The Southern Upland Way


The Southern Upland Ways covers a distance of 202 miles. Its goes across Scotland from Portpatrick (nr Stranraer) to Cockburnspath (nr Dunbar), it travels through Dumfries and Galloway then through the Scottish Borders. At present I have only done half this path (Portpatrick to Beattock).
We walked the path round about the first week in May. We booked our accommodation well in advance: (January) there are a couple of parts on the path where beds are hard to find (we don't camp). The main problem we had was that there is a dearth of accommodation between Bargrennan and Sanquhar (unless you fancy 23 miles one day followed by 26 miles the next - we didn't). We managed to find a B&B in St Johns Town of Dalry that offered transport so we could split the 49 miles into 3 days, picking us up at an arranged point and dropping us back the next day (so we don't miss any of the path).

For accommodation we used the Southern Upland Way Accommodation guide, available free from tourist info centres, also the local guides for Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders (also available free).
As a guide book we use "A guide to the Southern Upland Way" by David Williams. This had lots of interesting historic bits and some very good route instructions. We also used the 2 part book and map set by Ken Andrew "Southern Upland Way". There are books for West and East and they each have a specially prepared 1:50000 OS map.
Parts of this path are very bleak and in bad weather could be dangerous, you should really know how to use a map and compass before even considering a walk like this!! Most days we didn't see anyone at all, or pass any habitation on the way. In fact we only saw 3 other walkers during the whole time.
There is more information including some accommodation at John Boyd-Brent's page to the Southern Upland Way



Day 1 Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy - 13 miles
After a good breakfast, we manage a 09:15 start. Its very chilly, a strong wind and grey and overcast. Not a promising start! But Portpatrick is a very pleasant place with lots of charm. (we had a total power cut last night, the whole village was in darkness). We head up onto the cliffs and have a pleasant walk although there are a few ups and downs, at a couple of points there were fixed chains to help you climb up! We pass an old Victorian cable house which was where the telephone cables left the shore for Ireland. We see a fair bit of bird life along the way. We soon reach Killantringan Lighthouse, with the wreck of a container ship in its bay. Its then inland for a bit. We consume "elevenses" trying to shelter from the wind. We then head towards Mulloch Hill, its starting to warm up nicely now. We get good views from the top of the hill, in all directions

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(1)Portpatrick - The start of the Southern Upland Way.
(2)Port Kale.

Day 2 Castle Kennedy to New Luce - 10 miles
The wind howled all night and this morning its still blowing and raining. The route goes through the gardens of Castle Kennedy, but all we see is mist over the White Loch. A short time later we get to Glenwhan Moor, here there is a diversion, as the original route goes over a main railway line that needs a bridge (and has done since the path was opened) the diversion is shorter but all on road. We decide to go for the closed original route. I had checked it was passable earlier (unofficially) and as long as we were careful when we got to the track we would be alright. The footpath goes through a large forest and this helps to keep some of the rain off. After we cross the railway line its then over a very flat, open moor, I'm sure it would be nice in good weather, but its really WET!. We don't take much notice of anything, just plod on trying to get this over with - I hear mutterings of "If it's like this tomorrow, I'm going home". I'm sure I'm going to have to shoot one of them as an example to the other :-) Fortunately its a short day and soon over and we are all wet through (well actually I'm not too bad - but I'm not letting on!)

Day 3 New Luce to Bargrennan - 18 miles
It's a bright breezy morning - Hurrah. We pass the Loups of Barnshangan (waterfall). Its then onto a few miles of very open moorland, this would be really bleak in bad weather and compass work would be needed in bad weather! We climb a hill and get good views, then its down across Purgatory Burn and past the Stones of Laggangarn, these stones were originally pagan but later adopted by Christians. They date from about the 8th century, the crosses were cut in them later. We then climb gradually and pass the paths to "Well o' the Rees" and Linn's Tomb (he was shot for being a Covenanter). There are good views from here and we head down to Derry Farm where we have lunch in the farmhouse (very reasonably priced, they also do B&B). Lots of forestry today, finally a small climb up the Hill of Ochiltree, the views are really good now. Then its a pleasant stroll down to Bargrennan. (we're staying in a pub tonight - that's popular!).

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(1)Polbae Burn.
(2)View towards Benyellary, Merrick and Kirrieroch.

Day 4 Bargrennan to GR 543789 - 15.7 miles
A colossal breakfast, and a good packed lunch and we're off. We start off into cloudless blue skies, with just a touch of chill in the wind (just right!). Through the forest then along the Water of Minnoch then onto The Water of Trool. The views are excellent, we come across the martyr's tomb, a tomb to 6 Covenanters who were killed by soldiers. We stop for "elevenses" at Caldon's (campsite), a lovely spot this. As I've been here before I manage to persuade Dave and Andy to do a detour of the official route (about a mile further). So we go along the north side of Loch Trool, there are good views of the Loch, really nice woods and waterfalls and of course "Bruce's Stone" the views are better this side (in my opinion). We then follow the Glenhead Burn, then through forest and onto moorland. We get good views of The Merrick (the highest hill in Southern Scotland) the track then descends with good views over Loch Dee. The views are really good and its nice and warm (we're in shorts). We cross the river Dee and follow the river down to Clatteringshaws Loch. This is where we've arranged to be picked up tonight (we're staying for 2 nights in St John's Town of Dalry).

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(1)The Water of Minnoch.
(2)Heading towards Bruce's Stone.
(3)Loch Dee.

Day 5 GR 543789 to GR 639917 - 15.7 miles
We are dropped off by Dennis at Clatteringshaws Loch for todays walk, it's a perfect day, bright and clear with just enough chill in the wind. We head away from the loch and uphill onto moorland, through a small forest, and more trees, though not pine (for a change!). Then its up onto Waterside Hill, with good views down to St John's Town of Dalry, as we drop down we go past Earlstoun power station (hydroelectric) along the side of a large salmon ladder. We cross over The Water of Ken on a sturdy wooden bridge (lots of bridges seemed to have been built by the forces on training exercises). We then go into Dalry, we have lunch and then a pint, I then arrange with Dennis what time to pick us up, then its off again, up through the village. The weather is marvellous, the views even better! looking over to the Rhinns of Kells. Soon after a bit of climbing, we get excellent views of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. We arrive at Butterhole bridge, then its round Marskaig Hill and onto the top of Culmark Hill, with more good views towards the Rhinns. We finish at Stroanfreggan Burn, we arrive early so we lay in the grass, in the warm sunshine and have a doze, until Dennis arrives to take us back to Dalry..

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(1)Climbing Waterside Hill.
(2)St John's Town of Dalry.
(3)The Rhinns of Kells - Cairnsmoor of Carsphairn.

Day 6 GR 639917 to Sanquhar - 18 miles
Dennis drops us at Stroanfreggan Burn and we say goodbye and thankyou (a really good service this!). The bright morning has degenerated into low cloud and rain spots. We set off into blustery drizzle, climbing up Manquhill Hill till we almost reach the summit, then turn off, drop down and back up again with a stiff climb (its really bleak now, could be really nasty if the weather gets much worse). We go up Corlae and onto the top of Benbrack, the view is supposed to be good from here, but not today!! It stops raining just before we have "elevenses". Its pretty desolate countryside around here. Another small dip and climb up Black Hill and High Countam, we loop into the forest to see Allan's Cairn (another Covenanter Monument, for two people shot by soldiers). We drop down to Polskeoch Bothy, where we have lunch. Its then through forestry for a while, onto Cloud Hill (its really fine drizzle now) and we can't see very far by the time we begin to descend to Sanquhar (we can just see it in the mist). We are getting seriously wet buts its not far now past Sanquhar Castle (not much of it left!) and into town.

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(1)Black Hill.
(2)Allan's Cairn.

Day 7 Sanquhar to Nunnerie Farm - 17 miles
Our gear is all nice and dry again. As we set off we have a look at the old Tolbooth and the oldest post office in the United Kingdom. Then its off through the village and a long climb up Cows Wynd, with good views over the village and back to where we were yesterday (especially as we didn't see very much in the afternoon). We climb Conrig Hill, we can see Lowther Hill (about 10km in the distance, we'll climb that later today). Soon we're on part of the old coffin route between Wanlockhead and Sanquhar, (its bad enough carrying a rucksack, never mind a coffin). Then we drop down to the ruined farm at Cogshead. We're lucky we don't have to do the seasonal detour, so we have a good walk over the moorland and down to Meadowfoot Smelt Mill. We pass the spoil tips and mine entrances, past the Scottish Museum of Lead Mining. We then do a small detour to see the Beam engine and old cottages. After lunch its straight up Lowther Hill, we get good views of the Mennock Pass on the way up. We head towards the summit and see the radar station with its "golf ball" structures. At the top we have views far into the distance (at 710m we're on the highest point on the way). We follow the boundary fence for about 5 miles, but this is tough dropping down and climbing back up several times onto Cold Moss, Comb Head and Laught Hill. Marvellous views though, we finally drop down to the road and into the forest to find our B&B for the night (a little off route, but the only available accommodation) at Nunnerie Farm.

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(1)Walking towards Cogshead.
(2)Wanlockhead.
(3)nr Comb Head.

Day 8 Nunnerie Farm to Beattock - 13 Miles
We leave the farm and take the track to Daer Water Reservoir, its the best day for weather so far! When we reach the reservoir its a long climb over Sweetshaw Brae, but the views are worth it, spectacular. Onto Hods hill followed by a sharp drop and climb up Beld Knowe, (Its very hot now) then downhill into the large forest. We pass another bothy, a few ups and downs onto Craig Hill down over Garpol Water, past a pond and onto the minor road (we pass an adder sunning itself on the side of the road) its then past the railway line and a quick look at the old bridge. Into the pub for a lovely cool pint, or two, to celebrate an excellent week.

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(1)Climbing up Sweetshaw Brae.
(2)Looking towards the Lowther Hills.

to be continued.......


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