real shame because the Southern Upland Way is an excellent walk that deserves to be better known.

It goes through some stunning scenery, through one of the least populated regions of the UK – seriously, there’s not many people in the Scottish Borders.

To top it all, it has to the walk that has the most impressive examples of public art on a long distance footpath. When you stand beneath Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches and realise how few people ever see them, you feel very special indeed.

So go on. The Southern Upland Way is something special adventure. Get your plans made and your boots on. You won’t regret it.

And if you’ve any questions about the route, just use the comments box below.


Aaron Barnes

4 January 2013 at 8:26 pm

Fantastic article. Looking at walking the SUW in June 2013 – I have 16 days off work so might just be able to squeeze the whole thing in. Have bookmarked this page as it’s the most useful site I’ve come across so far.

Many thanks for the info (especially the distances between bothies)!

I’m away to play with getamap now – happy days


22 February 2013 at 8:21 pm

I did part of the eastern when doing my route end to end found it one of the best parts of entire trip going back to do it all in May/June plenty of time now retired!

Frank Alexander

25 April 2013 at 12:57 pm

Walked Portpatrick to St Johns Town of Dalry last week but burdened down by 75l & 35l bags. Replanning it again but trying to stick to bothies & tent. Picked up a box-set in Stranraer library that includes a book and one OS map for the Western section and another one for the Eastern section. Saves carrying 6 separate OS maps.


19 June 2015 at 9:52 am

Hi guys,
Im planning to do the SUW solo starting on the 13th of July and from what i heard there is not a massive need for maps, but obviously i still wanna bring something along.
Frank what’s the name of the box set you mentioned? would be great to have just two maps to keep it simple!

Anne Jan Pool

8 September 2015 at 8:25 pm

My son (19) and I (58), coming from the Netherlands, just finished the SUW, (wild)camping and using 2 bothies in 16 days of walking and 2 rest days at Moffat (visited beautiful Grey Mare’s Tail all the way up to Lochcraig Head) and Melrose (visited Abbotsford and climbed one of the Eildon Hills).
The information on this wonderful website was very useful, especially the places for wildcamping. Thank you!
The SUW is a wonderful walk if you like solitude and endless views of hills and moorlands. Highly recommended!


22 September 2015 at 1:56 pm

Great set of articles! Loved your abridged way descriptions.

I’m thinking about “doing” the SUW this Fall (or next Spring, depending on how quick I can get into gear). One question: I read that there’s a fair bit of woodland walking involved. That got me to thinking that it might be better to take my (camping/winterized) hammock instead of my tent. What do you think? It wouldn’t be a problem to use it as a bivvy from time to time as long as most of the nihgts could be spent hanging. If that’s not the case then I’ll take the tent :)



Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

22 September 2015 at 7:47 pm

Hi Sven. The woodland’s mostly on the western half of the walk. After that it’s a lot more open. Most of the trees though are commercial forests – very densely packed together. You may be able to swing a hammock between them but it might be tight for space.


24 November 2015 at 11:04 am

Hi Andrew
Fantastic website. Thank you very much. I can find full of very interesting informations in this site to prepare my hike
I’ll hike on the SUW in September 2016. I live in France and organizing such a hike from France is not easy. That’s why your site is very useful for me.
I’ll hike the SUW from Coast to Coast with my rucksack and my tent in almost total autonomy.
I downloaded your book and it’s a good guide. I have not read where I can find a shop for camping equipment. In fact it is not allowed to travel with gas cartridges in airplane. Where can I find one either in Stranrear or Portptrick. That kind of knife can I use along the walk?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

24 November 2015 at 10:19 pm

Hello Patrice – I do not know for sure, however I believe it´s unlikely you´ll find gas canisters for sale in Portpatrick. However I understand there is a sports shop in Stranraer that sells them. It´s worth dropping them an email to check that they have what you need in stock. Depending on how you intend to get to Stranraer, you will also be able to get something from a larger town or city like Glasgow.


31 October 2016 at 11:27 am

Thank you very much for this website. I’m french and I’m planning to do the SUW certainly in april 2017. I’ll hike in solo … only me and the nature… and I find your informations and advices very precious to prepare this hike, especially bothies and camping.

Patrice Bertail

31 October 2016 at 3:39 pm

Hi Caroline
See you soon on the Way 😄


16 November 2016 at 11:38 am

What is the quality of the water along the SUW? And do I need a filtration system.
Another question. Is it allowed (or dangerous) to make a camp fire

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

16 November 2016 at 7:26 pm

Hello Patrice – personally I’d always use a filtration system if for no other reason that “just in case”. I used a thing called the Travel Tap (reviewed in video some years ago.) I believe they’ve improved it since I bought mine five years ago.


4 May 2017 at 6:46 am

Hello Andrew
That’s it, My backpack is ready and I can not wait to get on with the SUW
I have a question. How much food did you take with you?
Another question: How much did your backpack weigh?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

4 May 2017 at 10:37 am

Have a good time Patrice – it’s a lovely walk.

For food, I tended to have a couple of days supply – a couple of dried meals for the evening, some bread rolls and cheese for lunch, and a 700g bag of muesili for breakfast, along with dried milk. I think I had four or five drived meals, and two days bread/cheese. Oh and then there were a few chocolate bars as well. There’s places to stock up every couple of days so I tried not to take too much, but you are at the whim of what small shops sell. And sometimes large shops.

As for weight, I did weigh my pack at the time but I can’t remember. I did end up doing a purge before I left as it was on the heavy side. Even went as far as weighing my walking trousers so that I had the lightest pair as my spare. But to be honest, the heaviest thing in my pack was usually water as I tended to carry as much as possible, to save filtering too often.


4 May 2017 at 11:05 am

Hi Andrew
Thanks for you reply. As for food I have five of days supply. Around 1,5 kg but the weight will decrease as I walk. The first days could be a little bit hard
As for the weight of my bag it is 11,1 kg all inclusive / Clothes, sleeping, food and accessories (Filtration system, battery and various stuffs that I carry on a small ventral pouch for around 1,6 kg.
So the backpack is less heavy

James henry

5 May 2017 at 7:04 am

Hi there i am on my last leg started on the 27th april and will finish on sat 6 th may. Walked from east to west was spoiled this week with weather also a nice easterly wind. My only point for walkers that the new luce to bargrennan stretch there are a few trees down that could do with clearing other than that no problems. Alan castles guide book is priceless as well but now needs updating.

Andrew Sneath

11 September 2017 at 8:38 pm

Hi Andrew,
I’ve just come across your site and really enjoyed revisting memories of when I walked the SUW in May 2002. we completed the walk in 15 days, it rained on 13 of them, sometimes all day and sections of the way were flooded around Bargrennan. Despite a couple of horrendous days with torrential rain and mud we still have fabulous memories of a wonderful walk. We mixed camping, B and B’s, a bothy, hotels and hostels. I’m sorry to note there are no longer any SYHA hostels but I believe the one at Wanlockhead is now a privately run hostel. There used to be a bag carrying service but I don’t know if this still exists. We found it very useful for all our camping gear as my walking companion was my eleven year old daughter. There’s was only so much I could put in her rucksack!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

12 September 2017 at 6:28 am

Hi Andrew. Sounds like you had glorious weather indeed.

Wanlockhead Hostel did briefly reopen as an independent hostel, but it pretty quickly closed again. Certainly it had gone when I did the walk. I believe it became a large holiday cottage.


24 February 2018 at 8:50 pm

Hi Andrew

Would you say the SUW was a route that you could take a dog on? Whats the water situation like. That would be my only concern as we’d be camping and he can carry 6 days of food in his panniers.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

25 February 2018 at 8:00 pm

Hello Wayne. The trail’s mostly good for water, as in you’ll find some every day and if you’re prepared to filter and carry it you should be okay. Go a little off route and it will be easier every now and then. I’ve never had a dog but I think it should be okay.

Raymond Wilkes

23 March 2018 at 5:44 pm

A report I did for people wanting an easy version of the SUW is now here


14 April 2018 at 11:02 am

Hey, are there any times in the year that work best for this hike, or are to be avoided. Winter is obvious, but what about the other months?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

17 April 2018 at 9:48 am

Marc – I think it’s fine most of the year from about March or April to November. The one thing you may experience at the height of summer are midges around the lochs. However I found them to be less of a problem than those on the West Highland Way.

Liz Enstone

11 May 2018 at 3:07 pm

Hi – great website!
I’ve just walked Portpatrick to Sanquhar, camping and bothy-ing. I think the SUW is not for the faint hearted or the overburdened because the terrain is very uneven and some of the days long and pretty strenuous. Utterly rewarding if you’re lucky with the weather. Couple of things: the forests are now mostly cut down, due to larch disease. This means the walk’s more open but the devastation is hard to take. I think this has also resulted in the forest tracks being greatly upgraded for the machinery to move about. The pub in New Luce has shut and us up for sale. There IS a fireplace in Poleskeoch bothy. Fantastic pub/accommodation in Bargrennan, near the campsite, which might be newish?

Ben Haberkern

16 November 2018 at 3:50 am

What did you do about water? Did you just buy a day or two supply and carry it with you.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

16 November 2018 at 9:18 am

Hello Ben.
Two ways I handled it. I had two 2 litre metal water bottles and a 2 litre Platypus bottle. This is a soft plastic bottle. If I was staying in a B&B, pub or campsite, I’d fill them all up and that would last me for the day. There was also one house on the west that had a sign inviting walkers to fill up from their outdoor tap, which was very nice of them!

For other times I also had a TravelTap water filter bottle. This I used to safely filter water from streams and rivers. I would usually filter the water into one of my bottles so I could stock up. The TravelTap I have is rather slow and hard work, but I believe they’ve improved the design since then.

There are lots of streams on the Southern Upland Way so you’re never that far from water. But I found it always worth stocking up when I could, just in case.

Aaron Barnes

29 May 2019 at 10:53 am

It’s only taken me six years to get round to doing this!

All booked up and set my itinerary for July, mix of tent, Bothy and hotels. Thanks again for the article.

One thing worth noting about Cockburnspath, although Pease Bay don’t take tents, they are happy for non residents to visit their bar and restaurant which will make a huge difference in what is a services desert.

Ray Wilkes

21 October 2020 at 3:09 pm

The Kenmuir Arms at New Luce will reopen next year.
There is a bunkhouse Nadav’s Shed
Thre is a new website for SUW which has a feedback form. They would like to hear of any path problems so that they can fix them
They are also updating accommodation links

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

22 October 2020 at 9:08 am

Thanks Ray – great to hear the Kenmuir Arms will be back next year. I did enjoy my visit to it!

Ken and Leah

9 April 2021 at 4:38 pm

We have just volunteered and completed the first 2 stages…Kists are fully stocked eith new waymerk and all direction signs checked and re badged as needed hope to see many more walkers enjoying the SUW


10 May 2021 at 7:13 pm

Thank you Mr Ramblingman for this website. I do have a question though about parking at the ends. Do you know if any parking in Cockburnspath and also Portpatrick. Many thanks for any info.
Best Wishes Matt Cole

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

11 May 2021 at 11:18 am

Hello Matt – you’ll certainly find on-street parking without restrictions in Cockburnspath. There’s a car park in Portpatrick near the start that I think is free.

Brian Ferris

15 July 2021 at 9:16 pm

My brother and I have just completed the Sanquhar – Cockburnspath section (did Portpatrick – Sanquhar in 2019 but couldn’t continue in 2020 because of Covid-19) and had great weather except for one morning when it rained for a few hours. Sanquhar – Overfingland on the first day was tough. only 14 miles, but a total ascent of 3660 feet!

We arranged baggage transfer with a variety of overnight stays (Summerlea House in Moffat, The Gordon Arms in Yarrow, the White Swan in Duns) and reckoned it probably the best walk either of us has done. Stopping for lunch at Twin Law is a memory we’ll never forget. No buildings, no people in any direction. It deserves to be better known. We met no-one walking the same way, but two walking East-West.


8 August 2022 at 9:07 pm

Hi, what’s the route like for cycling? Thanks

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

12 August 2022 at 2:57 pm

Hi Lindsay – there’s information on cycling on the trail website. You’d need a mountain bike.


23 September 2022 at 9:27 pm

Thanks so much for your website! It’s been so helpful for so many walks, and I’m currently on the Southern Upland Way!

Just wanted to pass on that there now is an independent hostel at Moffat (Moffat Independent Hostel) family owned and wonderful. Does laundry service too. Not sure how new it is but thought you may want to update the site. I love hostels and it seems such a shame that so many on this route have closed over the years.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

26 September 2022 at 9:14 am

Hello Kirsty – thanks for the tip off. I’ve now added it to the site. Apparently the hostel opened this year so it’s very new!


1 October 2022 at 4:43 pm

I walked the SUW in September 2022 and am commenting on the bothies and wild camping sections. I read these when I was planning my walk and hope the following is helpful.
There is a working stove (what you all a fireplace) at the Chalk Memorial Bothy, near Polskeoch.
Brattleburn Bothy has two downstairs rooms, each with a fireplace and a loft with plenty of space to sleep. There was another building I didn’t explore. A couple of local lads were in one of the rooms when I was there (and took their rubbish with them in the morning; we left at the same time). More below.
Over Phawhope Bothy has one large sleeping room and, by the entrance, a room big enough for one (basically a wide shelf in a narrow room). It also has a separate building with a sleeping platform and… an indoor toilet. The bothy has an outdoor toilet as well. I was told the MBA owns only one bothy, this one, so many thanks to them. It was in good condition when I visited.
For camping at Caldons, you follow the SUW path away from the carpark (don’t cross the bridge to it) until you get to an open grassy space. As you say, plenty of water, as there is a large burn to its west. I spent the night here. I wonder whether the Forestry Commission may have closed it because the area is infested with midges. A local farmer I spoke to said Loch Trool is rather known for it. I would avoid in the midge season, if you can.
You can camp in the meadow below Dalry, or in the village itself behind the village hall overlooking the churchyard (close to the pub).
Camping at Wanlockhead Inn is possible, if you get permission from the pub. Also midgey.
I arrived at Brattleburn Bothy at night and didn’t spend much time outside before leaving the next day. I’m doubtful there is much scope for camping there: it’s built on the side of an uneven, overgrown slope. The flat area in front was dominated by a fire pit and, unfortunately, there was a lot of rubbish and toilet paper strewn around the bothy. Bothy was good, though, if a bit messy. It is quite close to a forest road and not far from the local village.
Dryhope Tower is on private farmland and had sheep around it when I visited.
Edgar’s Clough is also private farmland with sheep. It is owned by the family who live in the large house (with a dragon on its gatepost) at the bottom of the lane after the left turn (heading W-E) leading away from Abbey St Bathans. I asked for and got permission to stay, but recommend not assuming it is free for wild camping. The owner was a bit surprised when I told her Edgar’s Clough had been recommended by a website for camping. (I may have picked up a tick there.)
I agree with you about Blythe Water; it was a lovely spot (though maybe I got the tick near there).
I thought there were possibilities for camping on the wide grassy verge after Blackburn, if you had to stop before the final stretch to Cockburnspath.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 October 2022 at 9:49 am

Hi Tim – thanks for the report. Always useful to hear up to date reports. I am going to update my recommendation on Edgar’s Clough to make it a little clearer as I realised that if you look at the Ordnance Survey map people may think I mean to go off the trail and into nearby fields. I camped on the Southern Upland Way right next to the stream which OpenStreetmap says is actually called Whare Burn. Legally you don’t need permission there because it’s not enclosed land, although it’s always polite to ask if you can find out who to ask! The recommendation for that spot came from then owner of the cafe in Abbey St Bathans!

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